Work-life balance: Emma White took redundancy and is now teaching yoga
With lockdowns leaving millions unable to commute or socialise, rising numbers are discovering they have enough new spare time to start a ‘side hustle’.
In many cases, this is an opportunity to make money from a hobby – as well as bringing in some much-needed extra cash at a time when many incomes are reaching breaking point.
Rosie Pope, 31, from Godalming in Surrey, works full-time as an environmental consultant, but set up her side hustle making silk hair scrunchies in April during the first lockdown.
‘I started making them for my wedding day, beginning with an ivory satin one for myself, then some for my bridesmaids. Then I just didn’t stop making them,’ says Rosie. ‘I had a lot more time due to working from home and not being able to socialise. I started giving them away to friends and family and then began selling them on online craft marketplace Etsy.’
Rosie now has a thriving Etsy business – SilkPie Scrunchies – and plans to use her earnings to boost savings and redecorate her home.
‘I’m making more money selling scrunchies than I thought, but the main joy is that I love making them,’ she says. ‘It’s so different from my day job – it is far more creative and tactile.’
Recent research by business insurance provider Superscript found that three in ten side hustles were started during the first lockdown.
Half of those who responded said they aimed to earn more disposable income. Others wanted to earn money while on furlough, to replace lost household income, or to spend time doing something they love.
Side hustlers earn £4,500 a year on average – £6,500 in London – and almost a quarter expect to go fulltime with their business in the future. Typical is Emma White, 29, who had already signed up to a yoga teaching course when she was furloughed from her travel consultant job in April.
‘I wasn’t 100 per cent happy in my job and felt it was time for a change,’ she says. ‘I discovered yoga at my university rowing club and over recent years had got back into it.’ Emma started teaching yoga in her spare time when she went back to work after lockdown, until she was eventually offered voluntary redundancy and jumped at the chance.
‘It felt like it was now or never and I’m now doing something I’m so excited about,’ she says. Her first clients were friends and family, but Emma is now expanding her classes – available at roottorise.co.uk to boat clubs, former travel colleagues, her lawyer husband’s colleagues and word is spreading rapidly. ‘Hopefully one day I’ll be able to teach from a studio,’ says Emma.
Former photographer Matt Dowling founded support network and jobs website The Freelancer Club five years ago to help Britain’s freelance community find work and improve their skills.
The site now has more than 42,000 members and, says Matt, activity has increased substantially due to the pandemic. ‘More people are trying to generate a second income as they’re unsure about the future,’ he says. ‘Many will turn their side hustle projects into full-time jobs while others will just dip their toe in the water and return to their usual jobs if they can once things get back to normal.’
Since lockdown, much of Matt’s work with The Freelancer Club has been helping people to work remotely who might not have thought it was possible, such as photographers and make-up artists. He advises people contemplating a side project to work on their communication skills. ‘If you’re doing a full-time job and also something on the side, you want to make sure you put as much effort into communicating with your clients as you do on the job itself,’ he says.
While side hustling might be growing due to Covid, it is not new – something which Sophia Butler can attest to. By day, Sophia is a fulltime IT staffer for BT, working on SIM cards and mobile phones. But in the evenings and weekends she runs Sugar Tea Room, a mobile tea room she set up six years ago.
‘Initially, I wanted to earn some extra money and that was the only thing I could think of doing because I enjoy baking,’ says Sophia, 39, from Wood Green in North London.
‘I did a cake decorating course in the evenings and then started selling at food markets and festivals before moving into parties and mobile afternoon teas. During the first lockdown, business went completely crazy and May was the busiest month I’d ever had.’
Sophia baked cakes in the evening and delivered her signature afternoon teas – finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and mini cakes – directly to people’s houses.
The jump in business caused its own problems though, particularly in managing online sales. ‘Before, I used to invoice people,’ she says. ‘Now, I would advise people starting up to invest in a website that can take payments and grow with your business.’
Sophia is saving all the money she doesn’t invest in the business to buy a bigger house for herself, husband and their two young children.
Online platforms mean people can find customers and side projects all around the world.
Geoff Cook, who lives in New York, found work through Londonbased jobs platform Podium. The website connects disabled freelancers with flexible work.
Geoff, 39, used to make his living working for an independent jewellery shop near his home. ‘I knew I needed to look further afield for supplementary income during Covid,’ he says.
‘I quickly gained some work through Podium and I’ve now got work across digital marketing, graphic design and even as an accessibility partner with Chelsea Football Club. All four companies I’ve connected with have been a breath of fresh air – as well as a lifeline providing an income boost.’