Gone are the days when you could get a job right out of high school and be set until you retire, and Millennials and Gen Zers know the struggle that insecure work brings. Enter “polywork”: a new buzzword for a familiar working arrangement.
It boils down to working multiple part-time jobs as a way to earn a living, as opposed to working one full-time job for the rest of your life. The term comes from the site Polywork, a site not unlike Fiverr and Upwork, which promotes the gig economy as the ideal for millennial workers. With the added perk of exclusivity, of course. However, the site itself, a Tumblr dashboard-Twitter-Yak (remember Yak? Ah, Yak, my love) hybrid leaves much to be desired.
When I first read the term polywork, I was skeptical. I thought it meant working multiple jobs for employers, and being beholden to the constant grind of trading time for money. You know, the thing that Americans have to do just to survive. It’s also something Australians will have to do more in the coming decades because of constant wage stagnation and increasing price inflation. However, when I researched it, I realised… it’s exactly what I’m doing.
I am not interested in being an employee. Freelancer, contractor, “media guy,” sure. But not an employee. I’ve worked too many jobs for low wages that have crushed my spirit to ever consider going back. And as evidenced by polywork, many of my fellow Millennials and older Gen Zers feel the same. Why should we bust our butts working for companies who see us as expendable? Why should we pour 40+ hours a week into a company that pays us $20-30 an hour when this article, which is taking up to two hours of my time to write and research, will earn me almost $200?
YouTuber Mike Vestil devotes his channel to teaching entrepreneurs how to make upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars a day doing unconventional and easy work online. If you want to sell items on eBay or earn from affiliate marketing, Google, YouTube and drop shipping, check out his channel. Another YouTuber to follow is BlackHustlersClub, whose flexes are as impressive as his creativity.
The people I prefer to learn from are Instagram and TikTok users who run their own businesses. 17-year-old Charlise runs , a popular crocheter whose creations, after only a year of crocheting, rival even the most experienced of fibre artists. Chronically ill and disabled, Charlise started her crochet business as a way to pass the time in hospital. She now has almost 50,000 followers on Instagram and her product restocks sell out in minutes. Another crocheter, Kaylee, makes her living the same way. I’ve watched her grow from making custom halter tops to selling out every plushie restock within an hour. She and Charlise inspire me in that LGBTQ and disabled people like me can work towards something with their own hands and make a living doing something they love.
To me, being an entrepreneur means I can set my own hours, spend time on projects I love, and work for a boss I actually like (myself). Everyone who owns their own business is an entrepreneur. Every actor, artist, physical trainer, Etsy store owner, freelancer on Fiverr, and yes, Polyworker, owns their own fate. Why wouldn’t I want that?
So, polywork: yay or nay? I would say it depends on what you prefer. If you’re happy working in a lab, office or a hospital for the rest of your life, you do you, boo, and I respect you for it. If you have a hobby you’re looking to turn into a side hustle (my mumsy and I started our business because we love crocheting and knitting THAT much), or you find one job too constricting, then yes, absolutely. Start that business. Direct that musical. Whittle those ornaments. Provide that service that you know you’re good at. The world needs more entrepreneurs and less good little worker robots who trade time for money. I can definitely say you won’t regret spending more time on the things you love, and in the immortal words of Heath Ledger’s Joker: if you’re good at something, never do it for free.
Lysa Aubigney is a freelance writer and polyworker. Lysa’s pronouns are they/them.