What Is The Gig Economy?

What is work? Many may imagine a corporate office job. Others think of more hands-on business. In recent times, the gig economy came along with other shifts in the wider economy, slowly changing how we view work as a whole. Many millennials are involved in this new way to look at work and livelihood.

It's The Economy, Man

To understand what the gig economy is, we must first learn what it aims to replace. A gig is a temporary job or side work. A job, on the other hand, is comparatively more permanent. Our mainstream workforce consists of salaried workers with corporate benefits. Some also opt to start their own businesses. There’s nothing wrong with a corporate job, however. Because of the air of recession, unemployment, the stifling pressure of those jobs and other such factors besides, people are looking for alternative ways to make money, live, and thrive. Such alternate ways have grown to become economies of their own: the gig economy, the gifting economy, the barter economy, and the sharing economy, among others. None of these economies are truly new; they’ve always existed in one form or another. However, with the advent of ever increasing mobile technology more and more people are able to bring work back home or with them anywhere they go. The new technologies enabled smartphones and devices that are able to facilitate payment, track locations, perform calculations, capture, send and receive information, and perform other work-based activities that was simply impossible to do remotely a decade ago.

So What Is It?

In a gig economy, companies have a contract with independent contractors for short-term work called a gig. Companies often use some kind of technological platform to facilitate the gigs for contractors. A popular example of gig work is driving for the Uber app. Uber does not hire employees like taxi companies do; contractors have their own cars and their own time, and contractors are paid through the app. Should one participate in the gig economy? There are many pros and cons to do so. Consider them well before thinking of undertaking one. Gig economy benefits are tied to mobility and flexibility of the idea. Gig workers are independent contractors and freelancers. Much gig work is light enough that one can have a full time job with an on-demand, part-time, gig work on the side. One can work almost anywhere and anytime, often at the worker’s behest. It is a consistent source of extra money. It gives a taste of freedom and independence from the rat race, to an extent. As Unbound alumni, we aren’t strangers to this phenomenon of being able to work anywhere in the context of studying. However, gig work has its drawbacks. There is often little to no safety net. Gig workers are not (yet) considered protected employees, though upcoming legislation may change that. In other words, there are often no vacations, no paid breaks, no maternity leave, no healthcare, and no other benefits traditional employees have. Gig work often does not pay that well. It is a consistent source of extra money, but often not a consistent source of income. When one decides to go into full-time gig work, one often expects a wage lower than their counterparts. There is also often no path to promotion and advancement like mainstream jobs do. If you’re still interested in doing gig work, how does one start? All gig work for companies are considered self-employment. Which means one either needs to incorporate their own business entity or work as an individual or sole proprietor. Prepare to learn how to set aside taxes, as companies will not withhold them for you.

Getting a Gig (App)

Apply then on the many apps companies release for gig work:

Uber and Lyft are the most popular taxi driving and car sharing gig apps. Many people work as both Uber and Lyft drivers. If you have a qualified automobile and a driver’s license, by all means try it. If you don’t like the idea of transporting strangers in your car, how about transporting food instead? DoorDash, GrubHub, PostMates, and UberEats are some of the most popular food delivery apps out there. Love to do graphic design? Consider working gigs for DesignCrowd, Gigbucks, and Crowdspring. Both platforms cater to designers, and design work includes logos, T-shirts, merchandise, websites, flyers, and brochures. For other miscellaneous gigs and general freelancing work in addition to design, Fiverr, Microworkers, Upwork, Work Market, Guru, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour are good places to try your hand in. I recommend starting with Fiverr for a quick and easy way to offer gigs for cheap before graduating to the other platforms. These types of platforms offer writing, consulting, creative gigs, and others. Alternatively, companies can offer gigs without an app platform. It’s basically working as a freelancer for businesses rather than being an employee. Examples of gig work for businesses are doing marketing ad campaigns on social media for clients, where one is not hired but is paid per campaign. Find what you are good at and sell your skills to businesses for temporary work. One should scour Craigslist and like websites for these types of gigs if unoffered in the freelance platforms. Or you can pitch said gig work to a business you want to work with. Whatever you may do, whether sticking with your current job, going into gig work part-time, or participating in the gig economy full-time, be Unbound. Written by Samuel Garcia

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