Jorgia Brown, 28, is a full-time information technology project coordinator but after hours and weekends, she can often be found in a winery helping a couple tie the knot at their wedding. She is also a marriage celebrant at her successful Australian business ‘Dare to Love’.
Brown initially worked in a media and communications team but moved out of this because she loved the technology side of her work. She values her IT role, but she still likes being creative. “Information technology is quite consuming, rigid in its processes, and has a lot of frameworks. I have a communication in journalism background and love to write, so I need some sort of creative outlet,” she explains.
Ms Brown enjoys weddings and finds it emotionally fulfilling. The job comes with its fair share of laughs. She recalls a moment at an intimate outdoor wedding.
“The bride forgets to grab the vows off the kitchen bench before she walks out the door. She also realises halfway walking down the aisle she’s forgotten to grab her bouquet,” she laughs.
As a young Australian with an idea for a small business, Brown is not alone. Commonwealth Bank of Australia research published earlier this year has found the number of business transaction accounts opening during the last six months has surged, and young people drive this growth. The pandemic has seen young Australians showing an entrepreneurial spirit by opening small businesses and starting side hustles.
CBA general manager in small business banking Philip McVeigh says millennials, born between 1981 to 1996, make up more than half of new business account holders. One in 10 are gen Z, born from 1997.
“With the pandemic sparking significant change and economic uncertainty, millennials have taken the opportunity to turn their business ideas into reality,” McVeigh says.
This same research shows the amount of young people running a side hustle has increased 40 per cent the past year.
“More people have newfound flexibility to work from home and individuals can save time by avoiding the commute – choosing to build a side hustle to create an additional source of income,” McVeigh explains.
According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2019, more than 80 per cent of gen Z and millennials are considering joining the gig economy, indicating a preference for freelance or contract work over traditional full-time jobs.
Social researcher Claire Madden specialises in changing societal trends, demographics and is interested in Gen Z. She is the author of ‘Hello Gen Z: Engaging the Generation of Post-Millennials’.
Madden says generation Z finds it easy to side hustle. Growing up with technology, they are comfortable using online platforms to find business opportunities or run a business through having lots of followers, on Instagram, for example, and using their skills.
“If they know how to do make-up, they post videos or images of this work on YouTube and Instagram to promote this work and also gain work,” she says.
“Others are sponsored by brands to post photos using a certain product and become influencers on whatever platform they use. If they have graphic design skills, they use freelance platforms like Fiverr to make their services available globally. They pick up work from around the world and deliver this work from wherever they are.”
Some also use marketplace platforms like Depop to sell vintage clothes in their cupboards to buyers.
Curtin University lecturer and researcher Dr Louis Geneste specialises in entrepreneurship, innovation, and small business. He explains entrepreneurship is when someone wants to create or develop a new business idea, or work on an existing idea and turn it into something of commercial value that has potential to grow.
He says there is a perception young people engage more in entrepreneurship now than before, but it is because they are more aware of the possibility of creating a business. Young people use social media to learn about businesses and make their own business known. They have access to resources which were unavailable 20 years ago, that help develop an entrepreneurial mindset and start a business,
“There’s start-up business weekends and co-working sections that allow people to work on a new business and network with others going through the same thing so they learn from each other,” he says.
“Schools are engaging students to become entrepreneurial. Government and university programs encourage people to think entrepreneurially. I run a unit called business innovation lab that gives students the tools and skills to start a business.”
When young people gain enough experience in their industry, they recognise business opportunities and start their own.
“We have entrepreneurs sharing their stories with our students. They have a business idea that doesn’t align with the direction of the company they work for, so they decide to branch out and set-up their own business,” he says.
After starting her business, Brown built a network of clients, and peers to learn from. She has got to know celebrants and rely on their overflow for business. When celebrants are unavailable on certain dates, they pass the booking on to her, or post on Facebook celebrant groups asking if anyone can cover. She says she is free and hopes they get in touch. Brown has created a website and Instagram account to advertise her business. Now most of her clients find her through her social media, website or word of mouth and she does not rely as heavily on celebrants’ business overflow or Facebook groups.
Juggling two roles, she sets limits around the amount of business she takes on. She books 20 to 25 weddings each season so she can give clients ‘110 per cent’ and still have energy for her IT role.
“I tell my clients, ‘ignore the timestamp on the email I’m sending you because my brain works best at 10 o’clock at night’. That’s when it switches back on, so I’ll start sending emails,” she laughs.
Brown is excited to grow her business. She likes autonomy and having a plan B. She hopes to have her own wedding venue, do elopement packages and find a business partner.
“I want to be my own boss. One day I just hope I can be. Financial independence is part of why I do this as well, so I can support myself,” she says.
The University of Western Australia lecturer and researcher Dr Caleb Goods specialises in the future of work and gig economy.
Goods says gig workers receive hourly pay rates for one-off jobs like driving Uber or Rideshare, delivering food or assembling Ikea furniture through Airtasker. He says young people are attracted to this kind of work because of flexibility and autonomy.
“You have a sense of power by being your own boss, having power over your work hours and the projects or tasks you do. Often it fits around your studies, or if you’re working part-time and want to pursue freelance work as a side project to potentially start your own business full-time,” he says.
However, freedom, flexibility and control are limited, particularly if used as a primary income source.
“If you want to earn enough money to maintain your life, you find people say yes to everything, which means you don’t have as much time and autonomy as perhaps you thought. It is also difficult finding times and schedules that you can work and also fits with clients’ demands or expectations,” Dr Goods says.
Platforms like Airtasker or TaskRabbit control pay rates and prioritise certain individuals, making other users hard to find on those platforms. It is also difficult for individuals to negotiate with multi-national platforms.
Long-term freelancers and contractors must pay their own superannuation, tax and occupational health and safety insurance.
“Once economic realisation around this work becomes more understood, peoples’ attraction to doing it could diminish. [Gig economy] work won’t disappear, but I doubt it’ll become the dominant way in which we work,” Goods says.
Madden says young people who use traditional jobs to pick up skills for career progression and who are also entrepreneurial by finding mentors are well positioned. She says whatever industry young people are interested in, whether that is creative, having someone ahead in the industry can help open doors and guide and shape young generations.
Brown, for one, is glad she has started a side-hustle.
“For myself, I know with my journey when I started studying, I didn’t tell anyone because I had this fear of failure. People would say ‘you’re so young, that’s weird to be a celebrant.’ Now I look back and I have people knocking down the door and I’m not available! I think, why did I fear that? It’s okay to take the risk, and it’s also okay to fail as that’s when you learn the most about what you can achieve.”