Your passion project or side hustle might just keep you sane, and provide a bit of income.
By Rubin van Niekerk
As a little boy I had less of a sweet tooth than most kids. Milk tart and koeksisters were two exceptions that I adored, and my mother wisely would keep a strict eye on either should they end up in the fridge where they would be placed as high as possible to keep them out of my reach.
As a four-year-old I called milk tart, “melk-te-perd” to the amusement of my much older sisters and parents. None of us ever got much pocket money, but we all received music tuition and our little house would be filled with the sounds of piano, organ, violin, and piano accordion. I was always thinking of ways to make money and at the age of seven asked my dad if we should not have house concerts and charge the people an entrance fee. He burst out laughing and said my mother would have a heart attack as she was always worried about other people’s opinions of us. We were poor but happy and deeply integrated into our community and our church. There were no TVs or internet, so family structures were far tighter knit than in our society now that offers so much distraction. We all sang in choirs and loved playing board games when the weather was foul. I was always a terrible loser and decided that I would challenge my sisters to games that required strategy where my odds of winning were better.
Later at university residence I introduced the concept of playing for coins as a young first year student. The seniors loved the idea and coins were trading hands quickly and offering all of us some entertainment. The most popular games were games that had short play periods and people would come and go as they pleased. I was quite good at this and earned bags of coins, but wisely backed out when the interest levels waned.
As a twelve-year old schoolboy that was chronically short of cash, I got the green light from my mother to allow me to do some market research in our area to determine what the demand would be for homemade milk tart and apple pies. Essentially it turned out high and I started baking these from recipe books as soon as I got home from school. Then I would rush through homework till people got home from about 17h00 and I would start my average of ten deliveries per day with my delivery vehicle, a little red chopper bicycle. I made a healthy profit of 75% less 25% to my mother for electricity and the odd borrowed ingredient. This profitable venture continued until my 16th birthday when we moved to a new area and allowed me to buy myself my first legal bike, a brand-new Suzuki 50cc.
Armed with mobility, I could search for part-time work and quickly found employment at a video shop, restaurant, and fast-food outlet. I learned many new skills, including Gayle which borrowed some of its words from Polari spoken by gay men in the UK before my seventeenth birthday as my boss at Film Fun, Mervyn Ackerman spoke it fluently to his friends when they gossiped at the shop. Gayle got me a bartender job at the local gay club and Mervyn was delighted in how shocked his patrons were when a young, dumb blonde boy understood their coded language. Their embarrassment increased my tips, and I had a lot of fun working behind the bar. Essentially, I was learning the importance of multiple income streams and networking, so as soon as I enrolled as a student majoring in Psychology and Sociology my new contacts helped me get a job in the psychiatric ward during my university vacations.
A few years later I worked in a psychometric testing environment followed by HR for a few years. An HR sentiment that was quite strong up to the late 90’s was that employees with long CV’s at too early an age were unstable and opportunistic, so bean counters believed it was not good for a company’s budget to invest in training and upskilling them too soon as they had to work for a reasonable period to prove their value. Today this sentiment had changed somewhat, and highly sophisticated psychometric tools are available that can measure every possible factor a company requires. Many companies are offering lucrative short-term contracts that target the brightest and most talented for specific jobs in companies that would be highly defined in terms of the incumbent’s job description.
This system has been utilised for decades at multinationals where few CEOs would get contracts longer than five years. The most sophisticated companies move staff into various positions to upskill staff and to identify hidden talents that many employees have that was never clearly measured at the time of recruitment. A fascinating brave new world we are living in as Aldous Huxley would have said in his remarkable utopian sci-fi classic published in 1931.
Many of us are still used to the old ways and have not been paying enough attention in observing new opportunities or the dangers inherent in not adapting or dying. Whether we are overpaid corporate employees or struggling entrepreneurs, the rules are the same for everyone in this game of musical chairs, hence it is good to have other passions other than your 14 hours a day job which may terminate unexpectedly. Corporate employees have many disadvantages when the rules of this ongoing soapy changes as their vision is likely to be tunnel visioned as companies narrowly define skill requirements and train accordingly. Entrepreneurs generally have far better survival skills and a much broader base of knowledge, so when the rules change, they adapt much faster. Typically, when corporate players are retrenched, they usually find re-employment tough. Also, the rule of last in first out also applies. Having administered a pension fund for three years in my HR role a typical pension formula is 2% for each pensionable year of service based on the final salary. Hypothetically if you worked for only one corporate company you can expect a maximum of 76% of your final salary, but some smaller companies are shrewd and could legally close your department and send you packing way before you could drain the pension or provident fund. Most larger companies have refined performance appraisals that apply to increases, so employees in comfort zones suffer the consequences.
Bottom line almost everybody will need to turn a passion into a business model at some point of their lives before Alzheimer’s kick in. Find you passion and think about how this may become an enjoyable pastime that also pays the bills in an inflationary environment.
Henry Banjez – Gay Pages Contributor and Corporate Psychologist
If you have an idea to turn your passion into profit, take the leap and be ruthless, but do this within the safety net of your current job. Put in those extra hours. This shows courage and true business spirit. Make sure you are financially stable before you give up income. Also ensure you learn about the industry. Benchmark other successes and know everything there is to know about your product and remember, writing a strategic business plan will be the blueprint of your success. Furthermore, nothing survives without a marketing strategy and a clear goal. Know your audience. Watch your future competitors online and do not shy away from asking someone who shares your passion what their secret to success is. You have nothing to lose. One more gem to add – be confident. Believe in yourself and you will generate enough energy to light up an entire city.
Andre van Tonder – Physiotherapist
Passion: Dare to dream
Dreams consume your thinking and fuel your excitement and passion. It can happen in a single moment, or it can captivate your thoughts for many years. Sometimes when the dream is really big, you embrace it, and somehow it feels like the dream embraces you.
Our dreams are often about experiencing a better life, about achieving greater things … they are pictures we have of the future that reveal a part of our lives that will be greater than the past.
It takes courage to dream. Any time you dare to dream, there are risks involved. What if it never happens? What if it costs too much? What if people laugh at you? What if you fail your family and colleagues?
It’s hard to hold on to your dreams. It’s hard to believe when the world and those around you give you no reason to press in and press on.
I’ve been blessed to realise many dreams in my life.
If you strive to be the best version of yourself and bring out the best in others, your dreams will come true over and over again.
Alan Samons – Deputy Editor of the Gay Pages and Maker
Though I do have a day job, I have a few hobbies/side hustles that I absolutely love with a tremendous passion. Even though I don’t really make much money, every so often a windfall happens, for which I am incredibly grateful.
I’ve been collecting Asian antiques since the early 1990s and was taught by my friend and mentor, Bernie Stanko, how to mount old scroll paintings and calligraphies, which I absolutely enjoy, even though it is a laborious process. Part of the enjoyment is working with the old scrolls, but also choosing new silk mounts and putting it all together.
Kintsugi – the art of mending broken ceramics with gold – is an artform I started dabbling in a few years ago and I’ve developed my own ‘shorthand’ technique, since I’m highly allergic to natural lacquer. The look is virtually identical, but a lot more affordable. Some time ago a production company contacted me to shoot a kintsugi video for EOH and I had a total blast.
In my opinion, it is important to have an outlet for one’s passions. As in my case, you might not make much money from it, but it does bring a level of satisfaction and joy to life that might not be there with a nine to five job that serves only to pay the bills, but might be as dull as dishwater.