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As side-hustlers steadily account for more and more of the nation’s workforce, our economy is shifting to one based on gigs and side jobs. Who makes up this burgeoning group, and what is making them choose non-traditional employment? Chirp Research conducted a study of this sweeping phenomenon to look into the nuances of our side-hustle nation.
Don’t be fooled—“side hustle” is a new name for an old idea. Any job that you have aside from your primary full- or part-time employment would be considered a side hustle. So you might know side-hustlers as freelancers, independent contractors, or gig workers, among other names.
However, today’s technology has made having a side-gig easier than ever. Think about apps like Uber and Lyft and sites like Etsy and Airbnb—these platforms make it simple for almost anyone to generate more income on the side. The side hustle has been introduced to the masses, making it a huge part of our work culture.
So much so, in fact, that 94% of all new net jobs from 2005-2015 were freelance, temp, part-time, or gig jobs. Even more, in 2016, the number of freelancers in the U.S. workforce grew to a formidable 55 million, or 35% of the nation’s workforce. These numbers, found by Chirp Research, reaffirm the general impression that the economy is abruptly beginning to rely on non-traditional employees and is quickly turning into a “gig economy.”
Chirp Research also dove further into these surprising numbers to identify who exactly makes up this huge population of side-hustlers and their motivations. By looking closer, they found that 9 out of every 10 side-hustlers were women.
Nationwide, women on average make $20,000 less than men annually while also holding more jobs. Indeed, women in the U.S. hold an average of 1.5 jobs and make $29,000 while men hold 1.2 jobs and make $49,000. Even of the sample that Chirp Research surveyed, 43% of women had a side hustle while only 13% of men did.
Whichever way you slice it, side-hustlers are usually female, and women are unmistakably driving the gig economy by comprising the majority of the side-hustling population.
Nonetheless, these numbers beg for even further analysis. What does this overwhelmingly female population of side-hustlers tell us? Do these women want to be side-hustling, or do they turn to non-traditional, part-time employment because they can’t access traditional, full-time employment? The fact that women workers, despite having more jobs on average, still make $20,000 less than male workers, indicates that many of these women side-hustlers might be seeking their side-hustles out of financial necessity.
In fact, Chirp found that, of all the reasons to begin a side hustle, the top two reasons for those sampled were financially driven reasons—42% to “gain financial independence” and 41% to “earn supplemental income.”
Ironically, the top two reasons for leaving non-traditional positions also stem from financial concerns. 55% of side-hustlers polled said they would potentially leave their side hustle to “make a full-time income,” and 55% of side-hustlers polled said they would leave their side hustle for “stable income.”
Clearly, most of these side-hustlers are financially motivated. When we attach this motivation to our previously established understanding that this side-hustling population is mostly women, these numbers can lead us to infer that a disproportionate amount of women in the workforce feel they have to pursue a secondary income in order to “gain financial independence.”
And even though seeking a side hustle for “supplemental income” might seem less urgent than the previous motivation, it also suggests that a significant amount of these disproportionately female side-hustlers seek to make more money on top of their primary salaries.
This leads to even more questions—are these women side-hustlers satisfied with their side hustles? Well, lucky for us, Chirp also used this study to look into what benefits kept side-hustlers happy with their alternative setup.
Those who responded felt most strongly that “control over what [they] work on” was the biggest selling point for them. In descending order, “financial freedom” and “mental stimulation” were the next two pulls to the side-hustle life. These top three reasons that the respondents were satisfied with their side hustles reveal something important—two of the three top reasons for satisfaction with side hustles are not financially based.
That is, even though side-hustlers enter the side-hustle population for financial reasons, they don’t quite find the financial satisfaction they’re looking for. The primary sources of satisfaction with a side hustle—“control over what [they] work on” and “mental stimulation”— have no financial basis and, by extension, seem less practical. So, as previously observed, many side-hustlers look to leave their side hustle for financial reasons.
As The Washington Post has reported, side hustles, though indeed financial supplements to primary income, don’t really end up paying side-hustlers a wage proportionate to the amount of work they put in.
In the end, as we can see with this data provided by Chirp, though the high numbers of female entrepreneurs pursuing side hustles paint a picture of ambition and passion in the female workforce, the financial reality of this population paints a picture of inequality.