We've been spending a lot of time looking at side gigs. These are 2nd (or even 3rd) jobs or side businesses started by people to augment their regular employment or activity.
Most people, of course, use side gigs to earn money. But there are other reasons for side gigs including learning new skills, pursuing a passion, interest or hobby, testing a business idea or simply having something that gets them engaged in ways different from their primary activity.
BTW, the reason I say "primary activity" instead of "primary job" is that many side giggers don't have traditional jobs or sources of income. Their primary activities are things like school, homemaking, childcare, senior care, retirement, etc.
In our interviews two reasons for having side gigs caught our attention.
Quite a few of the side giggers told us they had a side gig because they were worried about losing their job and wanted to have an alternative source of income if that happened. These folks saw their side gigs as life rafts to be used if their main source of income sank.
We're not the only ones hearing this. The New York Times essay A Side Business as a Way to Gain Financial Security covers this trend. Key quote:
What would we do if I were to suddenly lose my job, or if my husband were to lose his? How would we care for our child? ... By adding a second stream of income, I would no longer be entirely dependent on a single paycheck.
The author of the essay has also written The Economy of You, a book on side gigs. It focuses on the financial security side of side gigs. We'll be reviewing it in the near future.
Another interesting reason for having a side gig is learning or new skills gaining experience in new fields.
This has always been a reason for side gigs. But what appears to be new is the growing number of people who are turning to side gigs because their employers aren't offering them training.
The online talent marketplaces in particular seem to be active with people looking to advance their skills.
According to Elance, 25% of their global freelancers are side giggers and the percentage is even higher for their U.S. freelancers. In many cases, these folks are using online marketplaces to gain skills to advance their main career.
In both of these examples economic uncertainty is a key reason these people are turning to side gigs.
No longer confident about their job security and/or advancement options, people are increasingly starting their own businesses as a safety net. In addition to folks in these two groups, many other side giggers we interviewed cited economic uncertainty as a reason for their side gigs.
Economic uncertainty has become a huge issue across our economy. It's impacting businesses and people, leading to new behaviors from both. We'll have more on this topic in the future.