Craccum speaks to three students on side-hustles
Ok babies now let’s get in formation. I mean it, get back in line. Welcome to the 21st century, otherwise known as late capitalist hell. We’re becoming adults and you all know what that means. Adult things like jobs because of adult things like money because of adult things like paying rent and buying groceries etc. It’s all a bit much sometimes. And now more than ever, Studylink isn’t paying enough to get by. Gone are the days where students were just students. Everyone I know has at least one part time job… or they live at home (or both, hey, no shade).
But the job market is looking pretty shit too. What happens if you don’t have the patience to get yelled at by middle-aged Ponsonby Mums in LuluLemon at the fancy local cafe? The mid-year break is a time where many students take advantage of their freedom to pursue other interests. With the explosion of platforms on the internet, there are so many things people can pick up as side hustles—though not all of them may result in consistent profits.
So whether you’re looking to make some money on the side, or you’re thinking of seriously pursuing an interest, keep reading. Craccum sat down with Gabbie, a BFA student at UoA with her own jewellery brand, Gabebes; Owen, a rising TikTok star studying Law and Sociology; and Rita, a musician currently studying toward a diploma in music production at SAE to discuss how exactly one starts and maintains a side-hustle while studying..
Gabbie de Baron, Instagram: @gabebes_
As well as being an all-star Craccum review writer, beloved contributor Gabbie de Baron runs her own jewellery business, using beads to make necklaces, rings and phone charms. Her Instagram account is taking off, with over 900 followers.
So I’ve noticed that you’ve been using freshwater pearls from the Philippines in your necklaces recently. In your caption you spoke a bit about how your heritage inspired the design. How often does your personal background influence your creative practice?
Definitely a lot. So I’m half-Filipino, half Chinese. A lot of the jewellery I do wear is coral, jade and pearls. I got into [drawing on my culture as creative inspiration] because my main creative practice would be text based. We had to do printmaking. I used a different language because we were allowed to. I began incorporating text and words in Tagalog.
This year, my third year [of the BFA] I wanted to do something more tangible. I experimented with a lot of things, one of which was jewellery. The letter beads, making necklaces and stuff. Obviously a lot of the things I do write are dear to me, so I thought it would make more sense to have materials close to me, [that had] more personal [meaning], like freshwater pearls. I was initially using cheap plastic ones, but eventually it made more sense to use real ones.
Tell me a bit more about how you started making jewellery..
Well I was joking around with my Great-Aunt, my Ima, at Kmart, and I asked her to get me a $20 bead kit. She ended up getting me one, and then the three day lockdown happened at the start of this year. I thought, I guess I’ll use it, it must be fun. I started playing and then I realised as I was doing it [that I loved it].
The lockdown happened the first week of uni, and it just all lined up. For Fine Arts, usually there’s a lot of material research before the project, but I disregarded that because it was more [of a] fun [project], and I didn’t want the uni pressure.
Originally I was selling reworked clothes [on the account @gabebes_], but the problem was that I had to keep looking for second hand clothing to make reworked clothes. I just ran out of materials at one point.
When I first started making necklaces I posted them on my Instagram just for fun, but I got questions from my friends about selling them, so I thought I might as well because the clothes thing wasn’t really going anywhere.
So is sustainability a value of yours?
Yeah, I’d say so. I buy all my clothes from the op shop or my Nan gives them to me. It’s so good when [clothes] are second hand, there’s so much history.
I started focusing on sustainability because of lockdown. I hated how people would use the single-use masks, and throw them away. Even single-use gloves. It made me scared for the planet, you know, so I started reading about it more.
For Gabebes I still have my $20 Kmart kit, but obviously some of the materials it came with have been used now. I gather materials from everywhere I see; like I will go to the two dollar shop and pick up beads. I’m not too particular. If I feel like it fits then I will get it.
But I’d like to move into different materials instead of plastic beads. I’m looking at expanding into ceramic and glass, learning how to make handmade pendants—resin, ceramic, metal. I do have to think about cost though, and they’re very complicated to make!
What motivates you to create necklaces?
Really [it’s] for my own sanity. I need it as a creative outlet. If you draw, it goes into piles, but when you make something like jewellery it goes out into the world and onto other people. It’s a tangible result. It’s nice to see that people want to wear it and they like it.
