Are Media & Creative Careers Just Side Hustles In Disguise?


In a post-Christmas-dinner haze, I found the below article by former Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy about how he took a job delivering Amazon packages to help refinance his house.

The piece takes a cheekily reflective tone and only dabbles in some of the issues Amazon workers face, like the relentless pace of work and the impossibility of on-the-clock bathroom breaks. As I read on the couch surrounded by freshly unwrapped Amazon boxes, I thought about my own career as a young writer.

If a 57-year-old writer bowed out after 33 years and still wound up delivering Amazon packages in order to live the life he wanted to, what does that mean for me?

There’s nothing wrong with delivering packages. It’s honest work. That’s not what this is about—it’s about where careers in media take us.

Most of today’s media models demand mountains of content, since every company is a media company now. Still, full-time jobs creating it are scarce. The gig economy will soon just be the economy, for everyone from writers to attorneys.

Are we headed for a world in which every Amazon delivery driver is a creative worker in a brown cap, just hustling till their big break, like how every waiter in New York and LA is an actor?

We’ve reached a point in the modern economy where there’s more content than ever before but there’s less and less money to pay the people creating it.

Why am I worried about this?

Well, from my own experience breaking into this market, I know how tough it is, and it can only get tougher. Out of college, I worked for six months for free as an editorial intern for a magazine that didn’t hire me full time (while working a demanding retail job). Once I found full-time employment as a writer, I had to work for free for two weeks as a “trial period.” I only really started to experience career success when I branched out into sales and other kinds of roles, so I know exactly how hard it is already to make it as a content creator.

I didn’t have to struggle, I admit. I got a ton of support from my parents as I broke into the job market, and there were a ton of things I could have done better. But for folks who don’t have the advantages I had, Amazon packages and freelance writing might already be the only way to build a portfolio these days.

Murphy’s excerpt below from his full piece about his Amazon deliveryman status is cheery and admirably humble, but I still worry about whether my media career is just a side hustle in disguise:

Aside from the fact that my checking account is overdrawn and I’m 30 deliveries behind and the sun will be down in an hour and I’m about to take a furtive whiz in the back of a van, life really is a holiday on Primrose Lane!

Then I remember Gary Vaynerchuk’s secret sauce about side hustles: they’re the marketing machine for a broader business strategy. And I took this new job at The Basis Point because this team seems to have figured this out. Stay tuned and find out.