Love it or hate it, side hustling is a new way of life. For the last few years, industry chatter around the “gig economy” has been building — that working short-term jobs instead of a traditional 9 to 5 can become your full-time career and transform how you pay bills.
Some believe that gigs are not a full-time job, which is actually not true in most cases. Gig economy jobs tend to involve working more hours than 9 to 5 corporate jobs. However, some people prefer the lifestyle that the gig economy can afford them.
So what exactly is this gig economy, is it sustainable, and what does it mean in terms of your career? Find out the answers to these questions and more by reading further.
Want to get out of your part-time job, but you're afraid of doing so with no degree? Find out careers you can go into without a college degree.
What is the Gig Economy?
Does the thought of sitting behind a desk, eight hours per day, 5 or more days per week, sound less than ideal to you? You wouldn't be alone. While some love the consistency, others dislike the routine. Delving deeper into the gig economy can offer a solution to those wanting hours outside of a standard 9 to 5 job.
The definition of gig economy is “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to a full-time job.” It’s a culture being embraced by thousands upon thousands of people in almost every demographic. It also isn't new; freelancers have been considered a part of the gig economy for decades.
This trend of having many small, part-time jobs, instead of 40 hours a week in a single place of employment has indeed been growing in certain industries.
How Does a Gig Economy Work?
In theory, a gig economy allows you the option of complete control over your work schedule. Instead of working the traditional 9 to 5 role, gigs allow you to be a contractor.
You can decide your hours, your vacation days, what you do, who you work for, and so much more. You’ll work your own way and have a work-life balance not found in more traditional work settings.
We’re in the age of digital. Many tasks can be done completely online and remotely. If you’re a writer, graphic designer, or social media professional (or any other position that allows for online work), then it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, especially in relation to where the work is. You can work from your bed, a coffee shop, beachside—anywhere with an internet connection.
Employers benefit as well. The gig economy expands the work pool allowing them to find talent they may not otherwise have found locally. It also allows them to cut down on the cost of a direct hire, which can be pricey due to insurance, taxes, and other liabilities that come along with running a business with employees.
The gig economy can be a winning situation if you work it to your advantage and are not deterred by freelance work. Depending on the industry you are in, you may end up being responsible for finding your own work.
The Pros and Cons of Gigs
Living life on your own terms can be amazing — especially if you are someone who thrives on unconventional work hours and settings. You will find a lot of variety in the gig economy and may have a more flexible schedule as opposed to a 9 to 5 job.
- Variety: For the many creatives out there, doing the same thing all day, every day, can be monotonous. An appealing part of freelance is that you can take on a few different projects at once.
- You can deliver food to a new address daily. Or pick up new passengers and experience different conversations when working for Uber or Lyft. They say that variety is the spice of life, and who doesn’t enjoy a little spice every now and again?
- Flexibility: Are you a night owl? Or are you most productive after your first cup of coffee? As a freelancer, you’re free to set your own hours.
- Not only that, but you can choose a different “office” setting every single day if you desire. You have the freedom and flexibility to decide what you want to do, when you want to do it, and where it’s going to be done.
- Pay: Pay will vary. In some instances, and depending on your job, you may only make supplemental income.
- However, you can earn a few hundred to a few thousand in addition to your full-time income. Airbnb is one of the more lucrative share platforms, with the average monthly income sitting at $900. Creative freelancers, such as graphic designers, writers, and IT professionals have high earning potential as well.
No job is perfect, and although there are many amazing benefits to working in the gig economy, there are a few drawbacks to be aware of.
- Benefits: You are responsible for organizing some form of insurance, 401K, and other perks that are specific to working a full-time job.
- In the future, there may be a push for gig economy workers to have better access to benefits, but at the moment, nothing is set in place.
- Lower pay: If you are working a couple of part-time jobs, you may find that you make less money than some people with a salaried income.
- If you're a freelance worker, you may have to begin your work at lower rates than you'd like. No matter the job you have, as you gain more experience, you can advocate for raises.
- Job stability: Gig economy jobs tend to come with slightly less stability — depending on your job.
- If you are a seasonal employee, there may be lulls in your work schedule.
- Competition: Many freelance sites are oversaturated with people vying for the same positions.
- The competition is fierce, and some people have more connections than others. It may be difficult for you to break into an industry (depending on what it is).
- Chasing the money: Sometimes it’s difficult to get paid for services if you're working freelance.
- Invoices can go unread — and unpaid — causing the need for reminder emails. In addition, you may find yourself job hunting continually if your hourly wages are not high enough.
Are Lifetime Careers Obsolete?
No, lifetime careers are, and will remain for the foreseeable future, necessary. Even though some companies and positions need to hire either seasonal, part-time workers, or freelancers, lifetime careers will likely always exist. Some of these seasonal workers, however, do prefer the advantages working gigs allow for their lifestyle. It depends on your personal preference.
Highest Paying Gig Jobs
Some who work in the gig economy use Uber, Etsy, Fiverr, Skillshare, and other platforms. Higher paying jobs in the gig economy may require a college degree or equivalent experience. It's not impossible to make a living in the gig economy.
