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Like most university students, 21-year-old Daniel Clarke’s main source of income comes from his part-time retail job. When he isn’t working at the Eaton Centre, he’s hitting the books to complete his business degree at Ryerson University — except on Friday and Saturday nights.
On weekend nights, Clarke’s 2000+ Instagram followers refer to him as @asap.door_3, a VIP host and club promoter for one of Toronto’s popular nightclubs, Door Three. It’s a side hustle that he’s been doing for more than a year, and he’s enjoyed every second of it.
“I love what I do,” says Clarke. “For the most part, I bring out my friends and show them a good time.”
The word side hustle can be interpreted in multiple ways, but most millennials describe it as a job they have on the side of their mainstream job, like being a cashier or sales associate. It’s something that allows them to make extra cash while doing what they enjoy.
The silent generation, baby boomers and generation X are always criticizing the unconventional lifestyles of millennials. An article from ABC News called “Millennials versus baby boomers, are the stereotypes hiding something more sinister,” that talks about millennial stereotypes states that common assumptions are that this generation is lazy, entitled and narcissistic.
Not all of their assumptions are wrong. Millennials belong to a generation that is also highly scrutinized for excessive amounts of partying, social media usage and data charges on phone bills. In these cases, the older generations do have a point. But by taking over the industry of “side hustles,” millennials have found a way to turn their generation’s biggest criticisms into an extra source of income.
While generation Y doesn’t account for 100 per cent of those who partake in a side hustle, a 2018 Bankrate survey found that they do make up the majority. The survey found that 37 per cent of Americans had side hustle jobs, and more than 50 per cent are millennials. While no comparable statistics were found for Canadians, it’s still clear that our nation isn’t missing a beat when it comes to picking up these side gigs.
Despite producing income, many side hustlers feel they are looked down upon as if their jobs aren’t real and valid work.
Clarke says people think being a promoter is just going out to drink and party, and while that is a part of the job, it’s not all of it. Still, he says he contemplated not accepting the job in the first place because of the stigma.
“I know a lot of club promoters get a lot of criticism and people judge them, and that’s not something that I wanted to take on,” Clarke says. “After talking to my parents about it, they pointed out that a big part of real estate, which is what I want to do, is networking.”
Clarke says the main role of a VIP host is to give people a positive nightlife experience by booking them booths and showing them a good time. He says it’s a fun way to celebrate in a space that’s easily accessible to people his age.
While being a promoter is more about the networking experience for him, he says that’s not necessarily the case for all promoters in the nightlife industry.
“There’s so many VIP hosts in Toronto, and everyone does it for different reasons,” says Clarke. “There are some people that promote for the money, some people want to make new friends, or some people want to just go out and have a good time.”
While he doesn’t promote solely for the financial benefits, he says there are perks to making extra cash on the side — but it’s in no way stable or consistent.
“It’s a job that you get what you put into it, so there’s no consistent income. Some promoters make fifty dollars in a week, and some promoters make a couple grand a week. It varies, and it’s not something that has a set dollar value,” Clarke says.
While he doesn’t see this as something he wants to do forever, he says he can attest to why it’s something people his age want to do.
“It’s a job where you don’t need to be at work from a set time to a set time. I love it because I can work for four months straight and take a month off.”
Nicole Berardi has taken her passion for beauty and turned it into a side hustle. Between balancing life as a varsity soccer player, a York University health studies student and cashier at No Frills, she’s also an independent consultant for Arbonne, an international beauty, health and wellness company.
“I’m always on my phone, so for me it was a no brainer to be able to work from it,” Berardi says. She is able to constantly work from her phone and keep up with her business, whether it’s in between classes or on and off the field. Her side hustle tasks consist of posting to social media, checking on her online store, as well as keeping up with products and clients.
Berardi says she fell in love with the idea of taking something she did habitually and turning it into income.
Though she enjoys her side hustle, she doesn’t see herself pursuing it as a full-time career path.
“I believe in having an education to have something to fall back on,” she says. “I like the fact that I can do Arbonne while being in school.”
Berardi says she thinks our generation is steering away from the traditional work structure of our parents’ generation.
“I think our generation thinks about the nine to five and literally wants to cry,” she says. “It shows you that money is just a really big factor with our generation. We have this drive to make money, but we want to do it on our own terms.”
The financial struggle that most millennials face is a major contributor to why people have side hustles. According to a 2019 study done by Pew Research Center that compared millennials to other generations, our generation is living in a much more expensive world compared to older generations. The research shows that millennials are making less income than baby boomers were at the same age. The median net worth of millennial households in 2016 was about $12,500, while baby boomers were generating an income of approximately $20,700 in 1983.
Research by Pew also demonstrates that millennials have generated much more debt than other generations, especially from post-secondary education. The amount of millennial student debt is 50 per cent more than generation X’ers when they were in school.
Nadia Dahlbeck is both a patient coordinator at a dental office and an Independent Financial Advisor for the city of Markham. She completed her college degree in dental office and administration, and says it’s a career path she is happy she chose to pursue.
While she works six days a week at what she calls her “big girl job,” her side hustle is being a Disney Princess — Princess Anna or Elena of Avalor to be exact.
Dahlbeck has been a promotional model since she was 16. Promotional models are hired by companies as a form of marketing and driving customer interaction. They are typically independent contractors, which allows them to pick up jobs from different companies without having to commit to them. Since she’s been a part of this community for years, she stumbled across a child entertainment company and was offered to work as a Disney Princess for children’s birthday parties and events.
The part-time princess says after being in the promo industry for so long, it’s something she loves to do. “It also became an addiction to secure the most amount of gigs, and to make the most amount of money, and that’s never really left me,” she says.
Dahlbeck says she also enjoys the flexible schedule of her side hustle. As much as she loves freelancing and the freedom of creating her own schedule, she explains that financially there are times where it can be an unreliable source of income, especially during slower weeks with fewer gigs.
“I wouldn’t pursue it over my career. Because it’s freelance, there’s nothing secure about it. I’ve had to hunt down people to get payments and that sucks. Now I’m older, I’m married, I need something with benefits and vacation pay,” says Dahlbeck.
She says millennials deal with a lot of financial struggles and side hustles are often necessary to earn enough income to get by.
“The price of living, literally everything is going up and it’s almost impossible,” she says. “A lot of people are starting to see the sad reality of it. So that’s why a lot of us have this drive to keep our head above water, and to squeeze in as much income as you can.”
As someone who relies on her side hustle as a source of income, she says she disagrees with the common notion that these gigs “aren’t valid jobs.”
“I keep my full time job because it’s stable and I like the benefits and having those ‘real’ aspects. But my side gigs, those are still jobs at the end of the day. Whether it’s snow plowing or handing out free Redbull, that person has work ethic,” Dahlbeck says.
While millennials have embraced the concept of having a side gig, some have managed to turn their side gigs into their main job. Sabrina Vanessa Bull is a 21-year-old sociology student at York University. Bull left her part-time retail job to pursue her side hustle full time — FACES BY SABRINA is her business and now her main source of income. She says doing it on the side made her realize her passion for it. From her home office, she provides services such as eyelash extensions, brow dying, makeup and waxing.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about. In a perfect world, I would own my own spa outside of my own house,” Bull says. “I do love it, but do I think I’ll be able to do it forever? Probably not. But I definitely love doing it now.”