Can You Start a Side Hustle While Working Full Time? My Colleagues Did.

Celebrating colleagues who said ‘Yes, And…’ to their work lives by starting side hustles while working full time.

Cutouts of colleagues who started a side hustle while working full time against a background of pastel green and white squiggly shapes.

Designed by Slam Media Lab

People don’t stay at one company for the entirety of their careers anymore. In fact, having just one job at a time is becoming a thing of the past. Today, one in three Americans has a side-hustle. And with more Gen Z employees aging into the workforce, we can only expect this trend to grow: 70% of surveyed Gen Z employees say they’re considering taking on another gig outside their current role. Running a side hustle while working full time is the new standard.

As kids, we often respond to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with an optimistic, anything-is-possible attitude. But what’s actually possible today sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi film. Years ago, “I want to be a YouTube creator/graphic designer/freelance ceramicist” would have sounded just as ridiculous of a future job title as “wizard.” Today, that new American Dream can easily become reality.

The modern career landscape is more dynamic than ever, thanks to open-minded employers that prioritize creativity and freedom over an outdated definition of productivity. They’re providing enough paid time off for employees to recharge and explore their hobbies. They’re upholding a manageable workload for employees, so that they can log-off at decent hours. And they’re hiring a diverse workforce that celebrates teammates' individuality, creativity, and uniqueness. 

When employees are encouraged to have a life outside of work and are celebrated for it, employers foster an atmosphere where employees can feel fulfilled—and inspired to create, build, and make change. Workers that put in 35 hours a week versus the standard 40 or more report:

  • less stress 
  • more energy 
  • better work life balance
  • improved productivity 

I’ve experienced this first-hand when I worked at customer service and CRM platform Zendesk, where leadership maintained a culture of work-life balance and supported our personal interests. 

Having this freedom early-on in my career helped me discover my passion for fostering an environment where anyone could start something. In short, the experience was sowing the seeds for Worklife and our newly-launched Worklife Studios

Full time Zendeskers' creative side hustles

But I’m not the only one who was inspired in that environment. Employees continuously rank Zendesk as one of the best places to work. In fact, during my tenure, I was fortunate enough to work with some very talented colleagues who not only demonstrated what it means to show up to their 9-to-5 authentically, but also taught me the importance of being multidimensional. 

Meet four former Zendeskers that have perfected the art of starting a side hustle while working full-time, channeling their free time, infectious energy, and innovative spirit into creative pursuits.  

Chelsea’s cartooning side hustle for full time workers

Directing Design for Tech and Cartooning for Top Media Publications   

While at Zendesk, Chelsea Larsson led a team of over 100 global product and content designers. Not only did she manage and mentor the team on an individual level, but she also was responsible for championing cultural alignment across the broader Zendesk organization, ensuring there was always a clear product vision, while improving design processes along the way. It was a large undertaking for a person at an organization of any size, but at a company of 5,000+ employees, it was a next level challenge. Today, she’s working as an Experience Design Director, Content Design at Expedia Group. 

Despite the lengthy to-do list associated with her role, Chelsea maintained a thriving side-hustle outside of Zendesk, creating editorial cartoons and illustrations for picture books. Her designs, on topics ranging from parenting and motherhood to the simple joys of everyday life, are accessible via her website and across several publications, including The New York Times. Today, she’s an experience design director at Expedia Group. 

Edwin’s full time job and blogging side hustle 

Driving Marketing Analytics and Dissecting Menswear Trends   

Edwin Zee made a lasting impact as senior manager of marketing analytics at Zendesk. Not only did he build the Ireland team from the ground up, but he also completely revamped and upgraded Zendesk’s marketing attribution model to an in-house model capable of leveraging more complex features. 

Apart from making waves at Zendesk, Edwin channeled his creative energy and skill into other work, writing and performing in the San Francisco Bay Area. His blog features several thoughtful pieces about menswear trends, on everything from how to pick the right transition lenses to selecting the right dress shoes for the rain. Readers can also find articles about fatherhood, cocktails, and whatever else tickles his fancy on his website. 

