The downsides of side hustles
“A new survey from Bankrate reveals that we are seriously a country of hustlers, with 44 million American adults claiming they have a side gig—aka an extra way to rake in cash aside from their main source of income. The age group most likely to grow their green with a side hustle? Millennials.”
The latest term for moonlighting is getting lots of press these days thanks to surveys like the recent one from Bankrate. Gig-facilitating online platforms like TaskRabbit, Etsy, and even Facebook have made earning a little extra on weekends or after hours seem like no big deal.
It’s hard not to applaud people’s resourcefulness and hard work. Yet the rise of the “side hustle” isn’t necessarily a trend line we should always be celebrating. Taking on extra work to save money for a big purchase or pay down loans faster is one thing. So is gigging to learn a new skill to pad out your resume. But for many workers, the side gig is a sign that their primary salary isn’t adding up to enough to make ends meet. This is increasingly true as wages continue to stagnate and underemployment rates remain high. Remember, side hustle is just a glamorous rebranding of an old, not-so-glamorous phenomenon. Back in the Great Depression, tales of unemployed families taking on sewing jobs or boarders to pay their bills were rampant. Today, boarders are HomeAway customers. And doing clothing alterations? That’s actually #13 on this list of hot ways to work a side hustle.
Oh, and if your whole career is a patchwork of so-called side hustles, that means you’re a freelancer. While this obviously works for lots of people, be aware that freelancing comes with some serious downsides for the worker and (big surprise) perks for the employer—often including no health insurance or retirement savings plan and little in the way of job security. It also means you’ll have to become much savvier about accounting, self-promotion, taxes, and insurance coverage than your average nine-to-fiver with an HR department on speed dial.
So bravo to the side hustler, but remember that while some are pulling in extra income, others are hustling just to keep their heads above water.