freelance work

Side Hustles: It's Not Just About the Money

By Kristen Harris

Nearly a third of workers have a side gig, according to recent research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder(1). This statistic caught my eye because I know a lot of people who do extra work on the side in addition to their regular day job. It’s pretty common in the creative industry.

The research had other interesting findings, like more women than men have side hustles (35 percent vs. 28 percent), and those under 35 are more likely to have a side hustle than those over 35.

I don’t agree with the headline framing the motivation for this side work as purely economic. “Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men”, they say.

That may be the case for some workers, especially at the lower end of the pay scale, but the study also found that 25 percent of workers making more than $75K and 19 percent of those making more than $100K currently have a gig outside of their full-time job. I don’t buy the premise that these people are doing side jobs purely for the money. Especially when other research has shown that about $75K is the “happiness plateau” where a higher household income doesn’t have much of an impact on emotional well-being(2). Interesting, huh?

Consider common roles cited as side gigs – babysitter, chef/baker, dog walker, blogger, DJ – along with less-common roles like face painter, soap maker, and rapper. Yes, some people may do these side jobs purely for the money, but these also sound the type of side work that people may choose to do because they like it. Side gigs can be a creative outlet, utilize a skill or fulfill an interest that isn’t used in the day job, or a hobby that starts earning money.

Creative people like what they do, and often do even more of it in their off hours. They may do freelance projects in the same field as their day job, or something totally different. Maybe a graphic designer also really likes photography does it as a side hustle, or an attorney is also a skilled writer who works on freelance articles and editing in her free time.

Creative people like variety and opportunities to flex their creative muscle or learn new skills, all of which they can gain with side gigs. Top that with the fact the 35-and-under generations also are quite entrepreneurial. They don’t believe that just one type of work, one occupation, or one field defines them. In general, they want the stability of a day job, but also find ways to weave other types of work into their life.

The statistics in this research are interesting, but I think they missed the boat with an overall conclusion that the only motivation for side gigs is to “close the pay gap.” That may be true for some, but people also have other motivations to take on side gigs or build their own side hustle.

What do you think? Are economic factors the reason so many people have side gigs? What motivated you to start a side hustle of your own?

  1. Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men;          Aug. 10, 2017

  2. Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?; September 6, 2010 



 

Freelance Prediction: The Future is Now

By Kristen Harris

Freelancing is the future, and it’s here now. Looking at both the current state and future predictions in the American workforce, freelancing is going to continue to grow.

First, a definition: Whether they’re called freelancer, independent contractor, contingent worker, self-employed, free agent, gig worker, or something else, there are a lot of people working outside of a traditional full time employee/employer arrangement. Although the work arrangements may vary, for simplicity, these people are often lumped together under the category “freelancer.”

Depending on which report you read, somewhere between 34-40% of the American workforce today is freelance. That number keeps growing year after year, and is predicted to reach somewhere in the vicinity of 50% by 2020.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not totally depends on your perspective. There are a lot of advantages to freelancing, including schedule flexibility, variety in the work, and a feeling of independence. There are also advantages for companies hiring these freelancers, including the flexibility to scale up or down based on company needs, and the ability to hire for a specific skill set short-term.

There are also some negatives. Freelance work is less predictable, may not be considered a traditionally secure job, and often includes limited or no benefits. This is especially true for certain groups of people included in this total freelancer group, such as on-call workers, independent contractors who basically are running their own small business and need to find their own customers, and part-time workers.

For the companies hiring freelancers, workers may not be as committed to the company’s cause, there is still a talent shortage for certain roles, and often, premium rates are charged to offset the short-term nature of projects. From a legal and HR perspective, it’s also difficult to track and manage all of these different work arrangements.

Recently, this legal area has been particularly concerning. Rulings against large companies like FedEx and Uber regarding their use of independent contractors have caused them to re-look at their work arrangements. Also, over the past several years, more resources have been dedicated to investigating employee misclassification (non-qualified 1099s) at both the state and national levels.

There seems to be a disconnect between predictions for the future of the American workforce (more freelancers) and current government regulations (more employees). Whether you think the growth of freelance work is the wave of the future or the scourge of the universe probably depends on where you sit. But these arrangements will continue to flourish as long as companies and individuals feel the benefits outweigh the negatives. The challenge will be in finding a way to reconcile company and freelancer needs with government rules. Welcome to the future!

 

 

Do Job Cuts Mean Freelance Opportunities?

Warning: I'm climbing up on my soapbox today. This is purely opinion, please prove me wrong! I received essentially the same question twice in one day -- "I'm thinking of leaving my job and hear there are a lot of freelance opportunities, is that true?" That's a summary, each person has a different situation and reasons, but they are essentially wondering the same thing. Do job cuts mean more work for freelancers? I've heard that a lot recently too, and there is a certain sense to the theory. Maybe people know something I don't, but I'm not seeing it play out that way. The nature of creative work is such that there is always a need for supplemental staff or specific skills, but right now there are also a lot of people competing for that work. First there's a whole contingent of people who freelance or work independently; they've made that choice and many have been doing it for years. Now add in all of the people who are no longer working in fulltime jobs and are either considering freelance as a stop-gap measure, or are taking this opportunity to start the independent business they've thought about for years. Suddenly there are a lot of people competing for freelance projects and onsite temporary work. In addition, the reason many agencies and in-house departments have had to make the difficult choice of reducing staff recently is that there is less work or less money, or both. If agency clients are scaling back or putting projects on hold, then the agency has less work and income. If a corporation is seeing a reduction in sales, that affects the budget they have to spend even though the quantity of work may not have changed. So I think the "job cuts mean more freelance work for everyone" theory is an urban myth. Maybe it should work that way, and it probably is for some people, but across the board I'm seeing a lot more people looking for work than companies looking for help. I know there are people out there who are seeing an increase in their workload, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, let us know how things are working for you and any tips you may offer to your fellow freelancers or freelancers-to-be. Don't get me wrong, there are opportunities out there. And things will turn around. It's just a matter of making the right choices for yourself in the meantime. Even in a good economy it can take a while to establish a consistent amount of freelance work, so I a big fan of knowing what you need to make and having a Plan B. Maybe a Plan C too just in case.