Side hustles. It seems everyone has them today, right? At least, that is what the dominant cultural consensus seems to be saying. But where did this phenomenon come from? The side hustle is shifting and shaping our relationship to employment as a whole. The side hustle, according to Urban Dictionary, is a sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job. Maybe playing weekend gigs or life coaching.

According to recent statistics, 32.6 percent of South Africans are unemployed. More than 50 percent of youth are unemployed. More than 50 percent of South Africa lives below the poverty line. While accurate data cannot be found for additional income streams in South Africa, Stats SA acknowledges that the informal job economy takes up almost 20 percent of employment in the country, which is where most ‘’side hustles’’ will fall.

“Side hustles” are thus additional/supplementary income streams which are parallel to the formal economy and full time employment. There are various forms of side hustles which can be in the form of either selling a product or service – and the reality is that they are not all legal! It ranges from self employment like life coaching, make-up services, to playing gigs on the weekend in a bar, selling coffee or Tupperware’s, and so much more. There are also forms of side-hustle’s which work like co-operative non-hierarchical business models – related to what is called the gig-economy, where work is impermanent and time limited, without the (already) limited protections offered by the state as seen in formal employment. The ‘’gig’’ refers to a once-off short term type of project – a slang term for freelance work.

Some of the more popular (and profitable) side hustles around right now are:
● Professional business services
● Real estate
● Teaching, lecturing, tutoring
● Investments
● Selling or reselling goods
● Renting your car/motorbike for delivery drivers or e-lifting (such as Uber)
● Delivery work
● Artistic services (graphic design, photography, make-up, video)
● Dog sitting/dog working
● Restoring old goods and selling them for a profit
● Small scale ecommerce (buy and sell)
● Freelance writing
● Renting property

No matter what kind of side-hustle you have, the internet and social media has become an instrumental marketing tool because of its reach, and low cost. The popularity of social media websites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter makes it very easy to market side hustles and businesses in general, which has positively contributed to their increase.

Side hustles can be understood even further in terms of passive vs active income. In this article, we have described work which can generally be described as “active” work in that the wage/salary is generated “actively” by the worker. Passive work is different in that the money generated is based on someone else’s labor but the person who collects the money is responsible for putting up the initial capital on the income earned. The most popular form of passive income is investments in shares, equities, property, etc. Recently, the Cryptocurrency craze has opened doors for many to make passive income by investing in digital tokens like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The Hustle and the Material Conditions that lead to it:
In figuring out why there is such a need for supplementary income in South Africa, we can look at side hustles as a social phenomenon linked to ‘’capitalism’’. Neoliberalism is generally associated with (but is not limited to) policies of economic liberalisation, including privatisation, deregulation, globalisation, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.

Besides for this model encouraging business ownership, less money is allocated to social welfare. In South Africa, there is also the problem of corruption meaning that funds that are allocated for social welfare and public good may not reach the intended outcome. Basic needs are therefore not met by the state, meaning that ordinary citizens find themselves needing additional income to fill this gap. Many are also uneducated and therefore cannot access formal employment, and so phenomena such as the ‘’township economy’’ arises.

Side hustles allow individuals to be more autonomous because they are able to make their own decisions about when to work, how long, and how much they want to do to get out what they want. It pays for those extra hobbies, nappies, holidays, kids school fees, and whatever else the costs of life may be for everyone.
There is a growing prevalence of workers needing to take on side-hustles, and this is a consequence of the mode of production in conjunction with governments who fervently plan for poverty. If this goes on for longer, more people will need to take up more jobs to plug in the deficit that their formal salaries are not providing. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up for you to decide, however, we warn you that you might not have much of a choice, or enough time to even make that decision.

“The bills must be paid.”