Gen Zers (ages 18-26) and millennials (ages 27-42) are hustling, as they increasingly take on side work to supplement their main income.

More than one in two Gen Zers (53 percent) and 50 percent of millennials have some kind of side hustle, such as freelancing or gig work, according to a recent Bankrate survey. That’s higher than the 40 percent of Gen Xers (ages 43-58) and the 24 percent of baby boomers (ages 59-77) with a side hustle.

Regardless of age, U.S. adults may be taking on more work as a practical decision to pay for everyday expenses or build savings. However, even if it’s just to pay the bills in the short-term, many younger Americans have long-term plans for their side hustles.

More than one in five (22 percent) Gen Zers and 25 percent of millennials want to make their side hustle their main source of income, according to Bankrate. That’s twice as many as the 26 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers, combined, who want to turn their side hustle into their main source of income.

Those Gen Zers and millennials may want to make their side hustle their full-time job as economic instability could make the business of self-employment more appealing than being at risk of a corporate layoff. Not all of those younger Americans will end up getting a business off the ground, but those that do will be part of a greater U.S. trend of increased entrepreneurship.

Younger people were almost destined to pursue entrepreneurship, thanks to the advent of social media and new technologies. Younger people don’t just have access to more opportunities to work for themselves than ever, but they’re also more likely to be gifted with an understanding of how those sites all work and how to use them. — Sarah Foster, Bankrate U.S. Economy Reporter

Key side hustle insights

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  • Millennials make the highest average income from their side hustles. The average millennial makes $1,021.83 a month from their side hustle — the highest side income of any generation — according to Bankrate’s recent survey on side hustles. Gen Zers average $753.48 a month, compared to $670.36 a month for Gen Xers and $645.97 a month for baby boomers.
  • Millennials are also the generation that’s most worried about their job security. 42% of employed millennials said they were worried about their job security in March 2023, compared to 36% of Gen Zers, 29% of Gen Xers and only 16% of baby boomers.
  • Younger workers are more likely to have quit their job in the past year. 17% of Gen Zers and 13% of millennials who are currently employed quit a job between March 2022 and March 2023, according to Bankrate’s job seeker survey. In comparison, only 7% of Gen Xers and 3% of baby boomers quit their job in that time period.

Gen Zers are twice as likely to have a side hustle as baby boomers

As common as side hustles are among younger Americans, they’ve grown even more popular. More than one in two Gen Zers (53 percent) and half of millennials (50 percent) have a side hustle, and that figure has grown significantly over last year, when a June 2022 Bankrate survey showed 34 percent of Gen Zers and 38 percent of millennials have a side hustle:

Source: Bankrate survey, May 20-23, 2022; Bankrate survey, April 26-28, 2023

While a higher percentage of U.S. adults in every generation said they have a side hustle in 2023 than in 2022, the number of Gen Zers and millennials with a side hustle has grown the most: 19 percent and 12 percent year-over-year, respectively.

These younger Americans who want to turn their side hustle into their full-time career are in good company.

The rate of U.S. adults who have opened a new business fell between 2020 and 2021. But the rate of entrepreneurship both years was still higher than it was in 2019, according to the latest available study from the Kauffman Indicators of Early-Stage Entrepreneurship. In 2021, 0.36 percent of every 100,000 adults opened a new business (which the Kauffman Indicators defines as both incorporated and unincorporated businesses with or without employees). In 2020, the rate of entrepreneurship hit a record 0.38 percent, a jump from 2019, when the rate was 0.31 percent.

In 2021, people between the ages of 20-34 had a 0.27 percent of entrepreneurship, according to Kauffman Indicators. In comparison for that same year, the rate was 0.43 percent for ages 35-44.

Source: Kauffman Indicators of Early-Stage Entrepreneurship

The rate has increased and decreased frequently since 1996, the first year of the Kauffman Indicators’ survey. The rate of entrepreneurship for people ages 20-34 increased 0.05 percent in 2021, from 0.22 percent in 2016. For people ages 35-44, the rate change was larger: It increased 0.08 percent in 2021, from 0.35 percent in 2016.

Stephen Brand, an assistant professor of practice in entrepreneurship at Babson College, credits the rise in young entrepreneurs in part to a desire to take control of their own future. Gen Zers are less likely to have a stable source of retirement, he says — such as the pensions their grandparents may have had — as well as lessened confidence in corporate jobs.

“What [students] have learned is that corporations have less dedication and commitment to their employees than they ever did,” Brand said. Due to that, he sees students think, “’I’m going to take responsibility for my future and not depend on a company to do it.’”

One in five Gen Zers dream of being self-employed in retail or technology

Gen Zers and millennials have similar dreams for the type of company they want to create, according to a 2020 study by WordPress’ WP Engine and The Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK). Both Gen Zers and millennials most commonly favor selling products, with 20 percent of Gen Zers and 23 percent of millennials saying they plan to start a retail business in the future:

Type of business that each generation plans on starting in the future

Generation Retail Technology Entertainment
Gen Z 20% 20% 18%
Generation Retail Technology Beauty and wellness
Millennials 23% 10% 14%

Source: Kauffman Indicators of Early-Stage Entrepreneurship

One in five (20 percent) of Gen Zers and 10 percent of millennials want to start technology companies. Additionally, 14 percent of millennials want to start a beauty and wellness company in the future and 18 percent of Gen Z want to start an entertainment business, often in content creation.

Content creation itself is a big goal for Gen Zers — 26 percent of Gen Zers globally have a goal to become an influencer, according to a 2022 Adobe study, and 45 percent of Gen Zers want to own a business where they make money from creative content.

Turning your side hustle into a business can be pay off — if you act intentionally

Turning a content side hustle into a full-time job is possible, but it takes planning.

Victor Nevarez, a 33-year-old content creator in Arizona, began posting recipes and cooking advice to YouTube under the handle Internet Shaquille in 2017. When his income streams from YouTube, Patreon and other sources began to match his full-time income, he was able to quit his job and pivot to YouTube full-time.

“When I started posting food lessons on YouTube, it was during my first salaried office job,” Nevarez said. “I needed a hobby I could practice covertly while sitting at a desk, and since my job was to edit videos, it was easy to edit my own videos during periods of downtime. Cooking was a natural topic because it was the thing I was already talking about to friends — recommendations for what they should try and stories of kitchen experiments I was trying myself.”

He knew quitting his job to focus on YouTube would halve his income, so Nevarez took the time to prepare first, something he acknowledges is not possible for everyone. Nevarez spent the year before he quit maximizing his pre-tax retirement contributions and tucking away paychecks from his main job in a separate bank account so he could know ahead of time how it would feel to not have that regular income.

Nevarez encourages Gen Zers and other millennials to think holistically before they try to turn their side projects into a career, by avoiding online advice that promises big payouts for minimal effort. Instead, he encourages people to share work purposefully and with a spirit of generosity. That includes spending the time to master their craft, which for his videos includes proper lighting, good writing and a drive to share material that changes viewers for the better.

“To spend earnest effort on learning what ‘enough’ looks like is to get closer to peace, whether that number is your net worth or your subscriber count,” Nevarez said. “That security is what brings me the most peace.”

  • Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey on side hustles. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,505 U.S. adults, including 986 with a side hustle. Fieldwork was undertaken April 26-28, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results. commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey on job seekers. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,417 adults, among whom 1,524 were either employed or looking for work. Fieldwork was undertaken on March 8-10, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a nonprobability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.