I realised I have [developed a good relationship with my customers]. Initially it was family, friends, who ordered, but then I got regulars from Instagram, and a gig. Like, there was a bunch of high schoolers at a gig I went to, and they just loved [the jewellery] and started ordering.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and some achievements you’ve had?
Well even when people buy a necklace, I find that such a big achievement. I was also invited to a market where I was the only jewellery seller.
[As for challenges], it’s definitely finding time to actually make these necklaces. I have a part-time job and I also do a degree, and having to socialise, having to fit all of this in, that’s hard. But I use [making necklaces] as a bonding activity with my partner. [Because] I hand-make these things it’s not something I can do quickly. It means I struggled with pricing when I first started.
Initially, I priced my necklaces from $13 to $15 and I’d get questioned about why they were so cheap. Similar styles online were selling for $25. I didn’t want to cheat my customers because I was starting out, but because I didn’t factor in my own labour costs. I was kind of cheating myself. I had to factor in materials and time. That’s what goes into the pricing.
Yeah it’s interesting that there’s almost an element of imposter syndrome in there. I really relate to that. You deserve to be paid for your labour and vision!
So how do you juggle Gabebes with University work?
Well, [Gabebes] is my brain child, so I want to put effort into it. This and [writing] are things I enjoy doing, so by default I put more effort and time into it. It’s been such a rough past year for everybody, but personally I’ve learned to prioritise my mental health.
[Making jewellery] really de-stresses me, so it feels much better than Uni work to make these, though obviously I still have to study!
Any advice for those looking to do something similar?
I would say just go for it. It could even help out with expenses in the flat, but it could also just be a way to have fun. [Don’t do anything] that stresses you out too much just for the sake of making money. It just feels right to have [Gabebes], so if it feels right for you to have a side hustle then go for it.
Finally, where is Gabebes going? And where can we find you!
I want to branch out into slow fashion in general. I do want to go back to textile based stuff, but for me, right now I just honestly want [Gabebes] to be an extension of my existing art practice. Something that is tangible, and something I enjoy outside of the fine art realm.
As for events, right now I’m just chilling, because custom orders online are taking off way more at the moment. I want to make a TikTok but it’s just so high tech!
For now, you can find me on Instagram: @gabebes_
Owen Zheng 郑锷, TikTok: @feetpimp69
Owen is a student at UoA who started doing TikTok seriously in June of last year. He has 56.6K followers on the platform, and continues to grow.
Kia ora Owen, thank you for speaking to us! Firstly, could you introduce yourself?
Okay so, my name is Owen, and basically what I do is complain on TikTok videos.
I study Sociology and Law, and I feel a lot of my complaints come from Uni, especially during the Summer School era, ha!
How did you get started on TikTok?
So I had a friend who would send me TikToks every day for a month. I used to think they were stupid but I ended up making an account.
I also used to be on Omegle as an [emotional] outlet, complaining to random strangers about uni; I’d be like “Hey guys I failed Comp-Sci.”
Then, some random girl on Omegle told me I should make TikTok videos. So then I just started posting and it ended up replacing my close friends’ story on Instagram.
So what were some challenges you faced putting yourself out there on TikTok? I imagine it can be scary having such a big platform.
I feel there’s a lot of racism. I say “I hate it here” in almost all of my videos, and a lot of boomers take it the wrong way. They’d say if you hate New Zealand you should just leave New Zealand, and things like “go back to where you came from.” Like ok, I can’t. I was born here! Shall I crawl back into my Mother’s womb? It’s so annoying.
I also feel a lot of people don’t know a lot about [the racism people face], so I reply to comments on TikTok. Before doing Sociology at UoA I really didn’t know about New Zealand’s racist history. But now that I’ve learned about it I think [the racism here] makes sense.
So is educating others something that motivates you to keep doing TikTok?
Yeah it’s a part of it. [But] hate comments have decreased a lot nowadays because most of my audience isn’t in NZ. The TikTok algorithm is so weird. [Feedback] depends where the algorithm takes my videos. Sometimes it reaches boomer TikTok and then there’s hate, but most of the time it’s really nice.
My audience is mostly from America, around 40%. Then it’s about 10% NZ, 10% Australia, then Canada, UK.
When I was getting hate comments around the beginning of COVID-19 and the rise of Anti-Asian sentiment, most of my defenders were from America.
Do you think that’s because racism in America is a lot more visible?
I think so, definitely, because there was the Anti-Asian hate that was happening, but people here completely forgot about it. It seemed over really quickly in New Zealand, but it has lingering effects.
