If your Instagram and TikTok feeds are littered with e-commerce, drop shipping and crypto “get rich quick” schemes, you are not alone.
While those Gen Z tools seem new and probably alien to most, the reality is with the cost of living rising and interest rates at an 11-year high, it has become less eyebrow-raising to hear of anybody holding down two or even three jobs to get by.
For one person, what began as a passion project in 2014 helping DIY brides get their big day in order soon evolved into a full-blown event management gig that withstood the pandemic and gone through several incarnations.
Today, Michelle Mok is a Murdoch University senior events producer by day, Perth’s go-to events guru by night.
Her name might ring a bell as only in May, a soiree she conceptualised for up-and-comer Bryce Sceresini’s 30th birthday was touted by guests as the shindig of the year.
For the mother of two, this side hustle was born from a means to rebuild her life post-divorce and maximise her then-15 years of event planning know-how.
Ms Mok was already predisposed to love any gig that gave her a fresh start, but today it is what brings her the most pleasure.
“I have a full-time job to give me that financial and job security but (after the divorce) I found it hard to survive financially, so I kept my side hustle going with the approval of my employer,” Ms Mok said.
“In fact, they saw my side hustle creative work as a plus because I was able to think outside of the box and bring renewed creativity into my day job.
“Creating beautiful and memorable experiences for my clients, whether it be an intimate wedding, a major milestone birthday or a baby shower, brings me the greatest joy.”
And while Ms Mok said the extra income was “not enough” to enable her to make it her primary pursuit, it doesn’t hurt either.
As economic pressures continue to affect millions of Australians, there has been a surge in side hustling, as Aussies such as Ms Mok seek to monetise their passion and skills.
According to research from GoDaddy, there has been a leap in serial side hustlers, with more than half of those surveyed setting up multiple ventures.
It also found the average side hustle generated more than $21,000 a year, with roughly one in seven started by someone younger than 17.
But Ms Mok is quick to shut down any suggestion that a second gig was an easy ride.
“You need to be very disciplined in planning your work schedule and time with your family,” she said. “I live my life through my calendar unfortunately and I must plan everything, including social catch-ups way in advance.
“I also suggest only accepting clients who respect your profession and your time; you need to align yourself with people who understand boundaries, work within your terms and pay you for your time.”
Photographer Norman Yap, like Ms Mok, often spends his weekends with newlyweds on the biggest day of their lives, albeit behind a camera lens.
But on any given weekday, the 36-year-old Bedford resident is answering urgent calls from the community with St John WA.
“Being a paramedic for so many years, I’ve had to distance or emotionally blunt myself to protect my frame of mind and to ensure I can perform clinically at my best at emergency jobs,” Yap said.
“Having wedding photography as a side hustle was perfect because it was the opposite of that, and it humanised me.”
Yap is now starting to balance his week between his two vocations, finding his photography is showing enough promise financially to allow it.
“Working full-time as a paramedic, I would shoot between five to 10 weddings a year and it would translate to about an additional $35,000,” Yap said.
While Yap continues to work his way to fulfilling the side hustle to main hustle dream, fellow man behind the lens James Mrsa finally broke through that barrier.
The former roof plumber was able to publicly declare to his more than 51,000 TikTok followers in December that he was quitting his job and taking his content creation on full time.
He’s what many influencers would probably describe as living the dream, producing videos and images for social media for paying customers while travelling the world, and selling his photography prints as yet another income stream.
“After finishing school, I always had my eyes set on travelling so I got a job working as a roof plumber to make enough money so I could do that,” the 28-year-old, who calls Mullaloo Beach his spiritual home, said.
“Naturally, as you begin to travel you want to document it as you go and after a number of years, I had people reaching out asking about certain destinations, how I was doing it and some even taking inspiration from what I was sharing.
“Thus began my journey on social media. Fast forward a little bit, I began to be recognised by brands who wanted me to feature their products in my trips. It was here the birth of the side hustle began.”
Mrsa made it clear he only worked in the construction industry to fund his nomad ambitions and any suggestion that finances were another motivator were far from the truth.
“I won’t disclose my yearly earnings but I will say that I was making a lot more money in the construction industry, and despite what it may look like I lead a very quiet lifestyle that doesn’t cost much,” he said.
“But with what I do now, I have the ability to read more books, have more impactful conversations, show up for more people, look after my physical wellness, look out for my mental wellness, see my family more, all the things that are good for the soul.”
Just like Mrsa, there are others who started their side gig to fill empty cups rather than dwindling bank accounts. In self-described serial entrepreneur Melissa Ahlquist’s case, it was an opportunity to give back to those who needed the financial support more than herself.
