The Great Maternity Leave Projects: Start a Side Hustle

This is a fun one for me to write here this morning 🙂

Let me start with shaping a visual for you.  It’s beeeyooootiful.

When we get into the world of woman conquerors – women entrepreneurs – we see all of these slick, professionally produced women entrepreneur websites (personally I love + follow Natalie MacNeill’s She Takes on the World.)  Totally awesome.  Totally inspiring.  Totally lovely to look at.

They sit in beautiful international backdrops, with statement necklaces and flowy hair, and bohemian rainbow tops that make me think “wtf, why don’t any of our stores carry those” and then I remember I’m in Canada, in the winter, and no, stores will not be selling those in January.  They also have these drool inducing images of them typing away in a Parisian cafe.  Or they have these uber successful business outfits on.  And I get inspired, and try mine one, and then think “wtf” as the chest button bursts off in the attempt to contain the mass of my post partum boobs.

Since this is the Great Maternity Leave I just want to paint you my glamorous picture.

I am sitting here in my old white housecoat.  My hair is in a haphazard half bun.  I stop typing every now and then, with that jolt of fear, thinking my 2 year old is waking an hour before she’s supposed to. But it’s just my evil cat who’s learn to mimic her.


OK, BACK on track Carina.  Sorry.

I’ve just gotten back from sneaking around in the kitchen trying to make coffee quietly, which means I just about broke a cup and spilt grinds on the floor as my coffee grinder went BBBBRAAAAAHHHHHHGAAAAHHHHHHSCCHHWAAAARRRRR and I half ran across to the hood fan to get some white noise going to cover it up.

My kids know the sound of the coffee machine.

Now, set up with my laptop I have my fat, cuddly little boy, my first baby, my tabby cat Simba trying to ninja across the couch and throw himself across my arm in a final desparate attempt for cuddle time.

Okay.  Scene set.  I’m a proud maternity leaver!  Cheers! (with my coffee cup)

Photo on 2016-01-31 at 7.25 AM
I salute you, mat leaver, sitting in a quiet corner of your house in pjs, coffee in hand, reading in a quiet moment to yourself. And I THANK YOU for choosing to spend that 10 minutes with me.


Alrighty so let’s get started on this super fun topic.

What is a Side Hustle? 

Recently on Facebook I started a thread asking what all of the mamas did in the group.

I was absolutely blown away but HOW MANY have side hustles.  Most had one.  What?!?!

Side hustle is the 2015 2016 trendy term for having a side business.  Some are little income flows here and there, a hobby that pays for itself.  Some are significant.

I know women who share their arts and crafts and make enough to just pay for more supplies.

I also know women who have mega successful side businesses that are legitimately competing or even eclipsing their full time career.

Both are incredible and so rewarding in so many ways.  It’s not just about the income.  Having a side hustle allows you to create a sacred space, and a structure to support your pursuit of something for you.  It adds balance to all of the other components of your life on mat leave.  Hell, it adds a little sparkle to those mundane days of “getting stuff done.”

What do I do for a side hustle?  I’m inventing / creating a few new things that are still in the pipeline / development stage.  I have an Etsy business.  I have a coaching business.  And I have this, my GML project though it’s not really a side hustle.  But I treat it like one.

My Etsy business goes through phases of bringing in some extra income now.  And let me tell you, it’s much easier to sneak off for an hour or two of jewellery making with that “side business” legitimacy lended to it – both in my mind and on the bank account.

I live in Calgary, Canada so the opportunities available to us may be different from another city, but I think there are several ways to pursue a side hustle.

The key point is no matter the method you go with, make sure it lines up with something that is important to you.  Also know that you will probably try a couple on for size before you find one that fits you.  I’ve tried so many. I’m going to list some of the types below, and what I thought of each one, along with income streams.  Please remember these are my personal thoughts about why I loved them or did not stick with them, and by no means should that shape your decision.  There is no right or wrong option, there is only what works for you.   

The GML isn’t about telling you what to do, it’s about exposing you to different ideas so that you may choose your own route, and feel inspired.

Please note, Canadians: While on maternity leave, if you are on employment insurance, you are not supposed to take an income above a small amount each week.  The approach I have taken on each of my maternity leaves is building the foundation of my side hustles, so that when EI ends, they are ready to go.   Which is good, because at the end of every mat leave I always get slammed with a big tax bill. Blah. I need to have a January or February baby next!

Types of Side Hustles 

Sell your creativity.

I’ve been an artist on Etsy for a while now.  There are many platforms on which you can sell, but Etsy is one of the best known for handmade goods & has global reach.  What I love about Etsy is that I can control how busy, or how quiet things are.  I often shut my shop down when I need to invest more time in the family or other projects.  At this point in the game I’ve mastered things to the point where it is a minimal time investment for me.  I spend one night a week, for about 2 hours making 6-7 pieces of jewellery, then upload them through the week using my iPhone. I upload on high traffic days to capture views.  Etsy has paid for itself and in my best year, it allowed me to fund 2 international trips, which actually allowed me to go do some buying and get even greater amounts of supplies!

