2021 Side Hustle Statistics and Survey Results: Income Levels, the Most Popular Gigs, and Common Struggles


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Ready to dive into some side hustle statistics?

Side hustles are more popular than ever, and I believe there are two driving factors behind the trend:

  1. Proactive desire and unprecedented ability to make extra money — fueled by technology and social media
  2. Economic necessity

In this post, I’ll dive into the latest side hustle statistics and share insights from the latest Side Hustle Nation member survey.

side hustle nation 2019 survey results

How Many People Have a Side Hustle?

45% of working Americans report having a side hustle. That amounts to roughly 70 million people. (Source)

Among millennials, that statistic rises to 50%. (Source)

And the trend continues to grow, with Zapier reporting that an additional 60 million plan to start a side hustle in 2021.

Even celebrities are getting in on the action, recognizing the value in diversifying income streams.

Why Are So Many People Side Hustling?

According to Bankrate, 30% of side hustlers need the extra money to make ends meet. Perhaps more encouraging is that roughly 60% use the money primarily for savings or additional disposable income.

side hustle statistics what is money for

(Source)

The Hustle found that while only half of respondents “loved” their primary job, 76% loved their side hustle.

When I asked Side Hustle Nation what their primary motivation was for starting a side hustle, I found personal freedom at the top of the list:

side hustle motivations

Why side hustle? Here’s what people are hoping to achieve:

  • 38.7% – More personal freedom
  • 27.4% – Extra income to save, spend, or invest
  • 11.7% – Extra money to make ends meet
  • 6.2% – Pay off debt faster
  • 5.6% – A creative outlet
  • 4.6%  – “It felt like a calling”

How Much Do People Make from their Side Hustles?

The average side hustle brings in $1,122 a month, but the median income is much lower — just $200 a month. (Source)

That means that many side hustlers are at the lower end of that earning spectrum, and the data from Side Hustle Nation subscribers seems to support that as well.

In our recent survey, half of all respondents reported making less than $100 per month:

side hustle income levels

Still, you gotta start somewhere!

Once your side hustle or business has a little more traction, the numbers are more encouraging. Of the respondents making over $100 a month:

  • 36.7% make $101-$500 per month
  • 19.8% make $501-1000 per month
  • 31.2% make $1001-5000 per month
  • 7.5% make $5-10k per month
  • and 4.7% reported earning over $10k a month from their business

If we combine some of these income brackets, you can say that after someone’s side hustle gets over the initial startup phase, 43.4% of side hustlers earn $1000 or more per month.

How Much Time Do Side Hustles Take?

The average side hustler spends 11-16 hours a week on their business. (Source, Source, Source)

Combined with the average earnings, that works out to an average of $16-23 an hour.

38.3% of Side Hustle Nation subscribers reported working 5-20 hours a week on their business, which I’d put squarely in the “part-time” category.

how many hours a week do people spend on side hustles

Even if the long-term goal is to build a time-leveraged business, there’s an element of needing to put in the time to make it work. Of the people who reported earning less than $100 a month from their side hustle, 75% said they spent 0-5 hours a week on it.

Of the people making $500 or more every month, 85% are spending at least 5 hours a week to earn it.

And for established businesses, the effective hourly rates can become quite lucrative. In the $5000+ income category, 40% of people reported spending 20 hours a week or less. That works out to around $60-500 an hour.

What Are the Most Popular Side Hustles?

Based on over 1700 survey responses from Side Hustle Nation, the most popular side hustles are:

most popular side hustles

What Are the Highest Paying Side Hustles?

Next, I wanted to see if there were any shifts in the business models that the highest earning side hustlers were involved with. In other words, which side hustles have the best earning potential?

Among side hustlers earning over $1000 a month, the top 3 business models are:

  1. Online Business
  2. Freelancing / Consulting
  3. Investing

This was a similar distribution to the most popular side hustles data above, only with Investing replacing E-Commerce in the Top 3.

best paying side hustles

That bias toward investing is even more profound when we look at only the $10k+ per month earners. Compared to the rest of the side hustle population, the highest earners skew toward investing, Software, and interestingly, YouTube.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the $10k+ per month earners are less likely to be involved with gig economy apps, where your earning power is often capped by the hours you can dedicate to them.

What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing Side Hustlers?

I asked Side Hustle Nation subscribers what their biggest struggle was, and grouped the responses into several general categories.

The “Big 3” challenges that came up the most were:

  • Growing their business
  • Dealing with limited time
  • Coming up with the right side hustle idea to move forward with

biggest side hustle challenge 2021

Do Side Hustles Come From Hobbies?

Vistaprint found that 27% of full-time workers have started making money from a hobby. Another 55% said they’d like to turn a hobby into a business.

How Do Side Hustles Impact Full-Time Jobs?

Research from the University of Iowa found that a side hustle can actually boost performance at your full-time job. (Despite this, some companies still have “no moonlighting” policies.)

