How To Have A Side Hustle With A 9-To-5

Illustrated by Ivy Liu.
After graduating in 2012, I moved to New York City to pursue comedy. For two months, I lived on a couch. I had no job, no apartment, no plan. But, with nothing to lose, I took risks. More than once I approached a musician in Washington Square Park and asked if I could sing a song or two with them. That’s actually how I got my first gig: singing with a horn band at a jazz bar in Williamsburg.

Despite being almost completely broke, I felt fearless. Eventually it translated professionally, and I talked my way into a stable job in advertising. Sadly (and perhaps predictably), I soon became invested in a career that didn’t fulfill me.

I eventually moved to a different company in the same industry. I developed significant friendships there, I found important mentors and role models, and I worked really hard, which felt good. I rediscovered my creative energy and developed a one-woman show that I got to perform at various off-Broadway cabaret theaters around the city. My colleagues filled the theater every time, and I still feel so lucky for that support. With this newfound momentum, I started feeling that itch again. I was seriously considering pursuing comedy full time — and then, bam, I got a shiny new job offer.

I thought this new job would satisfy me creatively, but it ended up being a monumental disappointment. Every day for nine months, I felt professionally and emotionally defeated. It did, however, push me to a point where I couldn’t ignore the discomfort of feeling unstimulated.

Before the crummy job — and the letdown that came with it — I had no routine for pursuing my extracurricular passions. I did creative things when I had time and without an overarching strategy. I’d seen relative success with these projects, but I definitely wasn’t working toward a bigger picture. At the new job, where I felt like I had little control over my happiness and time, I was more determined than ever to work on something personally inspiring and meaningful. I developed a regimented routine to stay on track, and I considered my passion projects to be one unified job, outside of a less-fulfilling day job.

Now, I have a full-time job that I really love at a new company. While I feel more professionally fulfilled than ever, I’ve continued to pursue my passions outside of work. I’m able to do this because I exercised the right muscles during that nine-month period prior. In 2016, I appeared on live TV, wrote a sketch that went viral, and committed to a bi-monthly run of my one-woman show at a theater in the West Village.

Ahead, I share my tips for pursuing your passion projects — whatever they might be — while working a full-time job.
If 2017 is the year you've vowed to whip your bank account into shape, rapper, comedienne, and bargaining badass Awkwafina is here to help with her series, "Ballin' On A Budget." Catch all of her hilarious hacks for stretching your NYC paycheck as far as possible on Comcast Watchable, and always remember: just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you can’t still be a baller. Watch the episode below for her tips on perfecting your side hustle game.