How to Start a Creative Side Hustle: From App Development to Filmmaking

Looking to start a creative side hustle? Whether you're an artist, writer, musician, or app developer, get inspired by some of Envato's top creative side hustlers.

Portrait for EnvatoBy Envato  |  Updated May 24, 2023

In today’s fast-paced world, many people are looking for ways to supplement their income and pursue their passions outside of their 9-to-5 jobs – and creative side hustles are a great way to do just that. If you’re looking to start a side hustle that allows you to express your creativity or even turn your talents into a profitable venture, you’ve come to the right place. 

The Envato workplace is brimming with creative achievers, from artists and writers to musicians and filmmakers. In this post, we’re delving into the creative side hustles of some of our team and picking their brains for tips on everything from starting a side hustle to balancing their passion projects with work. 

Whether you’re looking for side-hustle ideas or practical tips, hear from five of our talented Envations to get their advice on pursuing a passion and starting a successful creative side hustle.  

Tom Graham, Video Producer for Envato Tuts+

Side Hustle: Filmmaking

Tom Graham - Video Producer for Envato Tuts+

Tell us about your role at Envato…

I’m a video producer and presenter for the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel, and also present on our social media channels like TikTok and Instagram. I joined the team in late 2021, primarily creating videos on video editing, motion graphics, and color grading to educate our creative community. The role has been fantastic for me as it allows me to draw on my years of filmmaking experience to help future creators find their feet and learn new skills. Plus, this is the first time I’ve been consistently in front of the camera (instead of my usual position behind it), which has been a fun challenge. 

What’s your creative side hustle? 

I’ve been involved in the film industry for the past 15 years – since my early days at University – and I still try to keep active with personal projects outside of work. So while filmmaking is technically a side hustle, it’s also a passion I enjoy – especially when working on projects purely for love vs. any financial gain. 

I’m lucky to have met a lot of very talented filmmakers throughout my career so far, with whom I’ve fostered good friendships. So, when a director friend asks you to cut and color a video, it’s great to jump on board and work with them collaboratively. A side hustle doesn’t always have to be about making money. 

What does your day-to-day as a filmmaker entail? 

I pick and choose the projects to which I devote my time outside of my regular day-to-day work. At the moment, I’ve been enjoying jumping back into music video projects. Sometimes that means working with a Director who has already captured content with their cinematographer or broader production team, and I edit the music video and the final color grade and delivery. Sometimes that means working directly with artists to create music videos with them. In that case, I work as both a Director and Director of Photography and handle the post-production side of things. 

What have been the top highlights and challenges of your side hustle? 

Every piece of content I’ve ever produced comes with challenges, but ultimately, that’s the fun part for me. I love the problem-solving aspect of filmmaking, and there’s nothing like having to solve a bunch of (fun) problems on a zero-budget music video. Budget = convenience. No Budget = ingenuity! 

Do you have any advice for balancing a creative side hustle and full-time work? 

It’s important not to over-commit. I only take on one extracurricular activity at a time, especially while maintaining full-time hours at work. Just because a project is unpaid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t devote all your creativity to it, so I give my all when I commit to something. If I overcommit by taking on multiple projects at a time, the fun goes out of it. And if there’s no fun in it, what’s the point? 

Luckily, Envato’s flexible work policy is unmatched compared to anywhere I’ve worked in the past. Having worked as a freelancer for much of my career, I have come to value the flexibility that comes with that lifestyle. Being able to take a meeting here or duck out to collect equipment there – Envato’s flexibility comes very close to providing that feeling, and I think it’s one of our key points of difference. Also, my team is based worldwide, so the traditional notion of a 9-to-5 is out the window in this role. 

What advice would you give others wanting to follow their passion for film? 

As much as the adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is gross – it’s true. As I said, a side hustle doesn’t have to be about making money – it can be about connecting to an industry you want to grow in or just enjoy being part of. So go out and shoot a couple of music videos with your friends and see what happens. Also, learn post-production! It will make you an infinitely better director and cinematographer and offer you a lot of freedom and flexibility on small passion projects.

Kelsie Rimmer, Editor of the Elements Blog

Side Hustle: Music

Kelsie Rimmer - Editor of the Elements Blog

What is your role at Envato? What do you love about your position?

I’m the Editor of the Elements Blog. I’m responsible for editing and producing all content across various topics, including design, video, web design, marketing, and industry trends.

What I love most about my role is interviewing talented creatives in the community and sharing their inspiring stories – interviewing world-renowned designer Jessica Walsh was definitely a career highlight. 

