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A millennial with side hustles as a startup founder booking 6 figures and a professional dancer shares her tips for balancing both

Allie Kelly   

A millennial with side hustles as a startup founder booking 6 figures and a professional dancer shares her tips for balancing both
  • Danielle Schulz is a professional dancer and runs her own corporate wellness business.
  • Schulz is one of many Americans who don't work a typical 9-to-5 and leans on side hustles for income.

When Danielle Schulz has rehearsal at The Metropolitan Opera, she starts her commute from Philadelphia to New York City at 7 a.m.

The 36-year-old professional dancer catches up on work emails on the train, picks up an egg sandwich at her favorite New York breakfast cart, then heads to ballet class. Sometimes she doesn't arrive back home until after midnight.

Dancing is just one of Schulz's jobs. She also runs her startup The Triangle Sessions, which offers corporate wellness and team-building events. But for her, it's all worth it.

"I got really creative with how I could support myself," Schulz said. "I have done a lot and always have a hustling mentality to make ends meet."

Schulz is one of man Americans who have careers outside the traditional 9-to-5. Thirty-nine percent of Americans have a side hustle, and half of Gen Zers and millennials have more than one stream of income, according to a survey of 2,505 US adults conducted by YouGov Plc — and commissioned by Bankrate — in April 2023.

Freelancing, side hustles, gig work, and overemployment have become popular as people look to boost their income on a flexible schedule.

Schulz has been dancing with The Metropolitan Opera for a decade, working part-time in shows like "The Magic Flute" and "Der Rosenkavalier," along with taking regular training classes. She has always had to supplement her dance income, she said. In the past, she's done this through work in restaurants, as a cruise ship performer, and as a yoga teacher.

She planned her first event for The Triangle Sessions in 2019, and the business took off during the pandemic as companies were looking for virtual employee activities. When she's not at dance rehearsal, Schulz teaches Triangle Sessions classes on topics like relaxation and terrarium building. She also helps companies plan their corporate retreats.

The Triangle Sessions now makes up between 60% and 80% of Schulz's annual income, she said, and the business books between five and six figures a year from contracts with major companies like Google, Meta, and Deloitte. Her income breakdown fluctuates each year depending on how much time she spends on dancing versus The Triangle Sessions, she said.

"I've learned that no experience is wasted," Schulz said. "And sometimes, when you feel a little bit lost or you're not on a traditional path, it just makes your life a little bit richer and more interesting."

Balancing two careers takes patience

Schulz typically knows which shows she will be cast in at The Met a year in advance, she said, and the intense rehearsal period usually last for a few weeks at a time. She plans her work with The Triangle Sessions around her show seasons.

Schulz largely grows her business through word-of-mouth and companies usually hire her to lead employee team-building activities — both virtually and in person. For example, Schulz recently taught a workshop where she connected the history of bonsai trees to employee milestones.

Although Schulz will sometimes hire outside contractors to teach workshops she doesn't specialize in, most of Triangle Sessions content is created and taught by her. She has worked with insurance companies, law firms, technology companies, and healthcare workers.

As some companies shift from virtual to hybrid or in-office work, she said many of her events and planned retreats have become popular.

"There's this universal need to connect with one another, all while taking care of ourselves individually," she said.

Schulz has had to learn to be patient with herself and the continuous changes in her career, she said. But the flexibility of Triangle Sessions allows her to continue performing, spend time with her two young children, and take a break when she needs one.

"Nothing is ever 50/50," she said. "It's not going to be in perfect balance, especially if you want to make progress in any one direction."

Retirement is on the horizon

Schulz encourages others thinking about nontraditional careers to embrace both the busy times and quiet times.

When her schedule is packed, Schulz said she is grateful to keep building her business. And, when her rehearsals and Triangle Sessions events slow down, she said she spends extra time with her family and focuses on keeping herself healthy.

"That is going to be a guiding compass for the rest of my life," Schulz said.

Schulz loves her career at The Met, but said she plans on retiring soon. After that, she would work for Triangle Sessions full-time. But, Schulz even if she's no longer on stage, she won't stop dancing.

"I will always keep moving," she said.

Do have a career that isn't a traditional 9-to-5? Are you willing to share how you make and spend your money? Reach out to this reporter at allisonkelly@insider.com.

Correction: April 22, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misspelled Danielle Schulz surname.


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