Why multiple income streams are the most sustainable way to earn money

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”  Ellen Goodman

I'm sure you've seen this quote before.  It's a popular one on social media, and the fact that we see it so often points to how many of us it resonates with.  It's so painfully obvious that to work in this way makes no sense - we are effectively putting life on hold while we bring in money to pay our bills, but the fact that it is such a common theme shows how ingrained this way of working has become - it's normal to work ridiculously hard for a life that you aren't really part of.

Multiple income streams offer an alternative way to generate income, where lifestyle and the things that really matter can be prioritised.  It take s a change in perspective.

You can do work differently.  Multiple income streams will set you free.

I’ve been hearing about Multiple Income Streams since 2007, when I was studying sustainable community design.  The idea of sourcing smaller amounts of income from a number of channels was considered to be the most resilient way of bringing in money.  Even so, sourcing income this way has never been fully embraced by the mainstream.  It’s considered a pretty wacky way of doing things - reserved for the risk-takers, those that don’t have too much at stake.  Security and stability are very sensitive issues, and anything that puts either of those things in perceived jeopardy is not going to gain much traction.

I say perceived because there is an argument for the fact that there are no such things as stability or security in work anymore.  Whether you’ve got a full-time salary, or you're a part-time freelancer, the risks are the same - your income could disappear at a moment's notice.

So if both ways of earning are  unstable, why not choose the path that will make you happier?

Let’s look at the benefits in more detail…

Your income will be resilient to shocks - if you lose your single job now, the effects would be pretty dramatic, and you’d have to find yourself other work pretty much straight away to keep being able to pay your bills.  If you have multiple income streams and one fails for whatever reason, you only need to make minor adjustments, as you have other channels of income to sustain you.

You’ll be able to do work you enjoy - it may be that part of your income comes from a job you’re good at, but you don’t love completely.  That’s ok, it’s bread and butter, and it’s easier to do the steady, not-so-interesting work when you know you’ve also got passion projects on the go.  You’re getting creatively fulfilled for at least some of the time, which is better than never.

You'll have MUCH less stress - mainly down to the fact that you’re not completely dependent on one channel to stay afloat, but also because you don’t have to suck it up from just one boss.  If your bread and butter boss isn’t so great, you only have to work with them for some of the week, so it’s easier to compartmentalise.  I know, we’re not supposed to stand for being treated badly, but it’s not as simple as just being able to walk.  At least if you’re building something else on the side, you’re not going to feel trapped.  The feeling of having nowhere else to go is one of the biggest causes of anxiety and stress.

You’ll be able to try out new things - fancy helping out a mate on his market stall twice a week?  Or doing a stint in the local gallery / cafe / music hall?  By being open to smaller income from different sources, you give yourself the opportunity to try new things, follow your creative nose, and build an eclectic toolkit - you never know when something you’ve learnt might come in handy.

You will likely work from home - for at least some of the time anyway.  This isn’t the easiest option, believe me, you need to work extra hard to keep yourself on track when you manage your own time, but if you master your productivity, and you have a quiet workspace, working from home means being nearer family, no wasted time doing massive commutes, easier to manage work/life balance, and almost always home in time for tea.

So - work from home, more fun, less stress, more financial stability - what’s not to love?

Annoyingly, it would require a paradigm shift in thinking for the mainstream to adopt this model and accept it as the norm.

Common myths, preconceptions and (misguided) arguments against multiple income streams:

"You’re only a serious player if you’ve followed a single path and worked your way up"

we're entering a new age of entrepreneurship which makes this statement a load of nonsense.  There is a huge amount of instilled fear around not succeeding.  We need to shift how we define success, to make room for those that want to follow an unconventional path, but who are no less committed or hard working than the office boy who worked his way up and is now retiring at 45.  Retirement is also an outdated concept anyway, here’s Tim Ferris (4 Hour Work Week) on what the new retirement looks like.

"This is not the way the real world works"

Actually, the real world works in any way you want it to.  You get to create your own reality, based on your own terms, according to your own measures of success and happiness.  Decide what’s important to you and act on that, and only that.  Judgement from others is irrelevant, and listening to it is a waste of your time.

"It would be impossible to sustain my lifestyle and look after my family if I didn’t have a steady income"

There are degrees of transition.  What’s important here is to know that this way of working is available to you.  How long it takes to make the transition is of course down to contributing factors, not least money, and how much time you have to work on other things.  But let me just make one thing clear - it would not be impossible.  It just might not happen overnight.

If freeing yourself to do work you love is up your street, here’s some ideas to get you moving in that general direction:

  • Start with the money - what do you earn, what do you spend, what do you actually need to spend - think want vs need.
  • Consider downsizing - do you want a big house or a happy life?
  • List your passion projects - which ones could earn you money?  Which ones could be pursued with the skills you already have, and which ones need additional training?
  • Reduce your hours in your current job - consider going down to a four day week, so you can start working on other things.
  • Keep your eye on the prize- what do you want to achieve by doing this - spend more time with family?  Begin that side business you’ve dreamt of?  Define it and remind yourself of it - put up pictures on the fridge that represent what you’re aiming for, keep reminding yourself why you want to do things this way.