When COVID started, Facebook Newshub comments were just so racist. But it’s a lot more subtle in person.
[Another funny one is] sometimes when I go online people say “oh your English is really good.” I just say “oh thanks, yours is good too.”
Boom bow, that’s how you fix that, hah!
But on a serious note, how did you manage to grow your platform so much?
Well it’s strange because I used to look down on TikTok. I went from hating it to making videos.
My audience stagnated for six months actually. My TikTok anniversary, my first video was posted on the 13th June last year. I posted videos inconsistently until December. After exams I decided to post all the time and post whatever.
I believe in manifestation. I decided I wanted to grow on TikTok and when I went to Whitcoulls in December I saw this really ugly green journal. I swear I heard it talk to me. Like, “buy me”. It could have been someone next to me saying that, but I felt I had a connection [to the journal]. I went back to the car and made a TikTok, and it was a boring one [about buying the journal] but it was the first talking one I did, and I grew by 500 followers.
I think part of it is that Americans really like the New Zealand accent, and I think it’s part of my appeal. I feel sometimes I sound bogan but people like that, haha.
So how do you deal with privacy issues on the internet?
I’m taking it as it comes, really. People who are watching me don’t know specific details about my life, because I only really make videos about minor inconveniences. I’m selective with what I share. I’m always careful.
Sometimes when I’m in an area I try not to be too obvious about it so people online can’t find me. I’m careful not to get too personal. I don’t want my identity stolen. Most of the time people don’t know where I’m from though.
Is it hard to manage TikTok and studying?
It’s ok. I just set little goals for myself. I try to film a TikTok every day, because I feel like there’s something to complain about every single day, ha. Sometimes I have good days where I do ten videos a day, but sometimes it’ll just be one. That’s how I balance [TikTok and Uni]. I try to post one a day and then just turn off my phone and not think about TikTok.
When I first started, I just wanted 1k followers so I could go live, and talk to people. Everything after that goal is a cherry on top. I’m really grateful for everyone who thinks I’m interesting enough to follow and watch.
Do you have any advice for students looking to do a side hustle?
Oh my God, yes. Kourtney Kardashian is my idol. She doesn’t care about anything and I love that. She once said follow your heart and everything else will fall into place. And I really believe that. If I wanna do this, and I want to post [on socials], then I’m gonna do it. If you want to do something, even if others discourage you, you should still pursue it if that’s what you think is right.
Follow your heart and don’t care what anyone else says. I had one friend who told me I should stop making videos because I’ve plateaued. But even though I had [plateaued] I still really enjoyed it, and I eventually grew.
I’m not monetised but when I go live, people can send me gifts. I got an email from a brand, but I’m scared of monetising because I don’t want to sell out. If someone wants a partnership I have to stand by whoever offers me money, so I’m skeptical. We don’t have the creative fund [in New Zealand] either, so [NZ TikTok creators] don’t get paid for views. I’ll just see where it takes me. I’m still in uni, I haven’t dropped out yet!
Yeah, and not everything has to be monetised all the time! Fuck capitalism. A platform like yours is still an achievement in and of itself.
So finally, where can our audience find you?
(Here, Owen gives a sheepish laugh). It’s basically just TikTok at the moment. I’m @feetpimp69.
Rita May, Instagram: @ritamaymusic
Rita is a singer-songwriter based in Tāmaki Makaurau, producing melodic, indie tunes while studying audio production at SAE.
But I’ll let you introduce yourself!
So, I’m Rita… hi, haha! I’m studying Audio Production at SAE in Parnell—it’s like this cool creative institute that does film, music and audio production. It’s pretty small. My course tends to lead to careers in the engineering side of audio, so like studio engineers on film sets. It’s a diploma that covers all the basics of Audio. Most people in my class will be angling for those sorts of careers, but I’m trying to use it as a backup option if music fails. It’s also mostly to have the skills and access to equipment to support my music. It’s kind of like uni is my side hustle!
How did you get into music?
Well it was a bit of a slow burn, really. I knew I wanted to be a recording / performing artist from quite a young age. I was writing songs in primary school.
It’s a bit classic but I thought music was impractical, so I actually started off wanting to do medicine! But it was almost doing a degree that I didn’t love that fueled me towards doing music. [Music] was such a treat. I started figuring out GarageBand, and started posting shitty demos on SoundCloud.
