I didn’t even know what hustle culture meant until recently.
I tiptoed into blogging by chance and out of necessity. The lockdown prolonged my maternity leave, which already left me quite itchy to do something apart from counting naps, feeds and other fun things.
So a blogging path was chosen, as I wanted to restart writing after over a decade of not having time for it. I also thought that blogging was affordable, available to everyone and doable from anywhere.
I stumbled upon a few articles, trying to warn me that it’s not a walk in the park. But all the other bloggers claimed it would be the best decision of my life. They promised this feeling of butteries in your stomach that running your own blog gives you. They also said you could earn a very good living from it one day. That excited me even more. The option to start bringing in some income while on maternity - that was like a dream come true.
And to begin with, I loved every single minute of blogging.
I loved learning about different platforms, hosting providers, domain names.
And then there was this entire world of social media calling to be discovered: Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and others. Each and everyone promising amazing results.
The next thing was an elusive but compulsory email list. Then followed something known as sales funnel and lead magnets. I was happily busy again, using my brain. I felt like I was finally living a dream by working on something I enjoyed that could one day become the source of my income.
It lasted for about three months.
And then I started noticing changes. Slight and barely noticeable at first. I could not even explain what was different. I was still euphorically happy, insanely busy with never ending to-do lists, but content.
But occasionally, my brain started feeling foggy and my limbs started getting achy. I could not fall asleep that easily, even after a sleepless night or a day running after a toddler plugged into an eternal power supply.
The tightening in my chest threw me off a bit. I was about to self-diagnose myself with COVID-19, but then remembered experiencing something similar a few years back at my corporate job. I was approaching a proper burnout then.
I realised I was on a similar trajectory once again, but without demanding bosses and unrealistic deadlines and expectations.
Then I started snapping at my husband and getting irritated by my child more and more.
Instead of slowing down my blogging side hustle, I started researching like crazy what else I should be doing to succeed. But more often than not I’d also start reading articles about overthinking, feeling overwhelmed, lack of motivation, perfectionism, planning and goal setting, etc.
Until I came across a blog about blogging which had this line: 'keep on hustling.' For some reason my first reaction to that line was that of a nausea. I read on and realised that I sort of joined the cult of hustle culture. The culture that dangles a sweet carrot of dreams and promises in front of you. If only you work harder, you will have it all, it says. And I joined it freely and enthusiastically, without realising it - with a broad euphoric smile, walking towards my personal crisis barefoot and holding fresh summer flowers.
How is it Bad for You if You Do it Happily and Willingly?
Hustle culture makes us believe that if we hustle a little bit more, we’ll achieve all our dreams.
Many internet resources tell you that if only you do this and that you will earn a six-figure salary tomorrow.
Why are they still hustling like they are being chased by a wild boar then if they themselves can earn that much and that easily?
But no one stops to contemplate that simple question. The prospects they are offering are too delicious, too alluring to pass. And everyone keeps on hustling.
Was there a Red Flag that I’ve Missed?
If everyone is trying to do, it does not mean that there is a demand unlike all some blogs are trying to tell you.
If you join an over saturated market, it only means you’ll have to fight even more ferociously to own your place under the sun.
Only 5-8% of blog and bloggers make enough money to make it worthwhile. 62% have never made more than $500. But the majority don’t make any money at all. And even this sad statistics would not stop millions of us hoping to turn the leaf and finally earning that 6 figure income per month.
But Don’t Stay Still
But regardless of our motivation, the idea of hustle is not void of positivity - it’s much better than sitting on the sofa and doing nothing.
The problem arises when you start doing too much for very little burning out completely on the way.
There needs to be a happy medium - a warning checklist reminding how much work is actually required to create a successful blog and start earning money.
So my advice - don’t quit your daytime job just yet (if you have one, that is)..
How to Hustle Without Burning Out?
I am sure there are ways to do it without throwing your all, including your soul, into a grinder of solopreneurship.
I don't have the answer; I am afraid, I only have a few ideas that are worth considering.
Define your ‘why’
This is the very first and the most important point. Define your ‘why’. Once you know why you are doing what you are doing, it would be so much easier to manage your expectations and readjust the route even if you get off it a bit.
Do you hustle for fun? Make sure it remains fun and does not eat into your daily routine too much. Are you happy doing your hobby? Are you happy when you start and finish? Then you are fine.
Is it your potential future business? Create a simple business plan where you set achievable small goals for yourself so that this side hustle could become part of your daily life without you jeopardising your family and other responsibilities.
Don’t only listen to those who sing praises to freelance work and solopreneurship - the chances are they are earning their money by selling that dream. That’s their job. They are not doing anything wrong - I personally love reading them and following and even buying courses from them. But be open to the idea that it might not be as easy. Even if you follow all the steps, you might still not land that client/product. Ever.
Limit your daily hustle
Set a daily routine against certain timeframe. Don’t allow yourself to work over that amount of hours, even on harmless research or reading comments on Facebook group or Instagram. It might feel like leisure, but in reality you’ll be using your precious family or alone time thinking about WORK. Work because that’s what it becomes when you are doing in on a regular basis.
Treat it like work
As mentioned above, don’t work more than you've previously agreed with yourself.
Set limits about checking emails. Write down what you spend money on. What conversations you are having with your friends. Yet again, discussing a blog post you are working on might sound fun - but yet again, there are other things in life, make sure you notice them.
Be prepared to fail and stand up again as many times
Blogging and entrepreneurship is not without its risks. The chances are that your idea is sound and might make you money some day but the current execution might be wrong.
Don’t be afraid to drop it all and start again if needed. Because that’s what successful entrepreneurs do.
Ask for help
Hire a coach if you can even just to talk things through and get things out of your head.
If it’s not possible - ask your friend or family to spend some time listening to you. Timeframe that chat and treat it as a therapy.
Ask your blogging and freelance gurus for advice. They do offer it, so don’t say no if there is an opportunity to pick their brains (just don’t use anything sharp).
Hide your blogging apps to the last screen
So you are not tempted to check your accounts non-stop.
Limit your technology consumption in a similar way you limited your working hours.
As to my blogging and entrepreneurship journey, well, it's over before it really started. I realised it was not for me. I continue blogging and writing, but for myself, for pleasure, to exercise my brain and fingers.
I have almost abandoned using social media. I use it for fun and only that.
But I have no regrets. This journey has taught me a lot, about myself, about my own limits. But if i had a choice, I would probably not try to finish my maternity leave with a super busy side hustle, such as blogging.