The Biggest Money Privilege We Don’t Talk About Enough
“What if you didn’t have access to the Internet?” my teacher asked the class. Most of my classmates looked at her with a mix of boredom and disbelief.
“Everyone has Internet now. It’s 2017. Why does it matter?” asked one of the men in the class.
I silently agreed. It seemed like a pointless question. I flipped open my laptop to check my work email while I waited for her to respond.
“13% of Americans do not use the Internet. 10% do not have access to a connection and even more Americans do not have a reliable Internet connection.”
Every Monday night, I sit in a classroom filled with graduate students working towards their Master’s in Education. There are a lot of things I’m learning, like how to create a learning environment that is accessible to everyone, and why cultural backgrounds matter. But I’m also inadvertently learning about something else, too: a specific kind of privilege.
The privilege of earning more.
When millennials complain about low wages and a chronic lack of job opportunities, they are typically met with two cheerful words: “Side hustle!”
“Side hustles” can range from driving Uber on the weekends to writing articles for a company after work. You can even get paid to stand in line and buy someone else’s groceries. The tasks are all different, but they have one thing in common. Whether it’s an app on your (smart) phone that allows you to accept jobs, or an Internet connection at home that allows you to send emails, “side hustles” all have one crucial ingredient: access to the Internet.
Throughout the past three months, I’ve been increasing my freelance workload in an effort to save $20,000 for graduate school by August 2017.
As I take on more clients and more work, I’ve often felt frustrated and tired. Freelancing on the side while working full-time and attending graduate school is hectic.
But last week, I realized that having access to a side hustle is a gift. Sometimes it’s an annoying gift that I would like to return, but it’s still a gift.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’ve been given the same gift. Here are a few tips about how to use it:
1. Know When to Say “No”
Even though it’s wonderful to be able to earn more money on the side, it can also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. If you’re embarking on a side hustle (or three), don’t be afraid to say “no” and set some boundaries. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you always should. I’ve found it useful to think of my freelance work as if it were a job where I had to physically show up. Because I’m working full-time, I couldn’t handle a part-time job that required more than 15 hours per week. So that’s the amount of time I’m willing to work on freelance work on a weekly basis.
2. Take it Seriously
There are SO MANY stories of people who started a project on the side and then had it turn into their full-time gig. But regardless of whether or not you dream of becoming a full-time freelancer or business owner, the fact remains that you need to take your side hustles seriously, and the most important way to do that is by tracking your payments, tax forms and invoices. If you’re earning income on the side, the IRS will want to know about it. Do yourself a favor and start tracking all of that now and not three weeks before your taxes are due.
(And after my stepfather gave me a stern lecture about how important it is to track conferences and other “business expenses” for tax purposes, I’ve never been more thankful to have a platform like Xero that makes it so easy and organized.)
3. Kindness and Other Things
I often struggle to truly put myself in other people’s shoes. It’s so easy to simply pass judgement about someone’s spending habits or earning potential. Whether it’s at my full-time job or at my side hustles, I feel like I work hard for my money. But that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t working equally hard in their own way and using what they have access to. Not everyone can earn more money. Sometimes that’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.
P.S. If you’re interested in this topic, I HIGHLY recommend reading both Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.
Image via Unsplash