Do Side Hustles Really Work? 8 Facts and Statistics

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  • Uncertainty and skepticism are understandable, but facts and statistics show that side hustles do work.  
  • Most people start a side hustle because they need extra money.
  • Even though millions of people earn money from a side hustle, not all side hustles are going to work. It may take trial and error and knowing how to choose the right one.   

You may be thinking of starting a side hustle, but you're not sure if you should. It's a commitment, I know. 

What if it doesn't work? 

Side hustles may be more common than you think, but you're right. Nothing is certain. I think, though, that the facts and statistics below will help give you confidence that you can start one too.  

Before we go further, it's important to define what a “side hustle” is and your objective if you start one.  

Side Hustle Meaning

A side hustle can be defined as any secondary occupation or activity that brings in extra cash during your “off hours.”

Examples include tutoring students online, delivering pizza, freelance writing, building furniture, blogging, creating videos, taking photos, editing video footage, making music, giving speeches, Uber, etc.

You can combine multiple side hustles to generate a full-time income, or it can supplement your regular paycheck.

In some cases, a side hustle could also mean starting a business on the side, like a small bike repair shop or antique store.  

Why Start a Side Hustle?

What is the objective of your side hustle?

Is it to make money? 

There are a lot of reasons to start a side hustle. You may be looking for a purpose or more independence.  

In other words, why start a side hustle in the first place?

A side hustle will work if you want extra money, as the facts and statistics below will point out. 

However, if your goal with a side hustle is to have more time with your family, it probably won't work. At least not in the short term.

You can invest the money your side hustle generates and retire early, allowing you more time with your family in the future. But, if your kids are young now and retirement is still twenty years away, it might not be a wise strategy. 

For this article though, and determining whether a side hustle can work, I'll stick with the most common reason people start… money. 

Whether you use the additional income to buy more time and freedom, finance a career change, or start a business… the underlying reason to start a side hustle is generally to make more money. 

In that context, the following facts and statistics prove side hustles work. 

8 Facts and Statistics That Prove Side Hustles Work

1 – 40% of US Households Have a Side Hustle

The need and desire to earn extra income has grown since the financial crisis of 2008, and there are millions of Americans searching for ways to increase their monthly income. 

According to data from a recent Bankrate Survey of 2,550 adults, 40 percent of American households now have someone engaged in a side hustle. 

The numbers can be broken down further by generation:

  • Millenials – 48%
  • Generation X – 39%
  • Baby Boomers – 28% 

It should go without saying that if side hustles didn't work, there would be far fewer people with a side hustle. We can expand on this point by looking at how big the gig economy has grown.

2 – People Make Money From Their Side Hustles

Deeper in the Bankrate Survey data referred to above, 11% of employed side hustlers earn $1,001 or more per month in their spare time. And from my personal experience, many make significantly more. 

Another 12% earn between $500 and $1000 while 73% earn $500 or less, which is still an excellent secondary income when added to your regular salary.

Of course, the more time you commit to your side hustle, the more you will make. 

3 – The Gig Economy Is Massive

If side hustles worked, you'd expect them to be a big thing. They are…

The “gig economy”, defined as “a flexible labor market where independent contractors perform temporary tasks (side hustles) outside the traditional workforce” is massive.

It includes freelancers and independent contractors who provide services such as writing and editing, driving, designing, consulting, and teaching, among others. 

Many of today's most popular gigs (or side hustles) were once full-time jobs primarily. However, gigs are becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, one being the flexibility they offer.

The global gig economy in 2021 is worth $347. It's expected to grow from $204 billion in 2018 to $455 billion in 2023, according to a Brodmin case study.

This growth is driven in part by increased demand for freelancers and other independent workers, growing steadily since the financial crisis of 2008. But it's also being driven by freelancers and independent contractors looking for more freedom, money, and independence in their work lives. 

4 – Top Paying Side Hustles

More evidence that side hustles really work is a survey conducted by CreditLoan of 996 Americans with a side hustle.

The survey included the top paying side hustles which is quite extensive. Here are the top ten sorted by median monthly income. And, as you can see in the table below, the maximum for some would be a good full-time income.

Side HustleMedianMaximum
Selling or Renting Property$500$7,000
Ride-Sharing (e.g. Uber)$350$3,000
Fitness Training or Coaching$200$3,000
Freelance Work or Consulting$200$4,000
Ecommerce or Dropshipping$150$6,000
Tutoring or Teaching$150$3,000
Music or Dance Performance$100$5,000
Survey Taking $100$3,500
Computer Repair$100$4,200
Photography or Videography $100$2,000

Other notable side hustles from CreditLoan's survey with a median monthly income of $100 and a maximum over $1000 include:

In addition to CreditLoan's survey, also published a recent study of side hustles that commanded the highest fees. They are:

  1. Mobile App Development
  2. Video Editor
  3. Business Card Design (this one surprised me)
  4. Video Making
  5. Website Design
  6. Social Media Manager or Advertiser
  7. Proofreading and Editing
  8. Animation
  9. CV, Cover Letter and Resume Writing
  10. Ghostwriting

An evening or weekend side hustle in any of these areas works for those who put in the time and effort.

5 – People Use Their Side Hustle Money to Pay Bills and Debt

According to a Dollarsprout 2020 Side Hustle survey, 27.8% of respondents say they use their side hustle income to pay monthly bills and expenses. An additional 11.6% say they use it to pay off debt. 

The number one use for side hustle money though, coming in at 48.4%, is extra spending money. 

6 – Side Hustlers Live Near You

Have you ever had the interior of your house painted or your car detailed?

Go on Craigslist and search “interior painting.” You'll likely see dozens, if not hundreds, of painters, drywallers, and other home improvement side hustlers selling painting services. 

You can do the same for mobile detailing, personal assistant, math tutor, photographer, house sitter, or piano teacher. The list is endless. 

On Facebook Marketplace, you'll find side hustlers who supplement their full-time jobs by selling things they've made. Items like homemade furniture, gift baskets, custom printed clothing, and so on. 

Many earn additional income from buying stuff from flea markets, thrift stores, etc., and selling online. 

Side hustlers are everywhere.  

7 – People Need Their Side Hustle To Make Ends Meet

The Ascent surveyed 1000 people. Of 493 who had at least one side hustle, they found 61% of women and 54% of men said they would struggle financially if they did not have their side hustle. 

Clearly, for those respondents, their side hustle is working.

8 – There is A Gender Pay Gap in Side Hustles 

While side hustles do indeed work, they don't always work perfectly.

The Ascent survey cited above looks at the gender pay gap related to side hustles and found it to be greater than the national average in the workforce. 

When looking at the average hourly income by gender, for every dollar earned by men, women only receive about 66 cents. No reasons are given. 

It's a relatively small study, so percentages might be a few points off. Still, it's a disturbing trend that requires more research. 

I can't speak about the wage discrepancy specifically, but as a side hustler, I've also witnessed this earnings gap on a small scale. For example, a couple of years ago, I attended an affiliate marketing conference in Las Vegas for top earners. Of the 15 of us who made it there, there was only one woman. 

We speculated as to why that would be, but that's all it was. Speculation. 


Side hustles work for those who work them.

Of course, there are times when a side hustle doesn't work. It's often because the person didn't choose the right side hustle for their particular interest or skillset. Or maybe they just gave up too soon. 

Side hustles require planning and, in some cases, financial resources. 

But they certainly work, and the number of people who'll improve their financial situation with them is only expected to grow. 

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