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September 7, 2021

Is Side Hustle Culture Here to Stay?

Written by Dyan Nchamukong, PR & Influencer Intern at HJ-PR

As I researched terms like “side hustle” or “side gig” I realized that the results of these searches were often intertwined with words/phrases like “Millennial”, “Gen Z”, “Toxic” and “Entrepreneurship.” I was curious to find out how these pieces fit together.As I searched and read, I became increasingly frustrated by the incomplete narrative about those who participate in hustle culture. From what I read, the opinion of the validity of the side hustle lifestyle quickly fell into two camps — toxic or freeing…with no inbetween. Now while I can’t proclaim to be able to speak on the behalf of all 20 and 30-somethings, I can offer my 20-something perspective on the boom of side hustle culture. 

But first…What is a side hustle? A side hustle (to me) is a venture that one undertakes to make supplemental income. Whether that side hustle develops into a bona fide scaleable venture is not really the point. The point (I feel) is that a side hustle is one path to obtain more freedom. What do I think of when I think of side hustles? I think of anything from uber drivers to an e-commerce store.What do those jobs seem to have in common? Flexibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to create. 

Why do I think side-hustle culture has taken such a hold on 20 and 30-something year-old imagination? I think for years, Millennials (and now Gen Z) have lived through enough life events to be doubtful of what a traditional career path might offer them. The most obvious example that comes to mind is the 2007/2008 economic recession. We saw our parents, many of whom worked 40 or more hours a week at one company for years, lose everything overnight. We saw an increase in demand for a college education and an astronomical rise in college tuition accompanied by a decrease in entry-level wages. 

So, I think we did what young people tend to do well…we innovated, we shifted our gaze to the next possibility. I think many of us are starting to realize that investing entirely into the traditional career path places overwhelming demands on people while offering back fewer and fewer benefits. For many, opting-out, choosing your own schedule, or even being your own #Boss has offered a sense of freedom in the stead of traditional security. 

What does this mean for established brands? I don’t see side hustles dying down soon. For businesses who want to maintain their workforce, I imagine the path forward involves regularly meeting with employees to discuss how to increase employee benefits. Not only do these changes have to address basic employee needs (paid parental leave!), but they must also address the desire that employees search for in their side hustles i.e., flexibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to create something meaningful.

It is easy to cast off side-hustle culture as toxic without considering what environment fostered this lifestyle. What toxic parts of our culture are Millennials and Gen-Z trying to escape from by joining the side-hustle workforce? 

The question for business leaders is: How can you innovate to fix what isn’t working? 

 Until that question is answered, side hustle culture is here to stay. 

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