State of the Side Hustle in 2020
More full time workers have “side hustles” than ever before, and more rely on those side hustles as full-time income dries up due to the pandemic. This article explores why middle aged women are grabbing up side gigs to enhance their income.
For the last four decades, wage growth among middle-income Americans has been objectively weak. With 29 states adopting minimum wage increases over recent years, there’s been some movement among low-income earners, but with inflation, a weak dollar, an ongoing tariff war and decreased buying power, the middle is continuing to be squeezed.
The TLDR? A full-time middle-class income ain’t what it used to be.
This may explain why so many women in their 40s and 50s have adopted a millennial practice to help get them through – the side hustle. In fact, on the gig platform, Wonolo, baby boomers are hustling even harder than millennials, with 1 in 3 boomers taking on 3 jobs per week on the platform, compared to only 1 in 5 millennials.
A side hustle – a means of making money alongside one’s main form of employment or income – can range from moonlighting at a retail store or restaurant, to driving for Uber or Lift, to starting your own consulting business. For women, side hustles are often necessary for making ends meet. Thanks to the wage gap and crippling child care expenses, 61% of women in the workforce have side hustles, compared to 48% of men.
But the motivation for taking a side hustle on isn’t always about extra cash. No matter the motivation, the flexibility is what makes it so desirable. In an era where an obsession with self-care and a good work/life balance have created the idea that working more is a bad idea, I whole-heartedly disagree.
Work more. But work more doing something you love. Because doing what you love, engaging your mind actively, and achieving something you are proud of is self-care. And if a side hustle you love isn’t an option, there’s something to be said for side hustling temporarily for a worthwhile payoff.
Are you seriously telling me to work more?
Yup. Are you bored at your current job? If you could do it in your sleep and you need more of a challenge. Would a significant increase in cash flow make a massive difference to your finances, your mental health, and that elephant that likes to stand on your chest when you wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about money.
If you’re thinking that a side hustle means tending bar at night or driving strangers around, let’s take a moment to set our sights a little higher. What can you do or know better than anyone else? Who can benefit from that information? How much is it worth to them?
Taking the know-how you’ve acquired over the course of your career and putting it to work for those who need it is a fantastic way to help. And it is an even better way to earn money. You can do it over your lunch break and a few evenings a week. Consulting or coaching is a side hustle that’s worth the time you put in. When you’re working in your area of expertise, it feels easy. But for the people who need what you know best, you’re making a massive difference.
Why side hustle in your 40s or 50s?
There are as many reasons as there are women, but most reasons fall into a few categories.
Professional fulfilment: For many professional women, stagnation at their full-time jobs has created the desire for something more – more purpose, more meaning, more fulfillment. At this stage in your career, you’ve probably accumulated vast expertise and can use it as an independent coach or consultant. Sharing that expertise outside your full-time job allows you the chance to help people who really need you, and who might be most grateful for what you know. If you’re not feeling the expertise or want to try something completely different, involvement with a multi-level marketing organization with a mission you believe in is an option.
A drive to learn: Many women start online businesses because the challenge of learning a new discipline lights them up. Hey, we all have hobbies, right? If you love to learn and get totally obsessed by what you’re learning, why not pick something that makes some money? There’s a lot to learn when you start a side hustle as a coach or consultant – generating leads, selling, systems automation. It’s not all fun, but for those who love to learn, it brings a great feeling of accomplishment.
Retirement catch-up: For too many women, all the income earned in their 20s and 30s was spent on medical bills, children’s activities, and just getting by. That means that the 40s and 50s are catch-up time for retirement. A lucrative side hustle can provide much-needed cushioning for an anemic nest-egg.
Debt reduction: Any economist will tell you that the key to debt payoff isn’t cutting expenses – it’s increasing revenue. On the micro level of personal finance, it means an income boost. A well-paying side hustle is a fantastic way to pay down debt fast. For most American families, a few extra thousand per month will eliminate their consumer debt over the course of a year, giving them more financial stability and better prospects for their financial future. Boom. That’s what I call a worthwhile payoff.
Getting the kids through college: If those tuition bills have already eaten through your college savings, your side hustle can help keep your kids out of decades of debt. A few thousand extra dollars per month can help with tuition payments.
Funding your fantasy: Want to spend two weeks tasting all the gelato in Rome? Or soaking up the spirituality in Bali? Or springing for a set of Hogwarts robes and spending a full week running around Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida? That last one may just be me, but you get the idea. If your day job pays the mortgage and the bills, your side hustle can fund the trips you’ve always wanted to take, the cars you’ve always wanted to drive, the concerts you’ve always wanted to go to…you know, the stuff that joy is made of.
There’s a reason we’re side hustling
Sure, it’s about more money each month, but it’s also about taking control when economic forces seem to be doing their damnedest to make us fail. It’s about refusing to succumb to the boredom of work we’ve long since mastered. It’s about learning new skills that get our neurons firing like a fourth of July pyrotechnics display. And sometimes it’s about helping people in a meaningful way.
There are a million personal reasons, but the surge in side hustles in our age group right now indicates that in this unprecedented, uncertain time, we’re seeing side hustles as a way to buffer ourselves against furloughs, layoffs, wage stagnation, rising health care costs, and more. When the world is out of control, it feels amazing to grab the bull by the horns and find a way to take care of yourself.
Beyond that, there’s one reason we haven’t talked about yet. I’ve talked to dozens of professional women who have been working their day jobs from home since March, with no return on the horizon until Spring of 2021 – at the earliest. And in the beginning, while working from home was a challenge, now the most common sentiment I’m hearing is, I don’t want to go back to normal.
These women are running their side hustles at home, right alongside their day jobs. Out from under the eyes of their bosses, they’re building businesses, client bases, and the confidence that “Yeah, I can actually make real money doing this.”
Now that they’ve adapted to working from home, getting enough sleep, foregoing a punishing commute, rushing like mad to get everyone out of the house on time, making healthy meals, they like the look of this life. For many of them the goal is to make their side hustle their only hustle.
Is a side hustle right for you?
Well, it’s not for everyone. If you’re driven to generate more cash for a purpose that has real meaning to you, it probably is. If you need every spare moment to handle what’s going on in your life right now, and you’re barely keeping your head above water at work, it probably isn’t.
And that’s okay. Every season of life brings with it different limitations and opportunities. The point is to do what’s best for you and your family and take the opportunities that make sense.
While we are still obsessed with self-care and a work/life balance as our culture, I feel it’s important to point out that self-care isn’t about regular mani-pedis and hot yoga (though I’m rabidly pro on both). Self-care is quite literally about taking care of yourself. Adopting a side hustle to dramatically better your financial situation, light up your brain, and engage your emotions in a positive way is the very definition of self-care.
Even if that does mean a little less time spent on Netflix, it’s time spent growing you and what you’re capable of creating in the world. And that’s time well spent.