The art of the modern Australian ‘side hustle’

21-year-old Charlton Gunn has been able to buy two new cars through using Car Next Door. Photo: In The Media PR/supplied.

A handful of new online platforms are earning more than $20,000 per year for Australians renting out their cars, wardrobes, storage spaces and other items. Youth editor Corin Shearston takes a closer look.

A burgeoning money-making initiative has been gathering momentum in Australia, through the implementation of several apps and websites that have gained urban appeal.

By allowing Australians – particularly young people – to rent out their clothing collections, parking spaces, cars, swimming pools and storage spaces to customers online, the technologies of The Volte, Parkhound, Car Next Door, Swimply, and Spacer have been earning more than $20,000 per year for some of their users.

In recent national research conducted by the career advisors of Year13’s YouthSense, which surveyed 1,500 people aged 15-24, it emerged that 42 per cent of Australian Gen Z-ers have their own ‘side hustle’, with another 31 per cent admitting their interest in doing the same thing.

Some of these young people are already using one or more of the apps or websites mentioned above, including 21-year old student Charlton Gunn.

By listing his 2012 Suzuki Alto on Car Next Door, a peer-to-peer car sharing platform, while studying a Bachelor in Law and Commerce, Gunn was able to buy two new cars with what he’s earned through the site. He proceeded to list these two new cars on the site, contributing to his growing fleet of three vehicles.

This is a trend that could be followed by more Australians, considering roughly 96 per cent of our cars stay idle most of the time, and many small cars require significant financial investment to function correctly.

Pictured in front of his garage-for-hire, sales manager Andrew Woods is currently paying rent while saving for global travel through using Parkhound and Spacer. Photo: In The Media PR/supplied.

Although Gunn mainly walks to university or studies at home, the three cars he’s now listed on Car Next Door earn him $21,600 per year ($600 a month each), helping him save for a trip around the world.

Online car renting is far less unpredictable than investing in cryptocurrency and stocks, which Gunn has also tried. “I’m focusing on car-sharing and I’m currently looking to add more cars to my fleet,” he states.

Research has also shown that car sharing is better for the environment, as opposed to citizens owning individual cars. Gunn has been able to achieve a comfortable earning arrangement with Car Next Door, stating: “I’m always looking for different side hustles while trying to make a living from spending a minimal amount of time on them, so I have more time for my studies.”

Meanwhile, other young Australians are turning to side hustles in order to enter the property market. The Australian property market is becoming increasingly inaccessible to young people, with the prospect of owning a house seeming like a distant dream for many, rather than an achievable reality.

For 25-year-old Brittany McQuade – who put down a 10 per cent deposit on a $660,000 home through sharing her designer wardrobe on dress sharing platform, The Volte – the side hustle is a modern success story. 

Brittany McQuade, a young master of The Volte. Photo: In The Media PR/supplied.

“I’ve been saving for years to buy a house and this has made it possible,” McQuade explains. “I’ve managed to put down a $66,000 deposit on a two-bedroom and two-bathroom townhouse and it’s currently being built.

“When I listed my first dress on The Volte in 2017, it was a complete fluke – I had no idea it would be so successful,” she continues. “I buy dresses in different sizes … and I love making a difference to how girls look and feel with my boutique dress collection.”

Websites like The Volte have essentially created online resource libraries for expensive things offered at affordable prices. In essence, these platforms are modern capitalist communities of cooperation, benefiting customers who can’t afford brand new items or resources while repaying those who own these resources.

Analysts currently believe that the most profitable of these new rental platforms is the swimming pool rental service Swimply, which is also available as an app. Owners of chlorinated and sea salt swimming pools across Sydney have been able to earn up to $30,000 per year by renting out their pools on a regular basis.

Is there a downside?

But not everyone is enamoured of this new business model. There is an argument that side hustle platforms are akin to corporate vultures, capitalising on financial insecurity and instability, particularly in the case of poorer users.

“The side hustle is sort of trying to sell unhappiness and instability as something a little more glamorous,” US journalist and author Alissa Quart told RN’s This Working Life in 2019.

“It’s when things like rideshare company Uber gets new drivers to join the ranks – new drivers like teachers and nurses – by saying, ‘These days anyone can have a side hustle,’ and then they’ll show them going from gig to gig.

“It has become this catchall solution for people who are trapped in a difficult economy.”

Whatever the truth, avenues for the expansion of side hustling appear to be many and varied.

Could rural Australians could rent out farming equipment in new online ways, while coastal folk rent out surfboards and certain Blue Mountains residents rent out rock climbing gear and wet suits? Would this impact local businesses, or lead to new adaptations in business models?

Whatever the case may be, it appears the side hustle is here to stay.

Corin Shearston is the youth editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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