Tell us about your creative side hustle… 

When I’m not daylighting as Editor of the Elements Blog, I’m moonlighting as the lead singer and frontwoman of my band, Damaged Goods Club.

With a gritty-yet-glittery pop-rock sound sparkling with 2000s nostalgia, we’re best known for our cheeky personality, relatable lyrics, and energetic live show. We’ve independently released four singles since forming in 2021, and our next release, ‘Hallways,’ is coming out on May 19. The incredible Tom Graham – video producer and presenter for the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel – filmed and produced our upcoming music video for the track, so stay tuned!

If you want to check us out, you can find us on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and Instagram.

How did Damaged Goods Club come about?

Since my teens, making music was all I ever wanted to do. I started songwriting at a young age, and have independently written, recorded, and released four EPs and produced an extensive, varied body of music that I am incredibly proud of. I’m also a technically trained singer with a classical music background.

Over the last 15 years in the music industry, I’ve had many musical identities – the country musician, the classical singer, the heartfelt songwriter, and even The Voice contestant. No matter how hard I tried to make them work, none of these identities seemed to fit. So, I decided to start a project true to all the rawest, scrappiest, messiest parts of me – something vulnerable, fun, and accessible. I wanted to combine my love for writing and storytelling, my passion for singing, and my lifelong habit of using music as therapy. And so, Damaged Goods Club was born. 

Since I started DGC as a silly little solo project from my bedroom in 2020, we have grown into a five-piece band that has accomplished more than I ever thought possible. We have played with some genuinely incredible Australian bands at various iconic venues, had our music played on national radio, and built a loyal fanbase, team, and community.

Most importantly, I’m finally creating music I love about things that matter – and people relate to it! 

What does your side hustle involve? What are the highlights and challenges?

First and foremost, we write and play music! It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember, and I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my passion and do what I love.

But I’ll just say this – being in a band is more work than you might think! Every song you hear involves countless hours of admin, planning, organization, and practice. We also put a lot of time, money, and effort into the recording process, PR, social media marketing, poster and cover art design, merch, gig promotion, and all the other little things that always need to be done.

However, the fun side (playing shows) makes all the boring and stressful stuff worth it. We’ve been lucky enough to play at many notable venues alongside incredibly talented bands – such as Dear Seattle, Sly Withers, The Smith Street Band, Press Club, and Yours Truly. We’ve also been on a few Victorian and East Coast tours, which were all incredible experiences. 

The main highlight for me will always be playing music for an audience. There’s nothing quite like being your most vulnerable self on stage and pouring your heart out to hundreds of people – it’s the best feeling ever. 

How has Envato enabled you to balance a creative side hustle with your editorial job?

Honestly, balancing the two can be really hard sometimes. While I love my role at Envato and am so passionate about my work, music is equally as important to me, and splitting my focus and energy between my two passions can be very challenging. There are only so many hours in a day! 

However, Envato has been so encouraging and supportive of my music. The company’s flexible work policy means I can quickly go on tour interstate or jump on a big show or great opportunity at the last minute without any issues. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with other talented creatives from Envato on our music videos. Envato Elements is a super helpful creative resource with many great things to offer independent musicians, such as poster templates for gigs, graphics for cover art and merch, social media templates, fonts, stock images, video templates – the list goes on. 

Jess Hose, Digital Marketing Specialist

Side Hustle: Art

Jess Hose - Digital Marketing Specialist

How long have you been at Envato, and what do you do? 

I’ve been a digital marketing specialist at Envato for over four years. My primary responsibility is to deliver sales campaigns for Envato Market, but my role is quite varied. I work across many Envato sites and different areas of digital marketing, including managing the social media program for Mixkit and promoting Envato Elements.

As an artist, I love promoting and supporting the work of other creatives in my role, whether by providing campaign opportunities to our authors, ensuring our customers get the best value on the creative assets they need, or simply sharing their work with a broader audience.

What’s your creative side hustle, and what does it involve?

I’m the artist behind Pop Art Puppy Dogs; I create digitally illustrated and hand-painted pet portraits for dog (and cat) lovers worldwide. My clients send me photos of their beautiful pets, and I transform them into colorful works of art that capture each pet’s unique character.

My side hustle began with painting my dog in what has become my signature pop art and manga-inspired style. The next pet portrait I created was a gift for a friend, which she shared on a greyhound rescue Facebook group. After that, commission requests started to roll in. It snowballed from there as I shared more of my art on social media, allowing me to paint many different dog breeds, cats, bunnies, and even birds!

