The gig economy is a labor market in which temporary, flexible jobs — via freelancing and short-term contracts — are commonplace. Many times, gig workers are independent contractors, which are legally different than employees, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
So, just how common are gig jobs? In a May 2017 survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 1.6 million electronically mediated workers, those who obtain short jobs or tasks through websites or mobile apps, making up about 1 percent of total employment. It’s worth noting that the government agency manually re-coded survey responses to reflect a more accurate depiction of gig workers, though it said there are still limitations to that data.
Other surveys show the percentage to be slightly higher. McKinsey Global Institute, for example, estimates that nearly 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population in the U.S. and Europe engage in some form of independent contracting. And, one firm forecasts that, by 2020, the percentage will grow to 40 percent.
Thinking that’s all great, but still not sure what kind of work falls under a gig job? What first comes to mind is the popular ride-sharing apps, Uber and Lyft, which allow drivers who are independent contractors to turn on the app whenever they want and start picking up customers.
You’ve probably registered that both Uber and Lyft are dependent on mobile apps. And, while the gig economy isn’t necessarily defined by mobile apps, many companies have built successful businesses using them. Think Postmates, Uber Eats and Bite Squad, all of which deliver food from your favorite restaurants to your doorstep. Or even TaskRabbit or Handy, both apps for odd jobs, like furniture assembly or cleaning.
The Benefits of the Gig Economy for Workers
The main draw of a gig job is, of course, the freedom of it all. You can set your own hours and location. This is great for gig workers who are looking to supplement income, as they can easily work around other schedules, whether it’s a full-time job, freelance jobs or even family schedules. Take, for example, a retiree who wants to add monthly income and fill some time. Or, a freelance photographer, who isn’t quite established yet and needs extra income to make ends meet.
With the proliferation of gig jobs, workers can also find an assortment of tasks from delivering packages for Amazon Flexto pet sitting with the company Rover.
The Downside for Gig Workers
Before you get the idea that the gig economy is all rainbows and unicorns, you might want to think twice about potential challenges. The biggest comes with being an independent contractor instead of an “employee.”
For one, unlike the typical eight-hours-a-day job that comes with benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan opt-in, these contracting jobs have no benefits or labor protections. Besides a health plan and a 401K, this could affect such benefits as workers’ compensation if you get injured on the job, unemployment insurance and even family leave.
It may also be good to note that employers typically take out state and federal taxes per paycheck for their employees, but, if you’re an independent contractor, you’ll be left to fend for yourself in terms of taxes. You’ll still have to pay federal income tax, along with Social Security and Medicare taxes; you’ll just be doing so either quarterly or when you file your tax return.
If you’re planning on using these apps alongside a full-time job, you may not worry about these so much. But, if you’re using them to fully supplant a job, just know that you’ll have to do things, like enroll for health insurance or plan for paying taxes on your own. And, while setting your own hours may look really enticing, the other parts of being your own boss can be a little demanding.
Another consideration is safety.
You’ve probably heard the news stories of run-ins with Uber drivers
. You won’t really know what you’re walking into, but there are certain things you can do to keep yourself protected.
As an example, if you’re driving for a ride-sharing space, should something happen during the ride, you can always end the ride at any time. Should the event escalate to a safety hazard, call 911. Other gig economy apps like Rover, where you can find a dog sitter, allow you to schedule an in-person meet and greet before you book the sitter.
And, be sure to read through the preferred company’s safety guidelines before signing on so you know what you’re getting into.
How to Become A Gig Worker
Remember that many gig jobs are reliant on technology. So, whether you’re looking for a summer job or for something to do in your spare time, the first step to diving into the gig economy is to download the mobile apps of any of the types of jobs in which you’re interested. The other apps are similar to the ride-sharing ones: hop onto your Kinetic Internet, sign in to whichever app and work when you want. Sounds simple, right?
If you’re ready to get started, take a look at this list of 50 of the best gig economy apps, and download the ones you’re most interested in with your high-speed Internet. Try a few out, and see which is the best fit for you!