5 to 9’ers supplement their income

January 18, 2018

Call it a side hack or a part-time job. A recent study from PayPal Canada and Barraza & Associates reveals that 2.5 million Canadian (about nine percent of the adult population) have embraced a “5-to-9’er” lifestyle turning their passions into profitable side-businesses in addition to working a full-time job.

This community of makers, creators, freelancers and service providers has gained notable traction in Canada. In fact, half of Canadian 5-to-9’ers started their business in the last three years. In the past 12 months, this small but mighty community reported combined median revenues of $2.5 billion dollars.

“The rise of digitization, cloud-computing, smartphone apps and e-commerce enables people to work when and where they want, over and above regular 9-to-5 jobs,” said Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada.

Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are online savvy and keen to grow
Young and driven to evolve, Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are eager to turn their part-time endeavors into a primary source of income. The research shows that these emerging entrepreneurs employ e-commerce tools to reach their vision of success. Their e-commerce arsenal includes extensive use of online marketplaces and social media networks, demonstrating 5-to-9’ers deep appreciation of the digital economy. From age to attitude towards selling online, Canada’s enterprising 5-to-9’ers differ greatly from traditional Canadian small business owners.

  • More than half (54%) of 5-to-9’ers surveyed have seriously considered making their part-time business into a full-time career. More than a third (38%) are actively testing out the idea of becoming a full-time entrepreneur, using this time in their small business journey as a launch pad.
  • 5-to-9’ers are selling where Canadians are shopping – online. Over a third of 5-to-9’ers accept online payments for their goods and services leveraging a variety of e-commerce tools, like online marketplaces (59%) and social networking sites (52%). Turning the lens on traditional small businesses, less than a quarter accept payments online.
  • The 5-to-9’er community skews younger compared to traditional small business owners. In some cases, there is a 30-year differential. More than half of 5-to-9’ers (54%) are between the ages of 25 and 44 years-old, which could explain why they are more comfortable using digital technology.

Despite their drive and determination, there are some barriers holding this community back from transitioning to full-time small business owners. Limited access to start-up capital is the main (58%) hurdle identified by this group.

Women are paving the way, yet disparity persists
Women are dominating the 5-to-9’er landscape, representing 66% of the community in Canada. Not only are women propelling this trend, the study revealed that they are more seriously considering full-time small business ownership, compared to their male counterparts. While it is encouraging to see women taking a leading role in shaping the 5-to-9er landscape, female 5-to-9ers reported significantly less revenue than their male peers.

Notably, 12% of women started their side business while on maternity leave. Women may be leveraging maternity leave as an opportunity to explore becoming entrepreneurs while simultaneously bringing in additional household income.

Shelley Jones, is one example. As the founder and CEO of dignify, a Calgary-based small business online store that sells hand embroidered quilts and throws, Shelley highlights e-commerce as a catalyst for her success.

“After the birth of my second child, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to a traditional 9-to-5 work environment, so I used my maternity leave as a time to explore entrepreneurship on my own terms,” said Jones. “When you are busy raising two children and building a business there is no such thing as a set schedule – you have to work when you can whether that is at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. I simply would not have transitioned dignify from a passion project to a full-time business without an online-first approach.”

Overall, the research points to a growing, thriving community that has organically formed by leveraging tools like e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, freelance software and smartphone apps to find success. While small businesses tend to earn significant focus in Canada, the 5-to-9 community is a rising segment of Canada’s economy that has tremendous potential to succeed if nurtured.

Complete study findings and additional information can be found here.


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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.
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