How to build a side hustle while juggling a full-time careerFeatured

For those who have always dreamed of pursuing their passions as a side hustle or lifestyle business on top of a full-time career (that helps pay the bills), here is my advice coming from someone who has done it and grown a supper club business on the side for 7+ years and running.

First things first, it is not an easy feat to be able to excel in a demanding full-time occupation – let alone start something on the side. Life was never meant to be a smooth ride. You will inevitably be faced with setbacks and obstacles. Your grit and determination to continue is what is going to set you apart and give your side hustle a chance to succeed.

To propel you forward, you will need to be intrinsically motivated and the best source of motivation I find is not material (like money), but it needs to come from within – i.e. the ability to identify your purpose. This is why I urge you all to first identify your ikigai – a Japanese concept meaning raison d’etre: your reason for being.

I am a creator at heart, and ever since I was young, I was always tinkering with arts and crafts. As I entered my adolescent years, this need to create morphed into a deep culinary passion. There is nothing that gives me more joy than cooking for those I love and care about. It is this innate desire that has set in motion my passion to host dinner parties and bring together friends and friends of friends. I love being able to offer a safe space for people to connect authentically while nurturing them with my culinary creations. From my dinner parties, I’ve been able to connect numerous people who are forever thankful to me (or so I hope since I have found them lifelong partners and inked many new friendships). Even a kid has been born from my passion!

The second most important component in managing a side hustle on top of a demanding career is time management. I don’t watch Netflix or own a TV at home and try my best to minimize the endless scrolling of social media (as tempting as it may be!). I didn’t go so far as to delete my social media accounts like Instagram, though, as I do use it to organically promote my supper clubs and showcase my culinary prowess. If I’d like to get more aggressive, I would consider doing sponsored posts and proper digital marketing but for now, my dinner parties are oversubscribed each time (mainly through word of mouth), so there is no need for me to pay for advertising unless I plan to scale fast.

With the plethora of labor available online now and abroad, you can also consider outsourcing the more menial or secondary tasks so that you can focus on your north star. That said, I bootstrapped my own side hustle and never had to employ anyone full-time due to the nature of the concept: a social dining experience whereby I do all the cooking myself.

My vision is to leverage art and cuisine to create bespoke social dining experiences that help foster new authentic connections in a convivial and intimate setting between like- and open-minded peers. I have tinkered with the idea of scaling before, so have done pop-ups internationally across San Francisco, New York, London, Singapore and my hometown, Sydney. Most of the time, I host them in Hong Kong since this is where I work (though I am looking to move abroad ASAP!).

I have tried promoting different culinary talent (give them a revenue share), and it is something I am still open to (if you know any excellent home cooks or chefs who want to do a pop-up and earn some extra money on the side, do give me a shout).

The beauty of my side hustle is that people have fun, and from time to time, I have patrons who ask me if they can host in their homes, so it is a win-win for everyone! But yes, without deviating too much from my topic of outsourcing, if I wish to scale internationally and faster, I would definitely consider outsourcing marketing/community management and finding other hosts and chefs in different cities. After all, time is a limited resource, so we all need to focus on our strengths.

My last piece of advice is to look after your own health: both mental and physical. Having one job is enough work in today’s era, let alone managing a small business on the side. You will definitely need to be in a peak mental capacity to excel in both so whatever works for you to relieve stress, I urge you to follow. For me, it is engaging in walks in nature or HIIT/spin classes if indoors works better and some yoga every now and then. I’m not very good at meditating and it is something I’d love to learn but I find journaling before bedtime helps. Just jot down your thoughts for the day, your troubles and any ideas you may have. The less that is on your mind before you sleep, the better.

I hope my advice has helped. For those who are interested in the side hustle or social dining space, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or check out my community at or recipe blog I promise I’ll do my best to respond in due course.

Hi @michelletang118 ! I currently have a food blog on the side -> . I'd love to chat about what you've done to make your blog successful, if you are willing! The recent Google helpful content update really killed my traffic momentum (and motivation). Would love a chance to chat! Thank you for sharing your journey.
Such a cool project, and great to read that you are doing something you are passionate about :) I am curious to see where you take it further If you will be doing anything in Europe, do get in touch - I am based in Zagreb, Croatia but travel a Lot and am often in Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Switzerland, Italy... would be happy to connect if you will be around :) I also maintained my side hustle for 10 years :D and then eventually moved into "sidehustle" as a full time job, but that period of doing both was also so wonderful, inspiring, energising <3
Hello Mirna, thanks for the kind words. Oh lovely. would love to hear more about your journey too.
Hey Michelle, thank you for asking <3 It was a looong journey, it seems it might be time for me to sit down and write a longer post about it :) But as I am a bit swamped with things to finish by end of the year, allow me for now to just share comment that I wrote on another post, I hope that will give you some insights and ideas - and I am super happy to share more and answer any further questions: Regarding your question, I am not sure what you think under "alternative working lifestyles" but I think my story might relate to it: I worked for 10 years as an engineer in cisco (9-17h but with ton of flexibility and fully remote and location independent before that was a thing :D) while also developing my skills as a trainer/facilitator in many many learning experiences and projects (from NGO to cisco internal projects). Then 6 and a half years ago I left Cisco to build the work that is exactly what I want and that perfectly fits my lifestyle - and it worked out really well. So now I work primarily as a trainer with small group developing their skills related to positive psychology (resilience, thinking patterns, wellbeing) and train of trainers, and secondary as a speaker on related topic. It is a work that deeply inspires me and it is very meaningful to me - but it is also designed in a way that supports the exact lifestyle that I want to live. For example, I spend 2-3 months every spring living on a small quite island, working often on projects in locations that I chose as that are inspiring to me (eg barcelona, london, amsterdam, paris, italy, switzerland etc) paying attention that travel doesnt get too hectic, and spend good bit of winter in sunny locations vacationing. I take a lot of time off throughout the year to pursue my hobbies - sailing, diving, horseriding - usually between 2 and 3 months.The truth is, my business could be more profitable and scaling it into much bigger story (for example, working just localy would be much easier in terms of marketing then working on many targeted locations that are not always the simplest... and working from an island in the season that is top season for live conferences and education is not the most lucrative business decision. Yet, it still works.) - for me even more important truth is also that managing teams and developing business strategies is not my passion. My passion is training, travel and meaningful conversations - and my business is built exactly in the way to support me having a chance to spend maximum part of my work time on exactly that, and to support lifestyle that is designed exactly in the way I want it. And, honestly, I love every minute of it.Many of the tools, questions and process that I used to design my own plan (and to put it in practice) I turned into a 3h workshop in which now I work with others to design their plan - it is a patchwork of different methodologies that I discovered as a trainer, and combined in a structured reflection process which guides you to create your own "ideal" life design.If that sounds like the right next steps for you, do check it out, I shared it in another post: there is anything else from my story that you think could be helpful, please don't be shy to shoot any questions, I will be glad to answer them - including questions on learnings, specific obstacles or "how-to's" or anything else that would right now be helpful for you :)
That is so inspiring! I've always dreamed of being able to live in different places throughout the year (especially getting the sunshine in winter!) so I'm definitely going to read that other post of yours. Thanks for sharing. [and thanks for sharing your aspirational story too, @michelletang118]
thank you, so glad it was useful <3 if you have any questions, don't be shy to connect and shoot, I will be happy to share any thoughts, ideas, experiences that might help :)