Much of my time is dedicated to drawing and painting, as I have an art studio set up in my home, which is the perfect place to get in the creative zone on evenings and weekends. When I’m not drawing, I’ll reply to commission requests, send progress updates to clients, or put my marketing skills to good use by posting my latest pet portraits on Instagram. I also look after an extremely lazy studio assistant – my dog Buddy! He doesn’t do much in the way of work but provides endless inspiration.

What do you love most about your side hustle? Why do you do it? 

Creating Pop Art Puppy Dogs has connected me with amazing people in the pet community and opened doors to opportunities beyond my imagination. I have led dog drawing workshops in collaboration with a New York City studio, showcased my art at major pet events in Melbourne, volunteered my drawing skills to raise funds for animal rescue organizations, been a podcast and webinar guest, partnered with professional pet photographers, and befriended some very Insta-famous pups.

It makes me very happy to see portraits go to their forever homes, knowing that an artwork I’ve poured my heart into creating will always bring joy to my clients and their families. Sometimes I’m even able to meet the pet that I’ve painted; it’s a real treat to deliver a portrait personally, and getting the feedback and photos after a portrait has arrived is just as wonderful.

Most of all, I love getting to know the pets and their people. I feel honored that my clients entrust me with their cherished memories, and I take great pride in creating something truly unique and meaningful to celebrate their beloved pets.

What are the challenges of being a freelance artist and having a full-time job? 

During anticipated busy times (especially the lead-up to Christmas), I need to be super prepared and know how many commissions I can take on. As I work on a first-in basis, there can be a wait time on my painting schedule — thankfully, I’m told my portraits are well worth it.

It’s generally been easy for me to balance both work and my art as I enjoy what each of them offers. I just have to stay very organized as two of my busiest periods happen simultaneously; at Envato, it’s delivering the annual Cyber Monday sale, and for Pop Art Puppy Dogs, it’s getting all my Christmas commissions done. I’m pleased to say that every year, thanks to my meticulous planning abilities and dedication, our Cyber sales are successful, and everyone has their pet portrait gifts waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

How has Envato supported your creative side hustle? 

Access to Envato’s creative tools is fantastic. I particularly enjoy using Placeit to create mockups of my portraits for use on my website and social posts. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed creating pet portraits for some of my team members and appreciate Envato’s supportive environment for individuals pursuing their creative passion.

Lauren Sanderson, Content Specialist

Side Hustle: Freelance Writer

Lauren Sanderson - Content Specialist for the Envato Author Hub

What is your role at Envato, and what are your responsibilities?

I’m the Content Specialist for the Envato Author Hub. I create content for our Envato Authors to help inspire them with current trends, tools and tips, interviews, and more. I also work with other teams to ensure our Authors’ work and content is promoted across all channels. I love the creativity of my role and working with other creatives inside and outside the business. 

Tell us about your creative side hustle…

I am a freelance food, travel, and events writer. I started interning for Time Out Sydney in 2015 and loved the industry and being able to inspire people to get out and see the city. When my internship was over, I was searching for ways to be still involved and make some extra money, so I started freelance writing for a few publications. Then when I moved to New Zealand, I continued my freelance work and landed myself a gig at The Urban List, where I’ve been writing ever since. 

What’s involved in being a freelance writer? 

At the Urban List, I manage the ‘What’s On’ section, covering all the exciting events happening in Auckland. This involves a lot of research, being in the know, and updating content weekly. I’m a massive foodie at heart, so my favorite part is reviewing restaurants and sharing the owners’ passion and story through my review, plus eating all the delicious food, of course! 

Travel is another of my passions, so I feel fortunate to write travel articles as part of my side hustle. Usually, this involves pitching ideas to Editors based on trips I’ve taken and will include everything there is to know about that destination, such as how to get there, where to eat and sleep, and activities you can do. 

I also write for Ambient Light’s music publication, where I review gigs and interview musicians. It’s heaps of fun, and seeing some of my favorite artists play is a huge bonus! 

During festival season, I worked as part of the marketing & social media team to create content pre & post-festival and lead the Instagram story during the festivals. As a freelance writer, I can work remotely from home in Auckland, and I get to choose what extra work I can take on outside of my role, which I love as I’m entirely in control of my workload. 

Mostly I spend my time researching articles to pitch to editors or potential clients, and then when I’m assigned an article, I research, write, and re-size photos. 

What are the benefits and challenges of freelance writing?

The extra income is beneficial, but I wouldn’t say that’s why I do it. I love the industry! I love being able to help share people’s stories through my writing and inspire people to eat at a particular restaurant or watch a theater show etc. It’s a thrill knowing that people are reading my articles to find out what’s on in a city and are interested in my opinion.

