The gig economy describes a large swath of freelance, contract and temporary workers who provide services on a short-term basis instead of having a typical salaried job. In a gig economy, companies hire temps, freelancers or independent contractors rather than full-time employees.
Like the gigs themselves, the definition continues to evolve. The term includes those who pursue positions as full-time independent contractors and can also refer to those who take on temporary and freelance roles as side jobs in addition to their full-time employment.
For example, say you’re tired of the hectic morning rush to get the kids out the door before the long commute to your 9-to-5. As a gig worker, you could start your day as a dog walker straight from the bus stop, be back home in plenty of time for soccer practice, and even end the evening delivering food or groceries after bedtime.
While the gig economy is rising in popularity, it certainly isn’t a newcomer to the employment scene (although you didn’t see too many social media influencer gigs back in the day). Let’s break down what the gig economy is now and how it’s impacting the workforce.
What led to the growth of the gig economy?
People have been side-hustling since long before we could do the hustle. In fact, short-term and side jobs have been here since the advent of employment. However, the pandemic led an increasing number of people to seek work-from-home roles and take on freelance, contract and temporary jobs as they sought flexibility or supplementary income.
Not only did the pandemic turn the traditional 9-to-5 on its head, but it also put a spotlight on gig work. An estimated 16% of Americans have now earned money as a gig worker, according to Pew Research Center.1
Flexibility is the top-cited reason for leaving behind the traditional stability of full-time employment, especially among women. Almost all women (97%) surveyed by Indeed cite flexibility as the driving factor behind their decision to leave full-time work. More than half (54%) indicate burnout played a role in their decision to pursue gig work.2
Who works in the gig economy?
It’s no secret that the pandemic created a sea change in the way people work. Even full-time employees shifted out of the corporate cubicle and into the home office — some of them permanently. That said, people have been joining the gig economy in increasing numbers since before the pandemic. Some of the biggest reasons people gravitate to gig work are:
- More freedom and flexibility
- More time to pursue other interests, like travel and education, or to care for family
- Additional income to supplement an existing job
- More opportunities to expand options, skills and experience
Gig workers encompass a broad demographic in the workforce, all of whom have different motivations. Here are some examples of occupations that can be considered gig economy jobs:
- Tasker (e.g., TaskRabbit)
- Deliverers or couriers (e.g., DoorDash, Instacart)
- Drivers (e.g., truck, taxi, Uber/Lyft)
- Accountants and finance professionals
- Journalists, writers and editors
- Computer programmers and software engineers
Pros and cons of the gig economy
There are pros and cons for small-business employers who work with freelancers, temps and independent contractors. While these employers may have access to a wider talent pool, they may not be able to predict when or how often that talent will be available for work. They may also find talented professionals for work, only to lose them to another gig later on. However, employers can save on Social Security taxes, benefits and office space when working with freelancers.
Likewise, for those who do gig work, there are a number of benefits and drawbacks to consider. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Gig work offers quite a few benefits that make it attractive to an increasing percentage of the population. They include:
- Ability to choose when, where and how often you work
- Ability (in many cases) to work remotely
- Decrease in the stress, overwhelm and burnout that often accompany full-time employment
- Increased variety of work
- More freedom and flexibility to care for children and family
- More time to focus on priorities
- Improved work-life balance
When it comes to making your own way, or at least maintaining a steady side hustle, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:
- You have to find your own work
- You will most likely not be compensated for equipment required to do the job
- You’ll have to track payments, generate invoices and manage your own finances and taxes — you are running a business
- You won’t have the benefits that come with a traditional full-time role, such as health care and retirement plans
- The frequency of work is often unpredictable; depending on the type of work you do and whether or not you are entering into contracts with your clients, you may need to rely on a series of one-off gigs or continually seek new projects
- With unpredictable work comes an unpredictable stream of income; you may need to build up a client base and otherwise plan so you can ensure you have a backup plan should work slow down
How to make money in the gig economy
Finding ways to earn money can depend on your skillset (like editing or illustration), resources at hand (like a car or tools) and inclinations (what you’re interested in). That said, there are plenty of online platforms where you can find clients and jobs.
Do you enjoy exploring your environment? Drive for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, sign up to work for on-demand labor providers like TaskRabbit or delivery platforms such as DoorDash or Postmates and you never know where your day will take you.
If you’re more energized by creative pursuits, consider putting your artistic skills to work with Saatchi Art, Artfinder or Etsy. Writers and editors, you could find a gig with a service like Reedsy. And musicians, check out GigSalad or ReverbNation.
Or, if you’d rather let out your inner caregiver, try sites like Care.com for babysitting or senior care. If furry friends are more your speed, you can pet sit through platforms such as Wag! or Rover.
According to Monster.com,3 the top-paying gig jobs are:
- Selling/renting property (median monthly income: $500)
- Ridesharing (median monthly income: $350)
- Fitness training/coaching (median monthly income: $200)
Whether or not you choose to sign up for an existing gig service, there are additional ways you can boost your success, like advertising locally. Sites like Nextdoor and ZIP code-specific newsletters where people go to find hyper-local news can be a great way to get the word out on your services. Additionally, establishing an online portfolio through a website where people can view your work and references can lend legitimacy and reinforce your value to the community.
It also pays to be prepared, so it’s good to understand how much you expect to make per hour or gig. From there, you can figure out how many gigs you will need to take on or how many hours you will need to work per week to meet your goals.
Insurance as flexible as your gig work
The gig economy has changed how, when and where people work. At Thimble, we believe business insurance should also fit your schedule and needs. That’s why small business insurance through Thimble is affordable, flexible and immediate.
With Thimble’s pay-as-you-work structure, gig workers pay for coverage only when they need it. Choose by the job, month, or year, and we’ll ensure that you’re covered when you’re on the job. Download the Thimble app or click, “Get a Quote” to find out more. Then, answer a few questions and you can be covered for your next gig.