Linda Nazareth is the Senior Fellow for Economics and Population Change at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Her fourth book, Work Is Not a Place: Reimagining Our Lives and Our Organizations in the Post-Jobs Economy, will be published in 2018.
If you hear "side hustle" and your mind goes to "tiresome millennial trends," you are thinking about things all wrong. Loosely defined as a gig separate from your main job that brings in cash, the side hustle is having a moment right now. As it stands, it looks to be set to spread widely among the generations, perhaps becoming a key income support for everyone from twentysomethings through to those who have supposedly long retired.
If you want to know how to do a side hustle on a royal scale, look no further than the Queen. That's right, as well as being ruler of Britain and the Commonwealth for 66 years, the Queen has also developed a very lucrative side business as the owner of racehorses. And a business it is: According to data from Myracing.com, over the past three decades, she has made a cool $9.3-million in winnings. Not bad for a second job.
The Queen's side hustle hits all the bases. It allows her to spend time doing something she is passionate about (breed and race horses), fits in with her broader job (ruler) and brings in income (a lot of it in her case). For others, they might have to settle for less passion or less money from their side hustle, but the principles of it are the same.
It is easy to scoff at the economic significance of side hustles. If you think of them in the sense of the waiter who wants to be an actor or the accountant who sells artisan pies at weekend markets, you probably miss the fact that side hustles are slowly becoming a necessary income support for many people. A better term for them might actually be "economically necessary second job or activity." Not as catchy, for sure, but it captures the truth of them.
A 2017 U.S. survey by GoDaddy found that 50 per cent of U.S. millennials and 25 per cent of baby boomers had some kind of side hustle. That could mean anything from working a second job, selling things online, renting out a room or running a whole business on the side. More than half of all surveyed said that they wished they could make their side hustle a full-time gig. That said, most had a strong monetary motive for pursuing their hustle, with 61 per cent of boomers saying their main motivation was the money.
The explosion of side hustles has a lot to do with technology. Thanks to the power of the internet, if you want, you can now sit in your house in Toronto and buy inputs from Hong Kong, get something manufactured in China and sell it internationally over Amazon. Or you can just list the snazzy banana-leaf mousepads you made in your home studio and hope that they find global buyers over Etsy.
As boomers age, that new-and-improved side hustle is likely to get increasingly important as a way for them to maintain their incomes. If the Etsy shop selling banana-leaf mouse pads takes off, great. If not, perhaps they can use their basement apartments as vacation rentals, or help out in a friend's catering business before or after leaving their main jobs.
It is all a nice get for policy makers. After all, we really do not need to dredge up the depressing details again: Pick any survey you want, and you will find that boomers feel that they have not saved enough for retirement, and that financial and policy experts agree. If they can supplement their incomes through any means, that takes some pressure off public purse strings.
As with everyone else, the Queen probably has ways to employ her winnings. That said, she probably does not need them to fill in the gaps that are left between her own income and the income she needs in her senior years. For others, the side hustle seems to be becoming a key source of income and an important part of the way that the labour market is evolving. Perhaps it is time to start tracking its importance with targeted data, and to give it the respect that it deserves.