Where Do These Side Hustle Statistics Come From? About the Side Hustle Nation Member Survey

One of the best ways to figure out how to better serve your customers or your audience is to, well, ask them. 

Every couple years, I send out a survey to Side Hustle Nation email subscribers.

My goals are to get some insights into:

  • where readers and listeners are at in your side hustle journey
  • the types of businesses you’re working on
  • what your biggest challenges are

I also want to find out how I can improve as a content creator to be more helpful.

I always take these responses seriously and they guide my direction in a lot of ways. In the past, the answers to these questions have led me to redesign the site, add a special VIP page, create a Facebook group, hire a podcast editing service and a podcast coach, do public side hustle coaching, get rid of my voice over guy, focus on certain side hustles more than others, and lots more.

My Survey Requirements

Here were my main requirements:

  • Short – I wanted to be respectful of subscribers’ time, and also knew this would improve response rate.
  • Mobile-friendly – Since I was only sending the survey invite via email, it had to be mobile-responsive.
  • Actionable – I wanted to be able to DO something with the results! Not much point in going through this exercise if it doesn’t result in any new action.

The Survey Set Up

Instead of dedicated survey software like Survey Monkey, I went with my tried-and-true Google Forms.

It’s easy to set up and edit, and all the responses get dumped into a handy spreadsheet for you.

I like it because it’s simple and you can choose between multiple choice, free-response, optional questions, and you have decision logic on pagination of where to send people based on what answer they select.

The design may not be the prettiest in the world, but it is mobile responsive.

Oh, and it’s free. :)

My survey this year had 5 main questions, mostly multiple-choice, split over 4 pages. I broke up the questions on different pages because I reasoned having all the questions on one page might seem intimidating and hurt the completion rate.

Plus Google Forms will show a little progress bar that “completionists” like me really want to see hit 100% once I start.

Marketing the Survey

I sent out one dedicated email asking subscribers to complete the survey, and sent a reminder a few days later

To give people an incentive to complete it, I gave away two free 30-minute consultations. Here’s the message I sent:

Hey Nick,

Got a minute?

I have a few quick questions that will help guide the direction of Side Hustle Nation.

Your responses help me better understand and serve you and the rest of this incredible “Nation,” plus you’ll have the option to be entered to win one of two free Side Hustle Strategy Sessions with yours truly, just for filling out the survey.

(Regularly not even for sale!)

Please Click Here to Complete the Survey

It should only take a couple minutes and you can even do it from your phone.

Responses are totally anonymous — unless of course you want to enter the drawing for the free Strategy Session.

Thank you so much for your input!

Hustle on,

Nick Loper
SideHustleNation.com

The survey invitation went out to more than 65,000 subscribers and in total, I gathered more than 1700 responses!

Congrats to Maria and Angel for winning the random drawing for the strategy session!

(I used this Random Number Generator from Google to pick the winners.)

If you don’t have the email list to send to, you can do one-on-one outreach, or post in relevant FB groups you’re active in.

Question 1: Your Side Hustle Earnings

Goal: Figure out where your audience is today so you can create content to best serve them.

My phrasing: “In a typical month, my side hustle or business earns:”

  • $0-100
  • $101-500
  • $501-1,000
  • $1,001-5,000
  • $5,001-10,000
  • $10,001 or more

I used this this multiple-choice question to kick off the survey because it would be very quick to answer and hopefully build momentum into the rest of the questions. This was the only question on Page 1 of the survey.

And while it’s great to see roughly a third of the audience earning $500 a month or more, it’s a little discouraging to see that half the audience hasn’t decided the best course of action yet.

Just pick something, I want to yell. It doesn’t matter!

On the positive side, the percentage of of people earning $500 a month or more is dramatically up from previous years. (It was 14% in 2019, so we’re moving in right direction!)

The challenge for me is to move people clockwise along this pie; to equip you with the idea, empower you to take action, and show you how to get results and grow your business.

Question 2: How Much Time Do You Put Toward Your Side Hustle?

I asked: “In a typical week, I spend about ______ hours on my side hustle or business.”

Half of the respondents indicated they were spending 0-5 hours a week on their side hustle. Not surprisingly, the results here were closely correlated to the income results from question 1.

Question 3: The Most Popular Side Hustles

Goal: Find out the most common or popular type(s) of businesses side hustlers are working on.

I asked: “What type of business / side hustle are you running or are you most interested in? Please check all that apply.”

Question 4: Motivation: WHY Side Hustle?

Goal: Find out what inspired people to seek out information on side hustles in the first place. With that motivation in mind, I can better speak to the big-picture goals of my audience.

My phrasing: “My PRIMARY motivation to start (or seek information about) my business or side hustle was _________________:”

Question 5: What Are You Struggling With?

Goal: Find out what side hustlers are currently struggling with.

My phrasing: “When it comes to your business or side hustle, what’s the single biggest challenge you’re facing right now? (be detailed)”

This was a free-response question, but I grouped similar responses into a few general categories.

