The Rise of the Side Hustle

Language is always changing. These changes happen across time, space and social groups. Each generation invents and reshapes old words to create new meaning. Side-hustle is one of those words which has been on the move.

Hustle derives from the Dutch word husselen which means to “shake”. By the 1950s the term hustle became more mainstream; losing its dubious connotations. Today, side hustle can be defined as a way of mixing passion and income. More people are side-hustling today than ever before.

A decade ago, the same group were labelled the Slash generation. Mainly because of their tendency to embrace numerous careers that overlap. The transition from Slash/Slash to side hustle is symbolic of changes in the core function of the practice. The term Slash was used to label the movement from an outsider’s point of view. Whereas, side-hustle is now used by the people; highlighting its increasing ubiquity and popularity.

According to CareerBuilder 29% of workers have a side-hustle, a trend that is especially strong amongst “millennials” at 44%. Overall, 63% of millennials aged 20 and above want to start their own business.

So, why are so many young people embracing this new wave of “work”?

The generally accepted Google answer is that we are living in uncertain times. Today more than ever, young people are looking for fluidity. Which means that they want the flexibility of freelancing along with the stability of a full-time job.

At Fortysix, we understand youth culture to be much more complex, segmented and multifaceted. If you want to truly to understand our attitudes, behaviours and aspirations, you need to be on a level with us and see the world through our eyes.

So, we decided to do what we do best and speak to some real-life humans. First, we engaged with our community of 16–24 year olds, who are on the ground. Then, we hit the streets of London to find out what the public thinks.

We discovered that young people are side hustling for several different reasons. Our research highlighted 5 major themes, with each section being a representation of an entire tribe.

Here is a breakdown of the different side hustlers each with their own motivation:

  1. The Fast Cash: For this group having an extra revenue stream counterbalances the economic pressures facing most young people. Put simply, we want to be able to eat at the restaurant every now and then.
Sharne, 20 years old — Side Hustle: Model
My student loan doesn’t stretch that far. So, I need more than one hustle”

2. Identity Explorers: For this group happiness is not determined by material possessions or their career status. The opportunity to side hustle allows them to explore new avenues and create shared experiences. These experiences help them to explore their personal identity.

Johno, 22 — Side hustle: Fashion Magazine
“I want to be jumping around and moving countries.”

3. Purpose Seekers: A purpose led side hustle is all about finding meaning and having a creative outlet. This group find daily work alienating and void of purpose. So, they decide to pursue their true passions outside of official work hours.

Georges, 24 — Side hustle: Drummer
“I want to make something beautiful”

4. The Why Not’s? The rise of digital platforms and social media has accelerated the impact of side projects. It has also meant that someone like Andy can set up an Instagram channel, upload his portfolio and get a global reach in just 5 minutes. Put simply, it has never been easier to start something.

Tony, 23 — Bitcoin Trader
“There has been a financial revolution — we now have access to tools and platforms that would be beyond our reach before the internet.”

5. Big Dreamers: This group have witnessed the likes of Amazon and Google go from startup ideas in a garage into multibillion companies that have transformed the world around us. At the same time, traditional barriers to entry have disappeared right in front of their eyes. These two factors combined makes the prospect of starting your own project extremely attractive.

Paul, 19 — Side Hustle: Rapper
“A single viral YouTube video can change your life forever”

Technological transformation, globalisation and economic uncertainty have given birth to the on-demand economy. Such conditions have made employment more fluid than ever before. Today, most jobs are no longer time and place dependent. This means that most young people have complete control over when, where, and how often they work.

What does this all mean?

  1. Power has shifted: In the same way, we have witnessed power shift from brands to consumers; we are witnessing a similar shift from employers to employees. Young people are now able to work on their own terms and conditions. If they aren’t provided with the necessary freedom at work. They will decide to find it elsewhere.
  2. It’s here to stay: The nature of work is fundamentally changing; irrespective of whether companies accept it or not. The side hustle is born out of necessity rather than choice. Young people are politically overlooked, burdened with debt and have trouble establishing themselves in the job market. The digital economy equips them with the necessary tools to turn the odds back in their favour. This is no reason to assume that this is a passing fad.
  3. Embrace the opportunity: We live in an age of disruption, where uncertainty is the only certainty. Those who nurture and encourage the unfulfilled passions and creativity of employees will be the same companies that attract the best talent and achieve the greatest results in the future. Equally brands have an opportunity to turn this new creative outlet into their advantage; only if they are tapped into what’s happening.

Here is a snippet of the 25 people we interviewed in the process:

Rise of the Side Hustle


Fortysix is a youth culture consultancy bridging the gap between brands and young people. We have one foot in the streets and the other in the boardroom.

While spending time on the “streets” we observed a trend which has gone largely unnoticed…the rise of the side hustle. This report is the outcome of exploring an emerging phenomenon within youth culture.