The highlights are all the opportunities that come my way and the people I meet. I’ve got to experience some pretty cool things, like interviewing some of my favorite bands, traveling to beautiful places and writing about them, reviewing music festivals, and working with some of the best creative people. I’ve learned much from my side hustle and know I’ll keep learning. 

The main challenges are managing my time and being able to say no or turn down projects. I’m a yes person, so I sometimes find it difficult to say no. But I’ve learned to be strict with myself, and if the project doesn’t suit my values or I simply don’t have the time to complete it, then I won’t dwell on it. 

Brie Macnish  & Shervin Aflatooni, Envato Engineers

Side Hustle: App Development

Milkshake app - free website builder

What do you do at Envato? 

Brie: I’m an engineer. I’ve been at Envato for four years and work on Envato Elements. I’m currently working on a project investigating how we can improve our search system for our users.

Sherv: I’ve been an Engineer at Envato for over 10 years, working across almost every product Envato has created over the years. When I started, I was still a student working part-time while studying; now, all these years later, I’m still here because of all the amazing people, culture, and our genuine focus on the community.

What is your creative side hustle, and how did it come about? 

We have a pretty unique side hustle origin story. For several years, we worked on an Envato product called Milkshake App – a mobile website builder allowing users to create a free website from their phone. Mid-way through 2022, Envato decided to refocus the company’s efforts on a smaller set of products, which didn’t include Milkshake. 

We approached Envato’s leadership and asked if we could take on the product and its user base. Much to our surprise and delight, they were open to the idea! We had a lot of work to do to rebuild how parts of the app worked to detach it from Envato, but we have been running it independently since late 2022. 

What goes into running Milkshake App? 

Each day we both spend half an hour or so responding to customer service requests (Brie does it on her tram ride to work). We then generally chat a couple of times a week after work to update each other on what we’re working on and do a weekly three or four-hour work-together session to hash out more difficult business or technical problems collaboratively. We have a long list of features we want to ship, so there’s always something to work on!

What do you love most about working on Milkshake? 

Brie: I love mobile app development, and it’s no longer something I can do in my day job. Getting to work on Milkshake allows me to do a kind of engineering work that’s fun and fulfilling. I’m also an engineer with many opinions about users, user experiences, and product decisions, so it’s enjoyable to have a space to have more control over the product I’m working on. Sherv and I also work well together, so it’s fun to continue that collaborative relationship as we tend to work on different projects in our roles at Envato these days.

Sherv: I have always loved creating new products, launching them to people worldwide, and hearing how much they love using them. I’ve been involved with Milkshake since day one; seeing it go from just an idea to something millions of people use is very rewarding. Being able to consistently iterate, evolve and solve problems, then see our customers’ reactions, enables me to keep working on creating excellent products. We have a #feedback channel in our team Discord for Milkshake reviews, and we both read every single one; they never fail to make me smile.

What’s the best and worst part of having a side hustle? 

Simply getting to work together and solving problems has been our favorite part of having a side hustle so far! We enjoy working collaboratively (even on boring tax stuff). Working on code together in the park after work while eating icecreams has been our shared highlight so far.

Regarding challenges, Milkshake is an app that lets users create websites. Because we host user-generated content, there’s always a chance that people will use the platform for purposes we are not okay with. Making decisions about what is and is not allowed on a platform we run as two individuals has been challenging. It has led to many conversations about ethics, which some folks might be surprised to hear we spend a lot of time discussing.

How has Envato supported balancing work and passion? 

We live in different states for much of the year, so it’s nice to get together and work on our side-hustle face to face when we’re in the same state. We occasionally drop our hours to a 9-day fortnight to let us do this, and our manager has been incredibly supportive and flexible.

We also can’t overlook that Envato was willing to transfer ownership of the product to us in the first place – you can’t get a workplace much more supportive of a side hustle than helping you launch it.

What advice would you give to others wanting to start a side hustle? 

Running a side hustle alongside a regular job is difficult from a time management perspective. Still, it gives you a lot of security and takes the pressure off of making your side hustle an overnight success. We can take our time rolling out features that are great for our users (rather than focusing on quick wins to monetize the product) because we don’t need to rely on our side hustle to support us financially. 

And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed learning about our Envatians’ passion projects and found some handy side-hustle ideas. While you’re here, read up on these 8 Expert Tips to Boost Your Career as a Freelance Graphic Designer and this guide on How to Start a Small Business.

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