Here are some gig jobs that can earn you close to six figures:
- Deep learning: Are you highly knowledgeable in algorithms and all the programming languages? You can be part of the advancement of artificial intelligence.
- Blockchain: Cryptocurrencies have become mainstream. If people you know aren’t already talking about investing in them, it’s only a matter of time. Blockchains are what power crypto, and freelancers who know the technology can earn a great living.
- Robotics: Are you familiar with SolidWorks Professional, eDrawings, Simplify3D, and other mechanical engineering software? Then you may want to consider becoming a robotics freelancer.
- Hacker: This isn’t as black hat as it sounds. When talking about freelance hacking, it’s ethical. In fact, it’s actually called “ethical hacking,” and it involves the skills to check a system for vulnerabilities. If you are qualified in coding, programming, and are a certified systems security professional with a deep knowledge in different software attacks and ways to prevent them, then you can make a living doing so.
- Amazon Web Services Lambda: If you are exceptionally proficient in, and can write code in Lambda, along with other computer languages, then you may be qualified to work for Amazon.
- Virtual reality: This is a technology that’s emerging rapidly. With a background in 3D modeling and fluency in coding and programming, you can earn a living working freelance in virtual reality.
- Social media: Every company knows it needs a presence on social platforms, yet many still don’t even know where to start. Instead of hiring in-house, businesses are looking for freelance social media strategists and managers to create a plan of attack, as well as man it.
- Brand strategy: Along with social media comes brand strategy. Companies realize they need to find a way to stand out and gain attention, especially as it gets more crowded and congested on the internet. That’s when freelance brand strategists are brought in; they define the company and create a strategy to propel them out of anonymity.
- Business consulting: As a freelance business consultant, you can have high earning potential. You’ll help companies or brands by using your business acumen. You’ll be brought in to help create a strategy, problem solve, and train others in the company.
- Web design and development: It’s a highly competitive market for freelance web designers. But if your work is unique and you become popular in your chosen niche, then you can earn a stable living.
- Content marketing/writing: This is one of the hottest freelance jobs on the market. Writing blog posts, long-form articles, and UX content, along with even the most basic SEO skills, can earn you a stable income.
- Graphic design: Depending on what type of graphic designer you are, you can earn great money as a graphic designer. Typically infographic designers, and logo designers can have high earning potential.
25 Gig Platforms to Earn Money Through
It can be difficult to find clients on your own. Luckily, the internet is here to help. There are so many varieties of “job boards” available to whatever your skill set is, from house work to coding—and pretty much whatever you’re thinking about doing as a gig economy freelancer. Here is a list of 25 sites for freelancers, and these are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. With a quick search on Google, you can find a many more.
25 sites for freelancers to find gigs:
- Airbnb: Make some extra cash by renting out your home or even a spare room.
- Amazon Mechanical Turk: An on-demand workforce platform for micro projects that need human intelligence. Some only pay pennies, but they may only take a few moments of your time. It’s a great way to make money for your next Starbucks run.
- Care.com: If you’re a babysitter, nanny, or any type of caregiver, you can find gigs through this site.
- CloudPeeps: Are you a creative interested in finding freelance gigs or ongoing positions? Sign up and start working.
- DoorDash: Independent food delivery. It’s like Uber, but for people who want to carry in food.
- Dribbble: A job board for creative professionals.
- Etsy: Are you crafty? Do you design and create your own soaps, dresses, pillowcases, jewelry or anything else you can possibly think of? Sell it on Etsy!
- Feastly: If you’re a chef, then you can connect with people and their palates through this platform.
- FlexJobs: Find freelance, part-time, or full-time remote jobs.
- Freelanced: A social network for freelancers from graphic design to content to web design and beyond.
- Freelancer: Another site to find freelance creative positions, either one-time projects or ongoing.
- Fiverr: Sell your services through this platform.
- Folyo: User experience professionals can find work here.
- Guru: Where freelancers and potential employers can connect.
- HelloTech: Are you are IT person? You can get connected with people in your area who need your expertise.
- iFreelance: As a freelancer, you can bid on projects that are relevant to your skillset.
- Lyft: Get paid to drive people to and from their destination. Some people drive for both Lyft and Uber.
- Moonlighting: A freelance marketplace for almost any skill you can imagine.
- OnSite: A by-invite only platform.
- PeoplePerHour: Skills such as writing, design, consulting, or anything that can be done remotely can be found here.
- SpareHire: Are you working with an investment, banking, or any type of business professional? Find freelance work in your industry.
- TaskRabbit: This site was purchased by Ikea in September of 2017. Its tagline is “get things done around the house.” From grocery shopping to hanging pictures at eye level—and many other tasks—you can get paid to do perform these various tasks.
- Uber: This popular platform has many car owners earning some additional pocket change.
- Upwork: Professionals in many different areas from around the world bid on projects.
- We Work Remotely: Programmers, designers, writers, and business specialists can find remote gigs.
Whatever your skill set, you can find a job that's perfect for you in the gig economy. There are so many dynamic opportunities that can work for you if you find that 9 to 5 jobs are not the direction you would like to go.
The gig economy is also perfect for students who are in college. For more information about balancing school and a job, visit our article about Balancing Full Time Work and College.