The Rise of the Multi-Earner: How the Gig Economy is Changing

The Rise of the Multi-Earner: How the Gig Economy is Changing

They number more than 20m in the UK alone, and are responsible for a £30bn boost to the economy. Multi-Earners, Multi-Income Individuals, or Miis are a rapidly growing and increasingly influential part of the population.

What is a Multi-Earner?

A Multi-Earner doesn’t have one job, or one source of income; they have several. While having a side hustle is nothing new, it’s been treated with some scepticism in the past.

"But that is changing. Also known as Portfolioists from as early as the 1980s, themulti-earner era is now in full flight – including in the UK, with more than one in three adults earning an average of £780 per month (almost £10,000 per year) on top of their day jobs, according to a report from the Cebr and Utility Warehouse (UW)."

The evolution of the Gig Economy

If the pre-COVID decades saw the rise of the ‘Gig Economy’ – characterised by shorter-term contracts and mobility-related services like ride sharing – the pandemic led to further shifts. This includes the organisational rebalancing to work from home, and a decade’s worth of digital adoption in scarcely a year, according to Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

Also, as a result of trillions of dollars being pumped into the global economy by central banks, inflation has soared to levels not seen since the mid 1990s. With interest rates rising, household budgets have been squeezed to breaking point.

But it has also presented opportunities, especially for people willing to explore other ways to generate an income. The rise of side hustles has been rapid, with over two thirds (69%) of new Miis starting out because of rising household bills and other expenses, says the Cebr report. A further 15% claim that fears of a looming recession encouraged them to look for ways to diversify their income.

Multi-Earning strategies and tactics

Data shows that while plugging a hole in household finances has been a catalyst more recently, the motivations historically for becoming a Multi-Earner are more nuanced. Two things illustrate this point. First, those who earn more from their primary income are also more likely to have multiple sources of funds. Second, the segment who earns the most are also the youngest, according to a report last year from Morgan Stanley – although that figure is skewed by content creators on digital platforms like YouTube and Tiktok. The Inland Revenue Service says the average millionaire in the US has not several, but six ways to make a passive income.

The ways for generating extra earnings from Miis are particularly varied, and can be classified broadly as 'X-to-Earn'; where X can be one of nine verticals, including rent, invest, gig, deliver, create, sell or even play. It often starts by taking a look at each and prioritising according to experience, talent and passion.

For example, those who spend a lot of time online, or enjoy learning about digital technology, might create a website to market their expertise, or use freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork to attract potential projects. The Create-to-Earn segment covers both content creation that advertising can be sold against, or items made and sold via sites like Etsy. From Airbnb to Uber, from selling stock photos to shovelling snow, there are many avenues to pursue, as any internet search will show.

The future of work: Multi-Earning

According to Morgan Stanley, in the emerging landscape side hustles – or making money from a hobby or passion project – is a trend likely to accelerate, assisted by platforms that reach large or niche audiences at low cost, unlike having to start a business from scratch.

By 2025, it is estimated that almost one in two adults (47%) will have earned an extra income. That’s a more than four-fold increase from 2017, when just 10% did.

Employers too will need to adjust, supporting staff with multiple incomes by facilitating increasingly efficient and flexible forms of working. As workers have more options to earn than before, their bargaining position might strengthen, driving up wages for permanent roles in order to maintain appeal.

That might help change the mind of some of the 40% of people across X-to-Earn categories in the US and the UK who hope to leave their full-time jobs in the next six months to pursue their Mii careers.