The phenomenon of the “side hustle” — namely having a second source of income in addition to a full-time job, is on the rise in the public consciousness in the UK.
But how common are side hustles in the UK? Why has the concept become so trendy?
We dug into the available data to see whether all the talk surrounding side hustles is actually backed up by…well…hustle.
Key UK side-hustle statistics
- There are 1.1 million people in the UK with a second job or who are self-employed in addition to a primary job.
- That’s 3% of the working population.
- Despite this, 25% of people in the UK claim to have a side hustle.
- 37% of people in the UK say that their salary alone does not allow them to have a comfortable lifestyle.
How many people in the UK have side-hustles?
The number of people in the UK with side-hustles is tricky to quantify.
Someone who referees Sunday league games, or who tutors their neighbours’ children in the evenings, is unlikely to register as self-employed or declare their additional income.
Many “side hustlers” therefore slide under the radar.
Because of this, Government and survey data on the matter vary wildly on the matter.
According to the Office of National Statistics:
- 1.1 million people are either employed in two jobs or are self-employed in addition to being in employment (source).
- This figure, released in 2019, has not changed significantly since 2009 where the number of people working second jobs was still over 1 million (source).
This paints a surprising picture and flies in the face of common sentiment that the side hustle is a recent, millennial fad.
In 2018, Henley Business School conducted an independent study into the matter. They found that:
- 25% of people describe themselves as having a “side-hustle”.
- 55% of “side-hustlers” began in the last 2 years (source).
The only difference between Henley Business School and the Government’s definition of a side hustle was that the former included “[money-making] activities not perceived as a formal business.”
Whatever that statement may mean, it seems that the vast majority of side hustles fall under it.
What are the most popular side hustles in the UK?
To get a feel for what type of side-hustles people in the UK are looking to start, we conducted some keyword research to see the most commonly searched ways of making money.
To do this we used KWfinder to discover the most popular searches that began with “how to make money…”. The results are in the table below:
Monthly searches (UK)
How to make money on Youtube
How to make money on Instagram
How to make money on Tiktok
How to make money in stocks
How to make money with photography
How to make money in property
How to make money podcasting
How to make money blogging
How to make money selling on Amazon
How to make money doing surveys
Assuming that these searches indicate a desire to start making money with the relevant skill, the most popular side hustle ideas in the UK revolve around monetizing your social media presence.
This seems to be just one example of the huge potential that people see in technology and the internet to facilitate the creation of additional income.
Six out of the top ten side hustles listed here could not even exist in pre-internet times, with all of them arguably becoming far more accessible because of technology.
In fact, the search term: “how to make money online” is searched more often than all the terms in the table put together, with a whopping 27,000 monthly searches.
The table may also be able to shed some light on why there is such a discrepancy between official and unofficial data on side hustles.
Being a social media influencer or flipping items on Amazon probably fall under Henley Business School’s categorization of: “[money-making] activities not perceived as a formal business.”
Furthermore, most of the activities listed in the table above take a lot of time to significantly monetize, meaning that you may only need to become self-employed years after starting your side hustle.
Are side hustles necessary to make ends meet in the UK?
By definition, side hustles are meant to make money.
Does their popularity mean that people in the UK are unable to cover everything with the income from their primary job alone?
The breakdown of this is shown in the table below:
Region of UK
Median monthly take-home wage
Median cost of living
Discretionary income per month
Yorkshire & Humberside
If these average discretionary incomes (the amount of money you have after necessary expenses are covered) seem high, then bear in mind that this data excludes people who have others dependant on their income.
Money Making Motivation
Since motivation to make money is influenced by the lifestyle someone wants, we ran a survey in December 2020 asking 1,000 adults in the UK if their salary allowed them to lead a “comfortable lifestyle”.
36.7% of respondents said that their salary did not afford them a comfortable lifestyle, perhaps explaining the motivation many have to pursue a side-hustle.
Other motivational factors, such as the desire to “test the water” before starting a new business, may also explain why so many people pursue side hustles.