Living On Side Hustles? Yep, You're Not The Only One Trying To Make Ends Meet

by Hannah Golden
Keith Tsuji/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Consider the average 20-something student working a couple of part-time gigs. Between loans, rent, and other expenses, that direct deposit is gone before it comes in. Sound familiar? If it does, you're not alone. A new report reveals that 52 percent of low-wage hourly employees are millennials, and 70 percent of all these hourly employees are women.

If you needed yet another reason to appreciate your baristas and bartenders beyond the obvious, here's one: Most of these waged employees are young people. And it's these employees that make up the lion's share of the nation's workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 80 million Americans worked hourly waged jobs in 2017, comprising over 58 percent of all waged and salaried employees.

Snag, a job database geared towards wage-based employment opportunities, released the report about the current state of hourly employees in April, based on a survey of 2,000 respondents earning $20 an hour or less done in January. In addition to finding the majority of the hourly workers were women and in the millennial generation, the findings also showed that only 30 percent of these hourly employees are confident in being able to pay for their basic needs. Those underemployed workers, per the report, are also twice as likely to rack up debt.

I spoke with Snag CEO Peter Harrison about these trends and what they mean in an interview for Elite Daily. In previous studies, Harrison explains, Snag based their research on site users (that is, people presumably looking for jobs). This time around, though, the survey was not based on users, and the majority of them were already employed.


"When we went and talked with workers who were working, essentially 40 percent of them considered themselves underemployed," he says. "That's a big number." Harrison points out March 2018 data from BLS puts the number of underemployed workers (people who are employed but want more work) at 5 million. The 40 percent measurement by Snag would suggest that the BLS figure could be a massive underestimate, meaning a lot more American workers are not getting enough work than we thought.

To make ends meet, the report found that 32 percent were working a side hustle, like driving for Uber. Research conducted by Princeton and Harvard shows that these supplemental jobs have been steadily on the rise. The data suggest that 94 percent of net job growth between 2000 and 2015 appeared to come from "alternative work," meaning temporary or contract gigs and other forms of non-traditional positions.

Harrison also says the percentage of the low-wage hourly employees who are women is unexpectedly large. "I would have expected a number more like 55, 60 percent," he says. "How heavily it's tilted to women ... This is definitely a tale of two cities."

And gender may also influence the kinds of jobs that women end up in. According to Harrison, gender can play a role in whether people decide to apply for jobs in the first place. "Women tend to want to be fully qualified before they apply for anything," he says, referencing an oft-cited finding based on a Hewlett-Packard internal survey. "Men are comfortable applying for things they're only partially qualified for."

This "confidence gap" has been credited with preventing female candidates from applying, although Nadine Bilotta and Nancy Thomas of coaching company Complete Candidate say it occurs across genders. "It comes from a lack of confidence in knowing your value," Bilotta and Thomas tell Elite Daily in an email. "Most people we work with are not confident in their skill set and how it translates toward a job description or position, and both men and women are equally cautious." (In fact, a study by women's coach Tara Sophia Mohr found that twice as many women as men cited a fear of failure, rather than a lack of confidence, as the reason for not applying.)

Harrison especially encourages women applicants to not be dissuaded from applying for a job simply because they don't meet every requirement. "Checking three of the five boxes is good enough in many cases," he says. He also recommends leveraging one job to get their needs met at another — whether that's better pay, better hours, or more convenience. Bilotta and Thomas recommend an 80 percent rule: "If you can fulfill 80 percent of the job description requirements (barring required years of experience), then you should apply to the position, especially if the company is a good fit for you, and a place where you can grow your career."

The bottom line: If you're in the revolving door world of temporary gigs and side hustles, you're far from alone. Advocating for yourself as an employee — or taking the risk to apply for that reach job — might just make your life that much easier come payday.