Should I Participate in the "Gig Economy"?

iStockphoto.com |  zimmytws

iStockphoto.com | zimmytws

The use of the word “gig” to describe a short, finite job dates back a couple centuries. It’s nothing new, and covered a variety of professional engagements.

Fast forward to 2019. Today’s Gig Economy has valuation that obliterates the original concept of a gig being “any job, usually of short duration.” And this can incorporate virtually any discipline – musicians, graphic designers, project managers, you name it. And the ride sharing sector is a giant of the new Gig Economy, where millions of drivers worldwide contract with Uber and Lyft to take on additional work (BusinessofApps).

Far from being a reaction to economic or natural disasters (e.g. the Great Recession), the new Gig Economy is part of a larger paradigm shift from an ownership economy to a sharing economy, though where the needle will ultimately fall remains to be seen. That, combined with more traditional Gig workers (like being on-call with a catering company), has led to a substantial increase in the percentage of American workers who make money in the Gig Economy.

Here are some Pros and Cons of the new Gig Economy, and factors to consider when you determine whether or not it is right for you. For the most part, individuals who participate in the Gig Economy tend to fall into one of two categories - the first step is to determine which type you are:

Type #1: You want to make extra cash “on the side”, as either a supplement to your regular income, or to make ends meet if you are between full-time jobs.

Type #2: You want to make the Gig Economy your full-time, primary source of income, whether for a single company (e.g. Airbnb) or cobbling together many different Gig revenue streams (e.g. Uber, Lyft, and PostMates).

 While individual companies vary in their approach and culture, there are general Pros that can be attributed to Gig Economy work:

  • You decide your own terms. In the Gig Economy, you are an independent contractor, so you are your own boss. You decide your hours. You decide how much money you make. You can pop in and pop out at will.

  • Flexibility. One of the more interesting things about the new Gig Economy is the extent of its flexibility. You aren’t hired for a day, or a week, or a month. You are hired in perpetuity for as many hours/days/weeks you want. In addition, you are non-exclusive, so you can earn money elsewhere, even from competitors.

  • Try before you buy. Gigs offer you an easy way to try out a job before making a full commitment. You can give TaskRabbit a whirl on a Monday, drive for Uber on Tuesday, Lyft on Wednesday, make deliveries for PostMates on Thursday, and book a job through Fiverr on Friday, all just to see which one you like best.

  • It is a great way to earn extra money. You’re probably not going to corner the silver market and buy an island with your Gig earnings, but you can reinvest what you do earn in your professional (or personal) future. Whether extra money for school, travel, or your kid’s baseball gear, the opportunities are out there.

  • You can make your own work. Most jobs in the Gig Economy are accessible to everyone. While specifics vary, as long as you have the core competence to do the job, you should be able to work for a Gig Economy company.

  • Support your passion. The new Gig Economy isn’t just people who rent out their houses, Uber drivers, and Sharing App start-ups. Your extra money can come from your life long love of building furniture, or making jewelry, or whatever unique talent you are passionate about regardless of your daily work.

 

However, there are a few downsides that are important to consider.

  • Typically, Gig Economy work does not include benefits. With freedom comes responsibility, and, in this context, that responsibility is to pay all of your own operating and personal expenses. Benefits you may receive in a regular job, such as health, dental, vision, 401K, paid vacation, holidays, sick time, etc. are not typically offered in the Gig Economy. You are on your own. 

  • In Perpetuity, But Not Permanent. Gig Economy companies want you to work for them for as long as possible, but they also don’t care if you leave. Someone will pop in and make up the slack, so, even for Type #2 workers who want to Gig full-time, chances are you will not do one thing, the same way, for very long. Turnover is the nature of the business.

  • Low wages. The median income for the Top Nine New Gig Economy companies is $109/month – Airbnb has the highest, Getaround has the lowest. (Earnest.com). It makes sense that property owners are going to pull in more money than someone working part time for extra spending cash, but across the board working for a single Gig Economy company isn’t going to pay the bills.

  • Hidden costs. The devil is in the details. Just like any other business, your net is the gross minus taxes, minus operating expenses. Your operating expenses lower your net, so earnings from Gig Economy jobs may not be as robust as advertised. For example, you may earn $1000 driving for Lyft, but have $200 in gas expenses, and $100 in car maintenance expenses. Expenses may or may not be tax deductible. Read the fine print!

  • Many bosses. The flip side to being your own Gig Economy boss is that your customers take on that role – and there are many of them. You never know what type of person/boss you are going to get. You must have the emotional discipline to deal with many types of people, some challenging, some thankless.

  • Uncertainty. You are steering your own ship, but somebody else owns the water. Many of the major new Gig Economy companies are rapidly evolving, and as an independent contractor your professional development is not on the balance sheet. Your Gig job could change beyond recognition or vanish tomorrow.

  • Potential distraction from your full-time career. Any time you’re working on your Side Gig, you’re full engaged in that and not focused on “regular” career. That’s time you might otherwise spend submitting job applications or developing your career otherwise.


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.