Ciara Feely – 

Warning: Starting a side hustle is not for the faint-hearted, proceed with caution.

Recently I took part in a group event which had the ice-breaker question “if you had 1 extra hour in the day, would you use it for work or rest?”

 I was one of the few who chose work!

Now I don’t mean I would spend every waking minute slaving away at my PhD (sorry!). For me, work is a source of enjoyment, and I have always been interested in productivity. At the beginning of my PhD I read a lot of books surrounding productivity and tried to adopt what I learnt.

 After a while I started to wonder what I should do with all of this additional time I had created. At the same time I was learning that many PhD students struggle with productivity as starting a PhD means becoming your own boss for a 4 year project, and so I wanted to share some of what I have learnt.

I had often thought about starting my own YouTube channel as I know that many people have developed successful side hustles from their channels. After some research, I realised that there was no one else on YouTube talking about specific productivity tips for PhD students. So this seemed like a good opportunity to fill the gap.

Naturally, being a machine learning PhD student, I wanted to optimise my performance on the platform so I learnt about the YouTube algorithm and how to be successful by checking out Roberto Blake and Cathrin Manning’s channels.

In order for the channel to have ads and earn some money, you need to get to 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours (so 240,000 minutes of your content watched) in the past year. This took around 6 months. In a little over a year I have grown my channel from 0 to over 9,000 subscribers, and my videos collectively have 280,000 views.

While my channel is earning only pocket money at the moment, I believe this will continue to scale over the next couple of years. Additionally it has provided a great base of followers who are interested in being more productive as PhD students and who therefore would be interested in purchasing relevant products based on that. This led to the development of another side hustle – a startup named Daysier which focuses on providing customised productivity tools, that I have been developing alongside another ML Labs PhD student, Courtney Ford.

It has also led to many other opportunities such as being asked to speak on podcasts for PhD students, specific conferences for PhD students, as well as having more people interested in my research.

My Top tip for anyone thinking of starting a side hustle: make sure it’s quite different from your main work. If you work all day programming, then spending your early mornings, late evenings or weekends programming will not be too appealing. Not only that, but it can be damaging to your next day’s work. Your brain needs time to rest from work requiring heavy problem solving so that it can work away subconsciously on the problem.