The boom in self-employment and side hustles could transform the entire economy

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Side hustles are the next big thing

Many desks with CEO nameplates

iStock; Rebecca Zisser/Insider

We’re in the middle of a self-employment and side-hustle boom.

For decades the US had been in an entrepreneurial slump. Outside of Silicon Valley, few were striking out on their own. And once the pandemic hit, economists worried it would further harm business creation.

But as our senior correspondent Aki Ito writes, something surprising happened instead. Applications for new businesses began to soar — as did side hustles. On Etsy, sales surged by almost 25% in 2021. And over the past two years, registration on the freelancing platform Fiverr more than doubled.

“The numbers are remarkable,” one economist told Aki. “People see that there are market opportunities out there, given the new normal we’re headed towards.”

Here, Aki breaks down what’s going on — and why this has the potential to create jobs, lower prices, and drive innovation.

What made you start looking into this?

My editor had noticed there seemed to be a lot of interest about online side hustles recently, and I also knew there was a very surprising spike in new business applications during the pandemic. We thought there was room for a big story that combined these two observations, explaining the rise in both full-time and part-time entrepreneurship, and why that was such a big deal for the future of the economy.

How could this self-employment boom affect the US economy?

New businesses do all kinds of great things for the economy — everything from spurring innovation to creating lots of jobs to injecting more competition into the marketplace. These are the things that make an economy stronger in the long run, which is why this recent boom is so exciting. If it continues, it really could put the US economy on a permanently better path.

What’s one of the most interesting side hustles you came across?

One person I spoke to for my story was Melissa Ottenbreit, and when her employer cut her pay early in the pandemic, the first side hustle she turned to was dropshipping. Early on, it was made out to be this easy, super-lucrative thing — even though in reality it involves razor-thin profit margins for the vast majority of people. 

Melissa tried it for a while but decided she was bleeding too much money and turned to a new side hustle of résumé coaching. Résumé coaching isn’t sexy or new the way that dropshipping is, but it’s been a much more consistent source of secondary income for Melissa.

Read the full story here:

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Elon Musk is beefing with Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg and Elon Musk.

PATRICK PLEUL/Getty Images; Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Vicky Leta/Insider

Over the past few years, Elon Musk has been feuding with Pete Buttigieg, the most powerful transportation official in the country — and the man who regulates Tesla and SpaceX — over everything from tax credits for electric vehicles to the safety of driverless cars. 

But given Musk’s bid to take over Twitter, their beef is ironic: He is in the position to propose the $44 billion acquisition only because of the billions his companies have received in government largesse. So why is he going after the man who holds the greatest sway over his primary business?

Read the full story here:

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Meet Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming chief

Photo of JB Perrette in front of TV screens


JB Perrette, a relatively unknown NBC exec who helped launch


, wants to combine


and Discovery on a single platform. But the high-stakes move comes just after the company pulled the plug on its CNN


service, a decision that will eliminate hundreds of jobs.

Insider spoke with six executives who’ve worked with or done business with Perrette about his decision-making and leadership style. They broke down how he might tackle the challenges ahead.

Read the full story here:

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Big Law’s “invisible middle” feels left behind

A hand reaching for money while another hand pulls the money away

iStock; Rebecca Zisser/Insider

As major law firms distribute profits to partners after a busy 2021, they’re under increasing pressure to pay their rainmakers a bigger slice — but that means less is left over for partners lower in the ranks.

Insider spoke with 23 current and former law-firm partners, associates, and recruiters about the widening gap in compensation, which some said has created rifts in firm culture and stymied the growth of junior lawyers. 

Read the full story here:

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