I ended up doing a Neuroscience degree. [When I] got to the end of that [I] thought, fuck, I’ve got a whole degree that I’m probably not going to use because I’m still obsessed with music!
And last year, I kind of wanted to try doing music on my own but pretty much had no connections or anyone to help. I was just writing songs I didn’t know what to do with. That’s why I signed up for [my diploma], because I worked with a couple of random producers. It was a good experience, but I wanted more control.
The producers were really good, but because I was the singer / song-writer I felt like I was just sitting in the chair while the middle-aged man did all the difficult stuff. I chose to get more power and knowledge of my own, so that I can get what I actually want from my stuff.
I want to collaborate with people, but I don’t want to need people in the way I feel like I did.
The good news is that the more practical side of audio production is actually interesting and fun, so I’m not totally fucked if the music thing doesn’t work out.
So what inspires you to make music?
I guess it’s hard to say specifically what inspires me, but I guess it’s probably because it’s the main thing that I enjoy out of everything else I do. I like studying, but music has always been the thing that feels most like who I am.
I’ve just been a bit existential [recently] and kind of realising that I can survive, I can have other jobs and I can do other things, but I always want music to be at the centre of my life. To honour that part of me, the most true part.
I just get a bit sad when I don’t do it for a while, I guess!
Can you talk about the challenges you’ve faced, getting started?
Well there’s this gap between writing a song and being a musician and having a career. It’s so unclear which path to take. There’s so many people who’ve been trying to give me advice but it’s so vague and there’s no clear path. You almost need those connections and some platform to get anywhere with it.
When you’re at the very beginning, it’s a weird place because no matter how good your stuff is there’s no way for people to hear it. I hate the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” trope, but it is such a thing in the music community. You need connections and to be out there, almost hustling a little bit. It’s so against my nature, but I guess it’s probably like this in any field.
So what have you done since, and where to next?
[“The Secret’s Out”] came out of lockdown with a producer on SoundCloud, but there was a clash in creative vision. I ended up buying my masters off him and took them to a good family friend that used to play in bands with my Dad. He was an amateur producer, but we had similar tastes. We stripped [the track] way back and made it as close to how it was written as possible. It ended up feeling way better. That’s how the first single kind of went.
I’ve been floundering a bit since then because I’m still trying to find a good producer and collaborator. I’ve been working with a few people since then, but [haven’t been able] to find the right fit.
The current plan is to do [the album] myself. Over this break, I want to go out to my Mum’s house at Muriwai beach and turn off my phone, try not to see anyone, and get the whole guts of the album down and as close to how I want it as possible. From there, I’ll take it to other people like my family friend. I just realised I know how I want my stuff to sound, and I’m quite anal about my songs, so I’m just going to do it.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
In a weird way, the thing I’m probably most proud of is the songs I’ve written. It’s funny because they’re not recorded and people can’t hear them, but that drives me. I really love the songs I’ve written. There’s an album, or maybe two albums worth of songs I feel really connected to and really love. It’s something I feel proud of but it’s also stressful because I feel like I need to get them done while they’re still relevant to me.
But in a way it’s cool that you’re leaving a record of all your past selves, the music you feel connected to at the moment!
Yeah, and that’s what attaches me so much to music. It almost feels like this thing that can connect everyone and give rise to these unspeakable feelings we’d all be alone in otherwise.
It’s like any art. When there’s a song lyric that everyone in a room really gets it’s this weird other-worldly experience. It’s kind of all the inside stuff that you can’t articulate.
Do you have any advice for others looking to pursue a creative career?
I’ve found a good thing—though it’s generic—is to find some discipline with your practice. I used to only write when I felt inspired, or in the mood. [Creativity] can feel like a special thing that you want to keep fun. But it’s so rewarding when you have discipline with it, see it as a little less magical. Finishing things is such a good habit to get into, even if you hate it in the end. I’ve only just started doing that. There’s almost this fear that your inspiration will dry up, but [I find] the more I write, the more there is to write.
Meeting people that are interested in the same thing [is also great]. Not even in a hustle-y way. Just having friends that have similar interests is really inspiring. You can talk about where to go next together.
So what’s coming up for you?
Next thing will be the album! The same friend who did the video for “The Secret’s Out”; I want her to do the visuals for the next few projects. She’s my best friend and I love working with my friends. I want my dog to be in every video, that’s the goal.
You can find me at Rita May on every platform!