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How Many Young Employees Have a Side Hustle?

Gen Z and Millennials are known for their hustle mentality, but how many young employees are working side gigs for extra cash? We asked…


There’s no doubt that money has been tight for young people since the pandemic began. YPulse research has tracked how COVID-19 has impacted young consumers’ finances in-depth, while our recent What’s Next For Work trend report explores the Great Resignation and how Gen Z and Millennials are fueling the trend and reassessing their careers. But beyond leaving their jobs or industries for new ones, there’s a crowd of young employees who have shifted their careers in different ways, working their day jobs while also freelancing or pursuing second jobs for extra money.

At the end of last year, Gen Z and Millennials told us that side hustles were one of the top changes they made last year that they wanted to keep entering 2021.  Earlier this year, Teen Vogue also reported that many young people, from students who couldn’t afford college or those who just needed additional income to pay rent or bills, tapped into their hobbies as side hustles during COVID, exploring side hustles from getting more involved in community organizing to sports betting to reselling or customizing clothes.

According to the Freelancers Union, the number of freelancers rose during the pandemic as full-time workers “picked up extra work to bolster their savings in the face of a slowing economy and uncertain future.” An Upwork study found that two million more Americans have started freelancing in the past year, while DollarSprout’s recent “Side Hustle Report” survey found that 27% of respondents are relying on side hustle income to cover their monthly bills. But how many of those hustlers are young consumers? In our trend survey, we asked 18-39-year-olds if they currently work outside of their primary job, and here’s what we found:

Just over a quarter of 18-39-year-olds tell us they currently work outside of their primary job, a full quarter of young employed people who have a side hustle Young people have been documenting their side hustles on  social media: videos all over TikTok and Instagram show Gen Z and Millennials  making money through customized clothing, dog walking, or offering business services like copy writing or bookkeeping. Online marketplaces that include Etsy, Depop, Fiverr, and Upwork have made it easy for users to sell products or find freelance work easier. Some crafty young people even used the pandemic to their advantage by creating face masks and coverings to sell on Instagram and Etsy. The pandemic has also forced many young people to get creative about extra income as traditional job opportunities dwindled, and Bloomberg reports that these platforms saw a boom in active sellers in 2020. An Upwork survey also reported that last summer 44% of Millennial freelancers and 36% of Gen Z freelancers started during the pandemic—and others have been leaning into their passions to generate cash flow.

We also  dig a little deeper into why some young employees work outside of their primary job:

Well over half of the 18-39-year-olds who are working outside of their primary job told us the main reason they work outside of their current job is because they need the money. Our last personal finance and services behavioral research found that half of 18-39-year-olds say the pandemic has negatively impacted their personal finances—and although young people’s views on finances have improved some since 2020, they’re still finding ways to make money to pay bills, etc., and that’s clearly the primary reason they are working side gigs.

Meanwhile, over a quarter say they currently work outside of their main job so they can build their skills / portfolio, to pursue a passion, or because they have spare time on their hands. Certainly, their hobbies and interests have been playing a role in their side hustle. We told you that the interest in sports betting grew among young consumers last year, and according to a study from sports and entertainment media business Group Whistle, 76% of 21-34-year-olds say it is a type of “entrepreneurship” to them. Meanwhile, as more young people have shown an interest in shopping secondhand, others are getting into selling reused or upcycled clothes to not only be more sustainable, but to make extra money, by joining resale platforms like Poshmark, ThredUp, or Depop. Some young resellers are even identifying and targeting specific markets, like Millennial moms. BuzzFeed News reported how resellers and resale groups on social media have been thriving thanks to an increased interest in Instagram-based baby clothing brands like Kyte Baby, Ryan and Rose, and Posh Peanut, that young moms have been flocking to buy and collect. Then, there’s the young content creators who have been monetizing their social content or are taking up remote freelance work—like writing or podcasting.

While not all young people are currently working a side gig, our trend data found that the majority of 18-39-year-olds say they are actively looking for an additional source of income to help get them through this time:

Clearly, many are looking for more income, and in this environment some companies have been trying to go after young people by promoting themselves as platforms to start a side  hustle on. For example, Samsung Galaxy teamed up with the Depop to appeal to Gen Z’s “side hustle mentality” for selling clothes and accessories online. The What to Flex campaign was promoted on Depop’s “Explore” page to show the unique value that the brand’s devices can offer young fashionistas interested in resale marketplaces. Acorns also launched a new Job Finder feature, powered by ZipRecruiter, which includes millions of listings not just for full-time jobs, but part-time roles and side hustles. But it doesn’t end there: Some brands have been using the new TikTok Resumes feature to recruit new employees, while others have specifically created fun roles, which all could serve as positions for young workers looking for a second job or some extra side cash while doing something they enjoy.

Helping Gen Z and Millennials find ways to turn passions and interests those into side gigs or part-time jobs if they have the budget or ability to do so is clearly an opportunity.

YPulse Business users can access the full What’s Next For Work trend report and full data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.