Bob’s clothing store side hustle while working full time

Leading Design and Managing a Clothing Store

As senior creative director at Zendesk, Bob Galmarini says his role enabled him to continuously improve how the Zendesk story was told and how to make customer service software interesting. More specifically, he executed a company-wide rebrand in 2016, not to mention several additional campaigns throughout his five year tenure. 

At the same time he was moving up the corporate ladder, Bob was building something incredible with his wife, Kristin. Together, they cofounded their ethical clothing brand and store, Longway California in San Anselmo, CA. While Kristin runs the brand and shop day-to-day, shoppers can often find Bob behind the register or screen printing tee shirts in the evenings or on the weekends. And that’s in addition to his day job: he’s currently working as the senior director of brand design at databricks, a platform used to unify companies data, analytics and AI. 

Thanks to a healthy work life balance, Bob was able to dedicate his free time to building his and his wife’s brand. 

Jason’s brewery side hustle as a full time worker 

Analyzing Data… and the Best Beer

Jason Maynard spent seven years at Zendesk working closely with data. Leading up to his roles as VP & GM at the company, he self-described his job trajectory as: 

  • Counted things as a Product Analyst
  • Built things that counted things as a Product Manager
  • Managed people who built things that counted things as a Senior, Manager
  • Used counted words to predict when customers are happy or sad as a Director
  • Used counted words to recommend other words as a VP

Now, he’s busy automating counting all the things as a VP at Zapier. But in between his current role and his time growing at Zendesk, Jason co-built Ojai Valley Brewery. The brewery, tap room, and clubhouse offers 15 beers on tap, as well as kombucha cold brew and soft drinks. Situated at the end of the Ojai bike path, patrons can find live music every week, a family-friendly environment with cards and corn hole. You can even take cans and growlers to go.   

Jason’s time working at Zendesk, where work life balance was celebrated, taught him to always say “yes” to opportunities for growth. He knew that taking on his latest role at Zapier while co-founding Ojai Valley Brewery would be a challenge, but he followed his passion and took on both pursuits.

Encouraging life outside of work is good for organizations too  

The appetite for starting a side-hustle, whether it’s sharing art in new and creative ways or running a brick and mortar business, is stronger than ever. What actually enables professionals to act on that impulse rather than switching careers, however, is flexibility and support from employers.

To do this, employers can join employees in reimagining work. Creating room to start a side hustle with a full time job benefits everyone.

When companies create an environment where work-life balance is valued, and celebrate employees on their journey to pursuing their individual passions, workers return the investment by bringing their best selves to their role, contributing to a high-functioning organization and workforce. 

How to balance a full time job and side hustle

Starting a side hustle while working full time can feel like an insurmountable task. It doesn’t have to be. If you’re thinking about starting a side-hustle, companies like Podia make it easy. Podia is a platform for creators and independent business owners to: 

  • Build their websites 
  • Offer courses 
  • Sell digital products
  • Host communities 

The best part? Podia recently introduced its free plan, which enables users to create a customizable website, host a free or paid community, and sell a digital download or coaching/consultation product at no cost, making starting a side-hustle accessible for everyone.

We love side hustles

We’ve seen some amazing careers arise from side hustles that started during a full time job, like Alexis Gay’s career in comedy and creative entrepreneur Michelle Youngblood’s upscale children’s clothing brand. 

In fact, we’re betting that sibling duos, power couples, and work friends will form the newest generation of founders who start the ncreativeext big thing while still working their corporate day job. 

That's why we’re so excited about our newly launched Worklife Studios. It’s the perfect venue to meet your next collaborator, start a side hustle, or turn your creative idea into a tech partnership.

Got a new idea you’re excited about? Reach out on Twitter! I’d love to hear what you’re up to. ∎

Liked this? Also check out:

P.S. We launched a new YouTube channel. Take a peek:

Latest Blog Posts