Sometimes, even when working full-time, it can be difficult to make ends meet. With rent prices skyrocketing, student debt accumulating, and job competition ever-growing, it can be tricky to stay on top of finances.
Enter the side hustle: the secondary job outside of one’s day job that helps many individuals stay on their feet — or at least contribute a little more to savings. No matter how this extra income is being used, having a side hustle can give employees a leg up financially.
The term “side hustle” might seem like a contemporary term coined by the millennial generation, but it has actually been in circulation since the 1950s. Back then, however, the term had a more negative connotation — think scam — and side work was more typically a part-time job. In the last two decades, however, the term side-hustle, which can refer to the work someone does for himself or for a company that offers flexible hours, has taken on a ubiquitous presence in the American cultural imagination.
There’s a good reason the term is gaining popularity, too: A 2017 survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that 44 million Americans have a gig that earns them extra cash outside of their main income source. Within that demographic, young millennials ages 18 to 26 represent the largest subsection of workers with side hustles, at 28 percent. Add that to the rest of the generation, and almost half of millennials have a side hustle, earning them a new moniker: Generation 1099.
Moreover, 52 percent of low-wage hourly employees are millennials. Pair this with student debt, mismatched skills, and skepticism about job security, and the statistics make a lot of sense.
Other generations are not immune to the need for second jobs, either. In fact, 24 percent of Baby Boomers have a side hustle as well, according to a 2017 survey conducted by GoDaddy.
No matter what generation these hustlers belong to, they’re taking on extra work largely for financial reasons: 59 percent put in extra hours to earn disposable income, while 38 percent need that extra cash to cover ordinary living expenses like rent and groceries. According to the Bankrate survey, more than half of these workers earn less than $200 a month extra.
Not everyone is in it for the money, though. Some side hustlers are driven to their second jobs by passion alone and do not consider take-home pay an important part of their gig. Mike Forbush, 30, is a graphic designer by day and a leather worker by night; he works a typical 9-5 as a marketing design manager for a Bellevue-based automotive technology company called Xevo, then heads home to make dinner before hitting his Seattle-based workshop. There, he averages five to 10 hours a week — though if he’s excited about a project, it can quickly turn into 20 — and can turn out 50 to 70 leather products a month.
Forbush started working with leather in 2013 for practical reasons: He wanted a leather wallet but didn’t have the money to invest in one that was high-quality. To solve his problem, he taught himself how to make one, got hooked, and has been selling a wide variety of leather goods under the brand name Scout & Pine since 2016. The $15,000 he averages each year in sales cycles back into his business — the endeavor, he said, is a “hobby-turned-hustle.”
Those looking to earn cash they can take home often turn to activities they already enjoy, but that have a higher return rate. Quinten Warren recently bought a house with his girlfriend in Renton and works three side hustles in his free time. The 27-year-old’s full-time job at eBay as an email automation lead is supplemented by money from dog-sitting on Rover, working as a personal trainer for individual clients, and selling goods on eBay and OfferUp.
“If I wasn’t doing any of these side hustles, I wouldn’t have any money in the bank right now,” Warren said. “(The extra jobs) help me to have (a) cushion in my bank account for things that come up unexpectedly.”
The hustles, however, are also fun for him: His job is more stressful than any he’s ever had, he said, so having something to do outside of work that is enjoyable and profitable improves his quality of life.
The growing presence of the gig economy — in which companies are more and more likely to hire independent contractors and freelancers for short-term engagements — may make full-time (and well-paying) positions fewer and farther between, but it also means that there is likely a platform available for niche markets that individuals are interested in pursuing. The soil is ripe, then, for entrepreneurial endeavors, which can often start off as side gigs, but which can later grow into full-time jobs.
That’s the hope that Issaquah resident Kristy Swanson, 52, has for her current side hustle, which she is gradually trying to expand into her main means of supporting herself. She has done hair coloring for most of her professional life, which has included owning a salon; she also worked as a marriage and family therapist and personal coach. When she hit 50, she decided she wanted to take a break from traditional full-time work.
“I wanted to see what it looked like when my primary focus in my life was exploring what it meant to be creative,” Swanson said. She scaled back her hours in both her positions to be as minimal as she could get away with while still covering her bills. She then started painting with different materials, including encaustic (painting with melted pigmented beeswax) and alcohol ink.
“It turned out that I could make part of my income from doing art,” she said. “In my fantasy world, I would be making most of, if not all of, my income from my art. I’m not there yet, but it’s certainly the dream.”
Swanson now works at Salon Gem in Kirkland one week of every three, cramming in 12-hour days Saturday through Tuesday. The hours at her coaching practice are more sporadic — she takes clients when she gets them but has stopped marketing herself. Most of her focus for the past two years has been on making and marketing her art.
The business has consistently grown, she said, with her profits doubling between the first and second year. Going into her third year, she expects to once again double her current income as an artist.
“I know that people can and do make a living as an artist,” Swanson said. “Even though it’s intimidating to say out loud, my belief is that I can work hard enough to make that happen.”
The existence of side hustles and the gig economy can help people pad their paycheck, save for retirement, or afford to go out on Friday nights. While being able to achieve these goals with one income would be ideal, it has become unreasonable for many; the wide array of available side hustles at least helps to offset the accumulating expenses that the 9-5 can no longer cover.
Not sure which type of side hustle is right for you? Here are a few ideas to set the cogs in motion.
For the Casual Techie
With everything in our world becoming increasingly tech-related, there is no shortage of need for people who can troubleshoot the problems that our machines present us. A great and low-cost way to do this is to check out Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which are courses run by tier-1 universities and industry experts. You’ll get free insider information and, for a little extra money, a verified certificate in your field of choice, which will only make it easier for you to find and secure clients who need your help. Bonus: If you want to steer your side hustle into a full-time gig, those certificates look great on a resume.
For the Hands-On Artist
If you’re the kind of person who loves to dive into DIY projects on the weekends, remember that you can sell your hand-made pieces on Etsy. The online marketplace is the perfect place for people to sell — and buy — just about any handmade item. Personalized jewelry, leather bags, decorative furniture, electronic accessories, and photography prints are all fair game on the website, which connects your unique creations to an international customer base. So, what are you waiting for? Get crafting!
For the Animal-Lover
Whether you have a pet of your own or not, hanging out with other people’s cats, dogs, parrots, or bunnies is one of the best ways to make extra money. Apps like Rover make it easy to casually take on dog-walking in your spare time or commit to housing cats and dogs in your home while their owners are away. If you’re looking for more general pet-sitting, care.com is a good place to look — and you can find nannying and housekeeping jobs there, too.
For the Chit-Chatter
If you like meeting strangers, there are a ton of side hustles you could take on. The biggest one of the moment is probably to be an Uber or Lyft driver. Drivers work on their own time, make $9 to $11 an hour, and interact with enough people to fill anyone’s daily social quota. Less popular but perhaps more interesting are websites like RentAFriend, which let you offer yourself up as a platonic friend to someone in need of one. You might show someone from out of town around your city or serve as someone’s casual dinner partner — anything that friends do together is fair game!
For the Quick-Fix Seeker
Sometimes, you just need a quick and easy outlet to make some extra cash. If you don’t have the time and energy to put your passion into your side hustle, don’t worry: There are plenty of easy alternatives that take little brainpower and can be done while you’re watching TV. Take simple surveys on websites like Survey Junkie, or get paid to search the internet and watch videos with Swagbucks. You won’t get rich, but you can earn enough to add some extra padding to your savings account.