Beyond the 9-5: Exploring The Motivation Behind Side Hustles

Our PR Director, Michelle Smytheman, is passionate about helping emerging professionals in the communications industry and teaches at the University of the Sunshine Coast. As part of an assessment task this year, there have been some excellent blogs written by first-year students about emerging business trends. We are proud to share their work.

By Marissa Leijen

Has your feed on social media been consumed with “Top 5 Side Hustles to Start” or “Easy Ways to Make Money”? From drop-shipping, online surveys, and freelancing to delivering food, side hustles are becoming more popular especially online. The hashtag #sidehustles is number 15 of the top hashtags in the financial service category on the popular social media platform, TikTok. With over 3,000 videos posted within the last 120 days, the emerging trend has likely appeared on your “For You” page. So, what has got everyone wanting to start a side hustle?

Side hustles/gigs are becoming more common to generate extra income alongside a full-time job. This emerging trend targets and influences a variety of people including those aspiring to be entrepreneurs, those wanting to increase their income and those wanting more freedom. Generation Z tends to fall under these targets more so as they are the generation that values a work-life balance and favours an entrepreneurial career path. With the desire to not be controlled by others, up to 50% of Generation Z will choose entrepreneurship as their career path and side hustles are merely a stepping stone towards their goals. Generation Z is also heavily influenced by the hustle culture and young success stories that are presented on social media, driving them to find a side hustle that can develop into a more steady income.

Online side hustles are the most popular as they are easily accessible and easy to use. Completing online surveys, freelancing on Airtasker and content creation are just a few of the side hustles that are online and easy to begin with. Alongside online side hustles, pet sitting, babysitting and mobile car washing are a few extra side hustles that can be done in spare time to earn those few extra dollars. With a variety of different side hustle options, it has become easier to generate extra income and grow different skills however, the motivations that each individual has are different.

This side hustle trend motivates people depending on their needs. From Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the first need that side hustling can achieve is the physiological need. With living costs peaking at 9.6% in June 2023, Australians are struggling to afford everyday expenses. An increase of multiple job holders has occurred to help try and keep up with the economy as wages have failed to increase accordingly. Many of the multiple job holders are using a side hustle to help increase their income to fulfil their physiological need which is to afford food to eat.

In addition to the physiological need, side hustles are also being used to fulfil the esteem need in the hierarchy. The esteem needs refers to status, recognition and self-esteem which can be achieved in a variety of ways including social media. Unfortunately, social media is the new toxic way to gain validation and attention from others whether that be through the number of likes, comments or followers. Lately, social media has been promoting young success through hustling, creating an unrealistic high standard of what life should look like and making others feel like they are behind in life. In the same way, people tend to fall victim to comparing themselves to others who flaunt their wealth or accomplishments online, creating low self-esteem. As a result, this then leads people to rely on others for approval and validation through social media and create an online persona to reflect their desired image. Side hustles are a way to increase accomplishments and wealth which can be presented online to prove to others, giving them self-validation by attaining a higher status.

Not everyone who has a side hustle wants a higher status or recognition from others- although it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Having a side hustle can be driven by passion and the want of freedom. This motivation falls under the self-actualisation needs as it can fulfil one’s full potential and goals. Many people have passion projects that end up allowing them to monetise it, therefore it becomes their side hustle. These unintentional entrepreneurs originally set out to strive for more fulfilment and meaning in life that their full-time job isn’t providing. On the other hand, starting a side hustle is a stepping stone in achieving financial freedom or time freedom. This can be achieved by a side hustle allowing remote work and flexibility giving the feeling of independence and time freedom that some may seek. In addition, financial freedom can be attained by creating job security using the side hustle as a form of passive income.

From aspiring entrepreneurs pursuing independence to individuals increasing their income to meet basic needs, side hustles are a growing trend, especially over social media. Motivations behind side hustles are vastly different depending on the individual’s needs which include physiological needs, self-esteem needs and self-actualisation needs. The trend particularly draws Generation Z to side hustles from the influence of social media and their drive for independence. Overall, side hustles are a great tool that can be individualised according to your schedule and skills.

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