Tales From The ‘Side Hustle Generation’ : Meet The Millenials Working Multiple Jobs To Pay The Bills

By Camila Vallejo
The Hartford Courant

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to Bankrate almost 50% of Millenials rely on a side hustle to make ends meet. 23-year-old Sara Ponce is one of them. Ponce is an associate analyst for Moody’s Corp. but she is also channeling her inner creativity with “Pretty and Petite” a clothing brand she founded on the side to empower petite women.

The Hartford Courant

Millennials are determined to break the paycheck-to-paycheck living cycle, or so it seems, since many are crafting unique side gigs for additional income and are considered the “side hustle generation,” according to Bankrate.

Side hustles, or any extra source of income outside of a regular job, are gaining popularity regardless of age.

A 2018 Bankrate survey found that nearly 4 in 10 Americans have one. But millennials are drawn to side hustles more than other generations, almost 50% of millennials rely on a side hustle to make ends meet, according to Bankrate.

Six months after graduating from the University of Connecticut, a typical 40-hour work week for me includes a mix of temping for a local talent agency and bartending at Bowtie Cinemas. I, like many other millennials, didn’t graduate with my dream job secured and learned quickly that the job market is a competitive jungle requiring years of experience and technical skills.

Living in Connecticut, one of the 10 most expensive states to live in, I knew I had to find another job if I wanted to pay off my student loans. Whether it’s offering child care services, becoming a ride-share driver, starting a small business, writing for local publications on a freelance basis or offering a rare service, millennials across Connecticut are capitalizing on their talents and skills.

Having multiple jobs isn’t the glamorous life I imagined after college. Some days are longer than others and the paychecks vary by the week, but I’ve come to the conclusion that side hustles are a chance at a more promising future. Here’s why they’re becoming so popular among millennials in Connecticut:

Whether you pursued higher education or entered the workforce straight out of high school, you know what it’s like to have an entry level job that you’re not completely psyched about. Eventually your primary job starts to drag and you find yourself looking for more. For me, it’s about finding new ways to challenge myself, while doing something I enjoy.

Similarly, Sara Ponce was also looking for a way to channel her inner creativity when she founded Pretty and Petite, a clothing brand dedicated to empowering petite women.

The 23-year-old Oxford native is an associate analyst for Moody’s Corp. in New York, but her passion lies in helping others, Ponce says. At under 5 feet tall, she recalls hating her body growing up due to her inability to find clothes that fit. That inspired her to not only help other women find petite clothing in all styles, but, more importantly, love their body regardless of the size, she says.

“Short women grow up with a lot of people associating them with child-like characteristics and downplaying them because of their height,” she says. “So I want my brand to have a bold impact on women and help them feel important or ‘big’ in their own terms.”

While Pretty and Petite first started as an Instagram blog offering petite styling tips and clothing reviews, Ponce’s fan base soon requested a clothing line. With no fashion experience or background, Ponce found herself tasked with self-learning everything from clothing measurements to marketing. Despite the mistakes she’s made along the way, she says there’s nothing more rewarding than being a small business owner of a brand she always dreamed of.

“I like my job (at Moody’s Corp.), but I don’t see myself doing it long term,” Ponce says. “Pretty and Petite allows me to be more creative outside my 9-to-5 job and passionate about what I’m doing. Although both are draining because they require a lot of work, Pretty and Petite is something I look forward to doing no matter how tired I am at the end of the day.”

We’ve all heard it before when applying for jobs, and it raises the question of how we’re supposed to get that experience if no one gives us a chance. But instead of waiting for experience to magically knock on our doors, millennials are known for seeking out opportunities, whether it’s internships, fellowships or side hustles that can help us gain that required exposure.

“I have so many degrees and everyone just assumes that I can easily find a full-time job, but for the past summer I’ve applied to over 300 jobs.” says Castella Copeland, a UConn graduate and part-time educational leadership doctoral student at the University of Hartford.

The 24-year-old from Windsor creates a full-time income through six different side hustles that simultaneously build her resume. Copeland is a substitute teacher, an adjunct professor at Western Connecticut State University, a grant writer for the town of Vernon, a cheerleading coach at Windsor High School and an ice skating instructor in West Hartford and Simsbury.

“One job only pays $28 an hour, while another one pays $13 and the other pays $17,” Copeland says. “All my side gigs don’t pay enough so I end up stacking them to make a living. That’s just the reality when dealing with Connecticut’s cost of living.”

While her schedule may get hectic, she says time management and organization are key, and are key skills in any work environment.

“Many people look at me like, ‘You’re a professor? You’re only 24!’ Well yeah, I’m trying to get as many opportunities and education as possible,” she says. “If you want me to coach, I’ll coach. If you want me to teach from one of my many majors, I can do that, too. Anything to not only make money, but also get that experience.”

While side hustles can be much more than just another source of income, the extra money does provide a financial cushion at a time when job security is becoming a thing of the past.

As the six-month grace period for my students loans got closer, it was something I could no longer keep putting off. I was left with the decision of cutting out all additional spending from my budget, letting the debt grow indefinitely or getting a side hustle. I chose the latter, along with many other millennials.

“When I first started college I didn’t think about loans and I didn’t realize it was something I needed to pay back,” Ponce says. “I think you don’t expect it when you’re in college until you’re thrown into the fire and you’re a 22-year-old that has to pay off loans, pay rent, buy groceries, pay insurance all while still saving some kind of money. I wanted to tackle my loans, but not by straining myself even more with a job I didn’t like. I wanted it to be something I loved.”

In addition to paying off loans, if they have them, millennials are motivated to start saving early on, whether it’s for a rainy day fund or a goal later down the line. Having a healthy savings account is necessary to thrive in today’s economy, says Joey Borges, a 22-year-old Norwalk native and seasoned side hustler.

The Western Connecticut State University graduate not only paid his way through college, but transitioned into adulthood with $20,000 in savings thanks to all of his side hustles.

“When I was at school, I always had two to three jobs at a time,” he says. “So, for example, I would work at Michaels from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m., and then I would go to class. After class I was a call representative at Comcast from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. I started saving $100 dollars a month and slowly started gaining momentum. I’ve tried to keep it up since then.”

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