Work-life balance, not cash, motivating side hustlers

As more Brits shun the traditional 9-5, many are landing on starting a side hustle.

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Helena Young
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When the post-pandemic side hustle boom began, many saw it as a boost to income. During a cost of living crisis, those running a side gig could earn more than the annual living wage. But new research suggests that for UK side hustlers, time is more precious than money.

Small Business Britain and eBay surveyed over 1,000 UK side hustlers about their motivations. A surprising 43% said it was to create more work-life balance, tied with wanting to pursue a passion as the most popular reason given.

Juggling a side hustle and a main job is no easy feat. However, the research also finds that 46% of side ventures have now transitioned into full-time businesses, suggesting that entrepreneurs see being their own boss as the ultimate guarantee of work-life balance.

Side gigs become mainstream

Side hustles mostly start out as a hobby or passion project run by an individual alongside their main job. Turning one into a full-time career by registering as a sole trader can be time-consuming. However, the rewards appear to be worth it for grafters.

According to the survey, of those who started a business, 66% listed having greater flexibility as the top advantage. 63% also said they enjoyed being more creative, and 65% said it helped to boost their skills.

UK employees are increasingly turning away from the traditional 9-5 work schedule in search of more control over their careers, including when and where they work.

Many are exploring Digital Nomad visas and work opportunities abroad. Others, as the Small Business Britain and eBay data indicates, are launching side gigs simply to become their own boss on UK turf.

Employees lose faith in 9-5

The rise in side hustles can be seen as an aftershock of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s troubled economic recovery has led to a rise in redundancies and mass layoffs.

Employees are feeling the heat, triggering a rise in work-related health issues. 2.5m Brits are not currently working due to long-term sickness, while half of UK workers say they have experienced burnout and feel overwhelmed due to inflationary pressures.

This is having an impact on worker attitudes to full-time employment. 47% of office workers who had been laid off since December 2022 said they had lost faith in salaried work. 57% were planning to explore alternatives to full-time work in future, such as side hustling.

Entrepreneurs are not free from this challenge. 40% of respondents to the Small Business Britain survey said that stress and exhaustion are a key challenge.

However, this is likely also related to the difficulties of growing a business while working full-time. The survey also shows that 46% of side hustlers have been able to tell their boss about their side gig and quit their job.

It’s not all bad news for employers, however. Fiverr’s Future Workforce Index reports that only 55% of the average company is made up of full time workers in 2024, and employers are benefiting from the rising numbers of flexible workers.

According to Fiverr, 35% of business leaders work with freelancers specifically to take advantage of their flexible working hours.

Taxing times

As thousands of Brits embrace the side hustle lifestyle, experts are calling on the government to provide more support to those seeking to start a business.

Joiner Joseph Holman started up his Luton-based restoration business, Green Doors, as a side hustle in 2014. He says access to finance remains a big challenge for the company.

“Never having had any investment and bootstrapping from day one has been a real challenge,” he says. “I think many new entrepreneurs feel the same with the rising costs and limited resources for financing.”

Luton, April 3rd 2024: Joseph Holman of Green Door

Joseph Holman of Green Door

Earlier this year, the government introduced a side hustle tax to crack down on popular side hustles such as selling on Vinted or running an Airbnb. Anyone earning over the trading allowance of £1,000 a year must now register for self-assessment as a result of the change.

Concerns around taxation negatively affect 25% of entrepreneurs, according to Small Business Britain and eBay. Ahead of July’s general election, both organisations are echoing the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to call for the trading allowance to be doubled.

Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain added: “As we approach a pivotal election, the next Government must recognise the immense potential of side-hustles.

“By doubling the trading allowance, we can increasingly support these entrepreneurs, who are not only pursuing their passions but also driving our nation’s future economic growth.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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