The theory is, once you know what your audience is struggling with, you can craft content, products, or services to help them.

According to the book Ask, this is the most important question of all, and allows you to create different “buckets” of your audience. For example, based on these answers I can see buckets related to:

  • Finding your side hustle idea
  • Making the most of your limited hours
  • Growing your business to the next level

Question 6: Fishing for Future Content

Goal: To see what the audience would like to learn more about.

My phrasing: “One thing I wish you’d cover more thoroughly is _________.”

This question was also free-response, but there were some patterns that emerged. Among the most commonly-requested content were:

  • Affiliate marketing (As this has been my main source of income for over 10 years, I think I take a lot of the basics for granted. To be sure, I could do a much better job covering how it works and how to get started.)
  • Taxes, accounting, and legal stuff.
  • Outsourcing and hiring
  • Step-by-step guides
  • More guests who are earlier in their journey

The final question was the one I was most anxious about, but knew it would be important to ask.

Question 7: Critiques

Goal: Figure out what’s turning off subscribers so I can potentially stop.

My phrasing: “… and if I’m being totally honest, one specific critique I have is _________.”

I took an afternoon, swallowed my pride and dove into a pile of constructive criticism. And people didn’t hold back!

For example:

  • “You’re a little whorey with ads.”
  • “I simply don’t trust you.”
  • “Emails are a little clickbaity.”

Now as to be expected, there was a fair amount of conflicting critiques:

  • “Podcasts are a bit lengthy.”
  • “Shows are too short.” (More people were actually in this column, asking for more in-depth content and even more frequent episodes).

And:

  • “I love that there’s no fluff and hype.”
  • “Way too much fluff. Get to the point.”

But after sorting through hundreds of responses, a few votes started to pile up in favor of:

  • Following up with past guests.
  • Explaining acronyms or technical terms as they come up.
  • More coaching episodes or featuring people who aren’t “super successful” yet.
  • Pressing for specific details, asking people what they’d do differently, and not glossing over the negatives.
  • Potentially updating the cover art and branding.

While some of these answers stung a little to read, they were actually super helpful. I’ve got some concrete actions I can take to improve, and will be working on those.

I owe a big thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey!

Your Turn

Think you can borrow some of my questions/formats and learn from my mistakes?

Have you run a survey to your audience recently? Did you take action based on the results?

Pin it for later:

side hustle statistics

*********
Stock photos by Black Salmon and Syda Productions via Shutterstock

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9 thoughts on “2021 Side Hustle Statistics and Survey Results: Income Levels, the Most Popular Gigs, and Common Struggles”

  1. Thanks for passing on the results, Nick.

    “Making stuff on the website easier to find. Not sure the best way to do this.”

    Well, you do have a search box on the blog. Maybe move it so it’s on every page? Right under the top menu on the right side would be great, and there’s room. I <3 search boxes, especially on a site like yours with so much good info. I'm sure you could find a coder on Fiverr who'd be happy to help if your theme doesn't make it easy.

    Of course, folks could learn to get Google to give them what they want, too. Try this in Google search: site:https://www.sidehustlenation.com keyword

    Reply
  2. Thanks for that, I didn’t realize you would be sharing all the results.

    I hate to ask you to do more work, but one thing that would be interesting is a combination of the first 2 questions. How (if at all) does the choice of side hustle relate to how far along the journey people are? Maybe this is a paralysis-by-analysis question and not actually useful, but I am firmly in the “already started” camp so not really worried about that, just curious.

    Even if you don’t have time for that, this was an interesting read.

    Reply
  3. I am an entrepreneur podcast junkie, but yours is my absolute favorite because it’s so real! I hate chatty podcasts that interview people who made a million dollars 20 years ago! You give real advice that I can actually take action on! I just wish you would go back to your own voice from earlier podcasts and not stop so many times in the middle of a sentence. (It’s distracting and makes it difficult to follow what you are saying.) I am looking for a second act career because I cannot find a job and really appreciate your AWESOME content!

    Reply
  4. Hmmm very interesting!
    I am a Business Coach for established Entrepreneurs and the same themes exist for them as there were here with side-hustlers
    The main 3 challenges I find in my Business Health Check tend to be:
    Time, Promotion/Marketing (which relates to not having the sales figure they want) and Mindset.

    Also, Business Planning is right up there as something most people don’t score well in.

    Reply
  5. Great stuff as always Nick. What was the most lucrative side hustle based on ‘type of side hustle’? E.g. on average, did ecommerce earn more than self-publishers, etc etc?

    Reply
    • Of the $10k+ per month earners, they were most likely to be involved in investing, online business, and freelancing or consulting. That group also skewed higher on YouTube and Software, but interestingly enough, lower on E-Commerce.

      Reply
  6. Can I share this article to my personal Facebook page. I imagined the percentage of people with a side hustle for the purpose of making ends meet to be much higher than 11.7%. I think, though, asking the reason for the side job can be multi-faceted. Thank you.

    Reply

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