Side Hustle – Is it Right for You?

I am an architect who suffers from logorrhea (real word, possibly a fake diagnosis), and along with my glibness and sense of humor, I have managed to channel these attributes into a website that is focused on being an architect and what that means from my perspective. To that end, I recently read an article over on ArchDaily regarding side hustles for architects that actually listed me and this website as a side hustle, which got me thinking … Is writing and maintaining this website really a “side hustle” for me? I suppose it could be but not in the traditional definition. A side hustle is defined as a way to make some extra cash that allows you the flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in. It can also be your true passion – a chance to delve into whatever it is you care about the most without quitting your day job.

So … Is this writing this website my side hustle?

Bob Borson's work desk - my side hustle

Let me make this clear, this website is not a passion for me and 99% of the time it simply feels like an extension of my day job. Chances are that if we were having a beer and talking about blogging, I would tell most of you to run for the hills and spend all that time doing just about anything else, and that includes eating worms for sport.

To my way of thinking, a side hustle is about pursuing some sort of creative outlet that is not being fulfilled from your main job … and while the additional coin you could make is a consideration for sure, I would suggest to you that maybe you should take a closer look at how you are spending your time. I am passionate about my job, even if I don’t always want to go to work, and this is NOT a characteristic that is specific to my vocation as an architect. When I started this website, one of the major considerations for taking on the additional workload was that this website was a creative outlet for me when work at the office was slow and I felt a need to flex my creative muscles more than what was coming my way during regular business hours. Now that I am as busy as I’ve ever been, writing content for this site is incredibly difficult – not because I am out of ideas, it’s because I would rather be designing buildings than writing blog posts. If you aren’t passionate enough about what you are doing, at least to a point where considering an additional job is perceived as a viable solution, I would suggest that you need to reevaluate your primary job and see if all this extra time on your hands could be put to use trying to make your situation better.

Bob Borson's work desk early in the morning - where the magic happens

Maybe you are that over-achieving individual that simply wants to convert their hobby into an additional revenue stream … I certainly won’t put myself in a position to tell you that this is a bad idea. There are many instances where I would be the first person to give you a high-five … but there are times when I would ask you to consider your motivations. Take this blog as a great example of a side hustle. I certainly spend enough time on it where it would qualify as a part-time job. Writing blog posts, preparing graphics and editing photos has become a relatively simple thing for me now and the actual writing part of this side hustle represents the smallest portion of time spent (obviously). The vast majority of my time is spent doing things that never occurred to me when I started this blog seven+ years ago. Nine out of every ten hours I spend associated with Life of an Architect is spent responding to emails, phone calls, questions, and comments. If you wrote me an email and I responded, I think you’ll agree that I didn’t mail it in and that you received a fairly well thought-through response. In fact, I spent part of my morning arranging interviews with people who wanted to work with me, but rather than tell them “Thanks for your interest but we aren’t currently hiring” I made a few calls and found them someplace that was hiring and would meet with them. I could have hit =DELETE= but I think this is part of what I’ve signed up for. The one thing that I have not capitalized on is the financial opportunities that exist as a result of this website.

In the early days, I used to accept text links in the sidebar of my site. I had made a deal with my wife that this social media blogging experiment would not cost our family any money, so I financed the purchase of my URL and web hosting through the sale of those sidebar ads. I would get $35 to $50 a month for every ad I accepted … and then the money started getting ridiculous. As the popularity of the site kept growing, back when I was averaging around 150,000 people a month, the request for links placed within my articles started coming in … offers for a mind-boggling $500 to $1,500 each. This is a lot of money so I had a fairly important decision to make. I decided to not take the money, that this site was more important than my down payment on a jet ski. Now that my traffic is twice that amount, where would those offers come in at?

Since making that decision, I have never sold any content or placed a sponsored link within any of my articles … I even stopped placing sidebar ads around 2012. I’ve definitely left a lot of money on the table, but there is no doubt in my mind that had I decided to accept those ads, my site would have a very different feel to it, and it would not have evolved into what it has become. To be fair, I have no doubt that part of the financial opportunities that were presented to me all those years ago had as much to do with the lack of competition from other architectural sites as it did the quality of content and conversation happening on my site. It’s not like that anymore and there are a number of architectural blogs out there … none of which impact what I do on this site.

Every time I’ve needed to make some sort of decision where this site is concerned, without actually knowing the consequences, I always approach it the same way – I plan for success. I act as if everything is going to happen the way I want it to – this allows me to take the high road when necessary (not to mention that it helps me sleep at night without resorting to big pharma).

All the money I've probably not made from my blog

If I were to evaluate this site based on the short game, I would have to acknowledge that I lost out on some substantial financial opportunities – certainly in the low 6-figure range. But after 7+ years, I think it’s safe to say that I was not interested in the short game. This site has given me an audience that I would not have been able to reach if I were limited to preaching from my pulpit in the back corner of my office. The speaking opportunities, request for lectures, participation on several advisory boards, even being elevated to Fellow in the American Institute of Architects are a direct result of this blog … and those things have led to business opportunities that are considerably more substantial than the low 6-figure range.

This whole time I’ve been an architect talking about architecture and what it means to be an architect and for the foreseeable future, I think I’ll keep it that way.


Bob signature FAIA