“Outdoor Beanbags was started from a desire to support mission work that our church was involved in,” Ms Ahlquist said.
“We were living week to week, both working full-time jobs with a mortgage and a baby, and it just wasn’t doable for us to be able to support these causes.”
Ms Ahlquist stumbled upon her Balinese beanbag supplier while shopping on the holiday island and took a punt on them, turning it into a profitable e-commerce drop shipping business that sees her supply the products to shoppers direct from the manufacturers.
Almost 12 years on and Outdoor Beanbags — which has supplied to businesses such as Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River — continues to enable Ms Ahlquist to support charities and welfare services such as Food4All in Yanchep, Christian Blind Mission Australia, Compassion Australia and an orphanage in Bali.
But the side hustle streak sparked yet another business idea, website creation venture Little Biz, which helps others start their own online presence and e-shops — and then her ambitions ran wild.
“I worked my way up to a revenue of between $10,000 to $15,000 per year until starting the websites in 2019,” Ms Ahlquist said.
“In 2020 I added another side hustle selling leggings; between the three side hustles my revenue for 20-21 was up to $36,000. It grew to $44,000 in 21-22 and this year I am up to just over $55,000 in revenue.”
Ms Ahlquist, who works out of the Yhub in Yanchep, said while Outdoor Beanbags remained a means to help fund mission work, the other two grew from the intention to replace her regular income to she could work completely for herself.
GoDaddy developed English markets managing director Tamara Oppen said Ms Ahlqhuist was a prime example of how easy it was to set up an online side gig, with three-quarters of Australian side hustlers having an online presence for their business, according to the company’s research.
“It has never been easier or quicker for Australians to set up an online side hustle. The surge coincides with a cost-of-living crisis, with Australians contending with the effects of rising interest rates and inflation,” Ms Openn said.
“According to our research, one in three of our survey respondents have a side hustle selling self-made goods; for example, art, crafts and toys, sewing and clothing, food, beverages, health products and beauty products.
“One in four are in professional services, such as brand, marketing, accounting, finances, virtual assistant, education and tutoring.
“What’s so inspiring is the range of ways people are monetising their skills and passions online. We’re also seeing people in the services industry like personal trainers and fitness experts, ‘tradie’ side hustles, dog walkers, tour guides and more. It’s an inspiring community to be involved in.”
Likewise, platforms such as Uber and AirBnB — and some might suggest OnlyFans — make it even easier to find the perfect audience for whatever you’re prepared to offer.
Take 23-year-old Ben Ruscoe from East Fremantle, who found a lucrative niche on Camplify, where he rents out his converted Toyota HiAce to those wanting a no-frills getaway option within the State.
“I was working full-time and had some money saved up for buying a van and decking it out — I didn’t realise how busy my van was going to be on Camplify,” Mr Ruscoe aka @vanofspoils said.
“The additional income was a lot better than I imagined and I already have a second van on the way just eight months since originally listing.
“The extra side hustle made it quicker to save for my second van and get the ball moving on this business and for some holidays.
“I knew people loved the van life, but I had no idea how much. The return on my initial investment has been awesome.”
Camplify CEO and founder Justin Hales said his site had experienced remarkable growth in its listings over the past few years, including a 70 per cent growth in bookings in WA.
“In the 2020 financial year, Camplify Australia had 3000 vans listed on its platform; now the total number of listings on Camplify has reached 12,493, representing a 316 per cent growth,” he said.
“It’s likely that the cost-of-living crisis has played a significant role in driving the recent surge in listings on Camplify; as households face increasing pressure from rising living costs and soaring airfare prices, many individuals are recognising the value proposition offered by road trips and self-contained travel.
“The average cost of a trip in a Camplify RV or caravan in Australia is just $1609; for a family of four this equals a price per day per person of $42. On top of that, the average daily rate of a powered campsite is $47.72, resulting in an affordable holiday all around.”
But it’s not all about putting in some hard slog and making bank; side hustles and gig economy activities have come under plenty of scrutiny by the Australian Taxation office.
ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh said if people earned money through continuous and repeated activities for the purpose of making a profit, then it’s likely they were running a business.
“While there are always new and different ways to make money, the tax obligations remain the same — don’t fall into the trap of forgetting to include all your income thinking the ATO won’t notice,” Mr Loh said.
“If you’re running bootcamp sessions in addition to your nine-to-five job, well this is a side hustle and you need to declare this income to the ATO.
“If you’re an online content creator earning money or receiving gifts, you’re also likely to be running a business and there are tax obligations you need to comply with.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are carrying on a business or simply earning additional income through a digital platform such as a website or even an app, you must keep accurate records of your income and include it in your tax return.”