Sample companies:

Etsy, E-Bay, Shopify, Instagram is now a sellers’ platform too. I haven’t tried it out yet but I plan to.  Stay tuned for my report.

Join an MLM company 

T-o-n-s of ladies do this!  There are so many to choose from. The ones I seriously considered were Usborne Books (because I LOVE them and it’s all I buy my kids) and essential oils.  I sort of tried out selling Essential Oils through Young Living but I spent way more on oils than I ever made on commission, because I love the products so much.

I also had some philosophical difficulties with the MLM structure and fact that so many people “upline” from me were benefiting from my hard work.  For the time invested I think the income was like 20 cents an hour lol.

Call me selfish but my time is worth soooo much on mat leave.  If I’m going to bust my but I want the profit to go to me. I don’t really want to share it!  I also could not take a profit from family or friends.  I always sold them at cost for what I’d buy them for, then drive across the city to pick up the products and deliver to them.

Meh.  I also did not, for the life of me (and I’m a smart cookie) understand all of the weird MLM language like upline, downline, sponsor, etc.  That all seemed a bit too much for me. MLMS are a time and financial investment to start with but if you embrace it and work hard, the possibilities are GREAT with an MLM.  Just as great as with any side hustle.

If it is your thing, by all means GO for it. There is no right or wrong way.  You have nothing to lose.  the worst that can come of it is you will have a sweet collection of stuff that you love.  Which is why I say, if you go MLM, go with a product you love and can’t get enough of.

Sample companies:

Scentsy, Stella Dot jewellery, DoTerra Oils, Usborne, Young Living, Beach Body.

Sell your talent.

I truly believe the world would be a different place if we took each of our unique talents and gave them out to the world.  I’d love to disrupt the donations world.  Instead of just throwing money at a charity, what would happen if each of us gave them 2 hours of our time, doing for them what we are really good at?   I’ve started offering my writing to help people and it’s a bazillion times more rewarding than just throwing $20 bucks to a charity here and here.

Think about your talent.  What are you really good at?  What do friends and family tell you you are great at? Start selling it.  For a while I tried out online platforms through which you can do this.  I tried out selling my writing on Fiverr but just couldn’t compete with people from countries who could charge lower rates because of their exchange rate.  I’ve also thought about auctioning my organization skills, coaching skills and iMovie video production skills.  All things my friends and family ask me to help them with.

I see mamas selling their housecleaning and organizing services on local auctions, craigs list and among family and friends.  They own their talent and put it out there. If you do that, your networks will talk about you.  Your friends and family already know your talents.  Once you own them, put them out there, it’s amazing how an income flow begins.  All of a sudden, people will pay for the wisdom you have.


Craigs list & kijiji, keynote speaking, consulting, build a website/instagram/pinterest and monetize it with E-Books or services, try affiliate links, advertise through networks, auction your services on a Facebook auction site.

Buy & resell.

EBay is the main platform to do this and I have experimented.  I sold off tons of my old Lululemon pieces this past year.  Let me tell you, it is a HOT market for Size 10-12 Lululemon. My US buyers got into bidding wars over 7 year old shirts, and most I sold either $40 more, or broke even.  I do it here and there to declutter but I decided not to do more of it, despite the temptation, mostly because I found it quite time consuming to buy lulu, pick it up, photograph it then list it for a $20 profit most of the time.  For mat leave it just didn’t jive.

However, it is great having $100 sitting in Paypal if I ever need to buy something unexpected online.

I am a big fan of Facebook auctions which are now popping up in many cities.  In our own city, Calgary, there is a hot market for childrens’ toys, furniture and womens’ brand name or unique clothes.

After the initial rampage I went on after reading the Konmari Method, I stabilized and auction about once or twice a month, though for me it is more of a declutter project.  I also enjoy taking photos and editing, because I do a ton of that for my Etsy business. All iPhone.

I mostly break even or receive about 50% of original purchase price for goods I sell.

But, for a budding creative there are great opportunities to make some cash once you get speedy with photos & auction albums.  I’ve often thought somebody could kill it buying furniture at garage and estate sales, and flipping it on the auctions.


So how do I decide whether a side hustle is worth my time?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • After supplies, time invested, etc. what is the profit I am making per hour?
  • Does it take away time from my family?
  • Is it do-able on the go and with my iPhone?  *A great one for mat leave
  • Am I the sole beneficiary of my hard work?
  • Diminishing Returns:  If I invest more time, will profit growth keep up with the extra time invested?  What is the hours per week base I need?
  • Does it align with the bigger goals I have for myself and my lifestyle
  • Does it help me feel more balanced? or more out of whack?


I’d love to hear what you do if you already have a side hustle!  

What helped you decide to stick with it?

What made you realize it was worth your time?

If you gave one up, why did you decide it was not worth your time?

Let’s chat here in the comments.


Next up in the side hustle topic, a comprehensive list of ideas.



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