The gig economy was in full swing even before the pandemic hit, but 2020 has changed everything. That year, necessity and desperation forced hordes of newly unemployed or furloughed workers in Etsy stores or behind the wheels of delivery trucks to make ends meet however they could.
In 2021, however, the secondary unrest grew. Part-time entrepreneurs have gone from trying to monetize their hobbies, as they had the year before, to developing legitimate and reliable alternative sources of income.
Looking back, it’s clear that 2021 was the year of the sideways hustle.
Related Reading: 22 Side Gigs That Can Make You Richer Than a Full-Time Job
Also Find: 94 Money-Making Skills You Can Learn In Under A Year
Side Hustling is out of the hobby phase
Some of the most watched data on the gig economy comes from an annual research report produced by DollarSprout, a platform dedicated to hustling and entrepreneurship. The 2021 Side Hustle report showed a clear departure from 2020 in the gig economy.
Last year, for example, just over one in four people used concert revenue to cover their monthly bills; but, in 2021, that number has jumped to 41%. Also this year, the percentage of people spending more than 15 hours a week on their side gigs more than doubled, from 12% to 27%.
Secondary scammers are also making significantly more money this year than last. The percentage of people earning $1,500 or more per month from their side gigs has more than doubled from 2020 to 2021.
More than half of side hustlers have now tried three or more gigs – and that kind of experimentation has turned out to be a good thing. The highest earners by far are those who have tried five or more hustles.
According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, most pushes fall into the following categories:
- Drive for carpool app
- Purchase/delivery of groceries or household items
- Perform household chores such as cleaning a house, assembling furniture, or running errands
- Make deliveries from a restaurant or store for a delivery app
- Use a personal vehicle to deliver packages to others through a mobile app or website such as Amazon Flex
More for you: 27 most lucrative side jobs for people over 50
The rise of sideways unrest coincided perfectly with the Great Resignation – and it’s clear that each had a reciprocal effect on the other. The growing availability of legitimate part-time contract work — often remote and online — has given weary employees something to run to. On the other side of the coin, the hustle and bustle launched in 2020 has started to pay off and provide reliable second streams of income, giving people the confidence to finally walk away from their paychecks.
“In some ways, it wiped the slate clean and generated a sense of freedom and opportunity to completely revitalize our livelihoods,” said Tina Hawk, senior vice president of human resources at GoodHire. “The Great Resignation has seen many professionals quit their jobs, often to shift gears altogether or seek a position within a company with a healthier work culture. On the other hand, many have taken advantage of the opportunity to try to monetize a hobby or other side hustle.
With the mass exodus from the workplace still underway, it’s unclear if the chicken of the Great Resignation came before the year of the sideways hustle’s egg – but that didn’t really matter. ‘importance.
“Whether the gig economy contributed to the big quit or vice versa, the past two years have encouraged many to rethink where and how we work,” said Jared Pobre, co-founder of Caldera + Lab, a brand performance luxury skincare. “People are now looking for more meaningful ways to earn money beyond the ingrained mindset of the morning commute to the office, to find more fulfillment in their lives.”
Read more: 30 odd jobs that pay incredibly well
The 2021 explosion had been brewing for decades
Although the pandemic was clearly the catalyst, the simultaneous rise of the gig economy and the Great Resignation was an eruption that had been building since the dawn of American cubicle culture.
“We’ve seen it all over Instagram and TikTok,” said Emily King, founder of EJM Design, which has created many side websites this year. “People are done with long hours for employers who would replace them without a second thought. The pandemic has forced us to spend a lot of time alone, reflecting on our lives – and the flexibility, self-reliance and enthusiasm of entrepreneurship has driven many to pursue it.
For many, the pandemic has given a bleak outlook to a long-standing sense of job dissatisfaction.
“People want to regain a sense of control, freedom and work/life balance that can only be achieved if you are your own boss,” said Lilac Bar David, CEO and co-founder of Lili, a banking platform for the independents. “Full-time self-employment is the best way to ensure that you can control your own work/life balance.”
Many, of course, have yet to turn their hustles into their full-time pursuits.
“I took my full-time pandemic hustle personally,” King said. “Although it’s not very common yet, I think we’ll see a lot more of it in the next few years.”
See also: Highest Paying Home Work Jobs
As with everything, a lot of things are generational
While 2021 has certainly been the year of the side hustle, different genders and generations have sought gig revenue for different reasons.
“Many workers over the age of 40 have left the workforce due to burnout,” David said. “They were tired of working the same job year after year if they weren’t passionate about what they were doing day to day. Younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z are leaving because they’ve seen their friends and peers earn six-figure freelancing incomes on Fiverr or Upwork right out of school, skipping years of late nights, poor working and administrative work environments at significantly lower wages. Perhaps most importantly, 60% of our clients are women who have gone into self-employment to break free from toxic and dangerous workplaces that have presented challenges and glass ceilings for years.
Wonolo, an on-demand recruiting platform, recently released a report titled “The State of the Gig Economy by Generation,” which uses data and trends not included in Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. He found that:
- Baby boomers and Generation X hold the most jobs of all age groups.
- Generation X earns the most income of all generations.
- Gen Z saw the biggest increase in gig earnings, with an 11.4% increase in hourly earnings from 2019 to 2021.
- More and more Gen Zers are getting into gigs. In 2019, this age group occupied only 8% of gig positions compared to 22% today.
More from GOBankingRates