What’s Your Side-Hustle?

Sophie Grenham is inspired by author EMMA GANNON who has done much to promote the virtues of a portfolio – or multi-hyphen – career …


Whoever coined the much-used phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” might have a change of heart after reading Emma Gannon’s savvy new business book, The Multi-Hyphen Method: Work Less, Create More and Design A Career That Works For You, published by Hodder & Stoughton, which chimes with a rising trend. Studies reveal workers are growing smarter about how they invest their time, many preferring to manage numerous projects at once, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket. The American expression, “side-hustle”, which has now reached our shores, means a passion project that you have in addition to your primary source of income. Second jobs (or more) are nothing new, but attitudes towards them have changed significantly – many start as hobbies. Your side-hustle should initially be small and low-risk, where you can contribute as little as an hour a week towards getting it off the ground.

When I ask Gannon about how she responds to the grating question “what do you do?”, she says, “I wrote The Multi-Hyphen Method because I was bored of having to explain myself. Now I say: I’m an author, broadcaster, podcaster and all-round multi-hyphenate. If anyone then replies ‘what’s that?’ I tell them to go read my book!”

Originally from Devon, Gannon, 29, is also a Prince’s Trust Ambassador, columnist and lecturer at the Condé Nast College. She made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list, as well as the 35 Under 35 in Management Today. The idea for her book stemmed initially from a feature she wrote in 2016 for UK Glamour, “In Defence of Millennials” about living a “slashie” lifestyle. Being a slashie means having a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary or portfolio career, for instance, barrister/yoga instructor, surgeon/jewellery designer or chef/gardener/blogger. “I think ‘security’ means something different now,” Gannon says. “Having one job doesn’t mean you’re secure for life anymore. If anything, it’s easier than ever to be made redundant because of the changing landscape and internal structure of many industries. There’s an analogy that a table is sturdier with four legs rather than one. Multiple income streams mean limitless earning potential. I don’t think it’s 100 per cent a good thing, but I didn’t make the rules. I just saw the research and wanted to write something that might be helpful to at least a few people.”

What does Gannon’s typical day resemble, now that she’s her own boss? “I don’t have a routine, but I do try and do one thing at a time,” she says. “There is a misconception that multi-hyphenates are multi-tasking but it’s not actually true. I am not constantly spinning plates, I pick one and set goals for the day. I keep Mondays free to work from home and plan my week, with endless cups of tea and comfy clothes on.”

Gannon started chipping away at her own side-hustle in 2010, when she predicted that her magazine job wouldn’t survive five years – she was right. She has always been ahead of the curve, using social media before Twitter was invented, and coding before it was cool. As her first book Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online (2016, Penguin) details, she evolved alongside the internet and knows all the tools of the trade.

In 2015, Gannon was the social media editor of Glamour. She had the prestigious job with the shiny marble office that she had always dreamed of – but she wanted more. In a brave move, she looked beyond Condé Nast, published Ctrl Alt Delete and began her hit podcast of the same name – in two years it has reached over two million downloads on iTunes. She has discussed goals and careers with dozens of high-profile guests, such as Lena Dunham, Gillian Anderson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Louise O’Neill and Greta Gerwig.

Society has become rather obsessed with age and what people achieve by certain milestones. What does Gannon have to say on the matter? “I don’t think these ‘30 under 30’ lists mean anything,” she tells me. “I think so many people are leaving behind old definitions of success, fame, money. We’re realising life is about experiences, flexibility, freedom and empowerment. Being outwardly successful on paper shouldn’t be the main goal, I think you could end up feeling quite empty. At the end of the day, I feel successful when I feel connected, creatively fulfilled and have used my time wisely, all while paying my bills. I’m not interested in the hamster wheel of outward success.”

The Multi-Hyphen Method’s advice comes in bites that are both highly informative and easy to digest. Each chapter is backed up by case studies, articles, and an impressive bibliography. Gannon discusses a variety of familiar subjects such as burnout culture, curating your online presence and how to manage your budget. What she has discovered about herself through researching, writing and publishing her latest work is that she likes starting conversations. “I’ve also learned that we are all more similar than we think. I’ve had 88-year-old readers, middle-aged male readers and eleven-year-old girl readers. I hope my book validates anyone who wants to have a multi-hyphen career to go for it, and to be proud of their achievements. I want people to realise they are allowed to make their own rules.”

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