Have you ever noticed how many Uber drivers seem so chill? They pull up to the curb, pop the trunk open for your gear, and then soothe you with a playlist of classics or Kenny G solos. When the seven-minute drive to your hotel is complete, Uber Dude wishes you well and effortlessly rolls on to the next fare. He most likely has a day job somewhere but has decided that his black Kia sedan can rake in some serious revenue off those redeye arrivals at the airport who just want to get to sleep. As you check-in to your hotel room, Uber Dude is depositing your fare and tip into his account and then he’ll repeat the cycle over and over. Next month, when the job has you back in that city, Uber Dude has upgraded to a Mercedes SUV.
In a bygone era of employment, the “day job” meant clocking into a bricks and mortar office from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Every two weeks, the cheque would arrive and grateful employees would dutifully pay their bills and perhaps enjoy a dinner and movie night out, and they’d remain loyal to their employer, often for life. That seems like a million years ago!
Today’s economy isn’t 9 to 5, and certainly isn’t exclusively “bricks and mortar.” With the rapid expansion of the digital workforce, it is no longer a safe bet to assume that the regular employee is working solely at the high-rise office tower on the downtown corner. In the waning days of the “twenteens”, a growing contingent of workers supplement their “day job” with entrepreneurial side-hustles that generate wealth and cultivate vocational satisfaction. Twenty years ago, my generation, Gen Xers, were told to expect 4 – 5 different jobs during their working careers. Today, it’s more like you’ve got one main job and the potential for 8 or 9 side hustles.
The Side Hustle
By some estimates, more that 150 million workers in Europe and North America have left the traditional job market and now work as independent contractors. 60 million more supplement the 9 to 5 with “The Side Hustle”. For those who are supplementing income with a side hustle, freelancing can also mean independence, relaxed schedules, and networking with other likeminded individuals. What do workers in the Gig Economy do for gigs? Software design, freelance writing, graphic arts, video production, and accounting to name a few. And yes, Uber Dude is a member of the Gig Economy too.
A Harvard study of freelancers in the Gig Economy discovered that many freelancers felt empowered by the opportunity to fully use their talents and do work that interested them. Entrepreneurship, anyone? While your 9 to 5 may be your primary source of income, the side hustle offers the opportunity to build something that stokes the fire of your passion. Hell, the side hustle may eventually become your 9 to 5. Indeed, the cop who moonlights as a poet and the accountant with a side hustle as a jazz saxophonist discover that the gigs bring both cash and catharsis into the personal equation. Some gigsters hone their 9 to 5 skills with the side hustle. The SEO expert by day who writes website content for not-for-profits by night, builds wealth, gets better at her craft, and does something good for the world by supporting a worthy organization with limited resources. What’s not to love? On the bricks and mortar side of the conversation, traditional businesses and organizations reap the benefit of the Gig Economy too. When the Technology firm in California can hire a well-qualified freelancer in Halifax for a fraction of the cost, the business leader AND the CFO are damn happy. Imagine being a banker in Charlotte but writing screenplays for an upstart Hollywood production company. It happens.
I bought my first house at 19 on the back of long hours worked while in university and my multiple side hustles, I invested in my first of several companies at age 20. I have fueled my entrepreneurial spirit while working for large Fortune 500 companies, satiated my personal passions around health, wellness and fitness – all with various side hustles. When people ask me how I fit it all in, I have a couple of key messages: you make time for the things that you WANT to make time for and, more importantly, – there are NO excuses…yes, many of us have a 9 to 5 day job but then there are all those hours from 5pm onward to stoke the fire and hustle.
The Gig Economy is here to stay – let’s embrace it. This is good news for businesses looking for value, for freelancers seeking freedom and more control over their earning power, and for the cross-country commuter calling for an Uber at 1 am.