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A modern business story: The side hustle and the second job

The way we work is evolving and more people have second jobs or “side hustles” than ever before. As we move away from the traditional 9 to 5, the side hustle has gotten more attention.

With freelancers on the rise and side jobs becoming the norm, we're rethinking the way we do business, with an emphasis on flexibility for both employer and employee.

More than a second job: what is a side hustle?  

A study conducted by Henley Business School found that 1 in 4 UK adults have a “side hustle”, with people aged between 25 to 34 most likely to have one.

2/5ths of the UK workforce and 37% of Generation Y manage a side hustle of their own, and this trend contributes £72 billion a year to the UK's GDP. 

“With 25% of adults side-hustling today, there is no way back. The genie is let out of the bottle. Those who are underwhelmed and under-financed by their work, but have the appetite, if not the confidence, to go it all alone as an entrepreneur, will not let the chance slip.” – Professor Bernd Vogel, Founding Director of the Henley Centre for Leadership 

But big numbers aside, what is a side hustle? 

In their study, Henley Business School surveyed over 500 UK business leaders and 1,100 members of the nations’ workforce. 

They define a side hustle as “a small business or secondary job that someone has in addition to their main career, taken on either to meet a financial need or to fulfil a passion.” 

So many people are taking on the stress of a second or even multiple jobs that we started getting curious.

Is is because the internet makes it easier to multi-task? Is it because we expect more satisfaction from our work? Or does it all boil down to money? 

A shift in modern business: extra income or employee satisfaction? 

Evidence points towards the prevalence of second jobs and side hustles being permanent, and not the result of a recession or change. 

Nationwide research found that people with side projects are happy with their lifestyle, and the remaining “two-fifths of those who haven’t yet taken the plunge are interested in starting their own business.” 

Of course there are downsides. The idea of being a modern entrepreneur is great, but managing one venture, let alone multiple, is demanding stuff. 

45% of workers with a side gig find themselves working over 40 hours a week and 25% dedicate over 50 hours to their various projects. The result? People working more than the average day job find themselves working at least an extra workday a week. 

Additionally, over 30% of side hustlers have to use the holidays from their primary job to focus on their second job. 

Even though they're putting in extra time, studies show that people feel the pros outweigh the cons as “the side hustle makes life more interesting, and 69% say they feel more positive about life for having their two roles.”

Which brings us to the reason this is all happening.

Passion and finding meaning in work 

A remarkable 73% of people begin side hustling to increase their life satisfaction by following a passion.

Over half the people who start a second job or project do it for financial reasons, although the passion is still there; 69% of survey participants claim their second job adds value to their lives and makes things more interesting. 

So while financial security is one reason people might start side hustling, it isn’t the only reason.

We know what you’re thinking:

People have always worked second jobs, so how is this different? Quite honestly, our priorities have changed.

The BBC recently reported that millennials expect more from the hours they put in at work as their priorities have shifted to making a difference and creating “something they care about.” 

The side hustle is a sustainable way for people to feel they’re doing something meaningful while benefitting from the financial support of other jobs, or a primary job. 

Money and work ethic 

We can’t bring up the side hustle without mentioning extra income. Rising prices and stagnant salaries have become worrying of late, and there's growing uncertainty about whether people in their 20s and 30s will be able to retire. 

One in five UK adults aged 25 to 34 spend more than 60% of their income the day they get paid, KPMG estimates, compared with 8% of over-55s. This money was most likely to go on housing costs, utility bills and loan repayments.” 

Money concerns aren’t new, and BBC’s Eleanor Lawrie suspects they're a byproduct of the 2008 recession. The result? A generation who are willing to put in the time for the sake of extra income. 

And this extra income isn’t just pocket money. Henley Business School found that the average UK side hustler owes 20% of their annual income to their second job, contributing   “3.6% of GDP to the UK economy.” 

Flexibility and technological advances 

The ease that the majority of apps and online services offer has made us more demanding, but we're also more flexible and able to more easily multi-task thanks to technology.

Social media and apps have made promoting and maintaining a side hustle much simpler. One BBC interviewee estimated that 40% of her customers found her business through Instagram alone. 

If there were ever a time to get involved in a second job or a side project, it’s now, and the word is spreading. 53% of all UK side businesses started within the last two years. 

Starting a side hustle is easier than ever thanks to apps, social media, fairly-priced business solutions, and the increasing flexibility of work contracts. 

Thinking of setting up a small business of your own? Browse through our Small Business Index to explore the market. 

Anna Marie Allgaier