Love it or hate it, side hustling is a new way of life. And what better way to side hustle than through picking up gigs, the new way to work? 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.
A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently came out that appeared to challenge this thought. In 2005, 7.4 percent of the workforce worked gigs full time. The updated report shows that number is now at 6.9 percent, which really isn’t much of a change—up or down. Especially because we’ve been expecting gigs to disrupt the way we work. It’s definitely not looking that way, is it?
Those low numbers show that most workers realize gigs are not a full-time job. Sure, you can earn some extra cash, but in order to make ends meet, a traditional job is probably your most likely bet to pay the bills. But don’t knock gigs yet: There are many positives to this flexible lifestyle.
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.
Want to get out of retail? 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, five or more days per week, make you break out into a rash? Then you need to delve deeper into the opportunities of the gig economy.
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 really isn’t anything new: Freelancers have been “gig-ers” for decades. But there has been a massive shift that isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.
This trend of many small, short jobs instead of 40 hours a week in a single place of employment has indeed been growing in certain industries. In fact, it’s projected that by 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce will be on board in some form, freelancing their talents in order to make ends meet. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still be sitting at a desk during traditional work hours. It can be really difficult to create a full-time job out of gigs. That’s not to say it’s impossible; it’s just hard to do.
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 “full time in an office” 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 workpool, 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. But you’ll really have to know how to hustle. It’s not for the passive.
THE PROS AND CONS OF GIGS
Living life on your own terms can be an exceptionally appealing ideal, in theory. But for every action, there’s a reaction. Joining the gig economy revolution definitely holds its charm, but it is also riddled with some heavy negatives.
- Variety: For the many creatives out there, doing the same thing all day, every day, can be boring. One of the draws to freelancedom is that you can take on a few different projects at once, and they can all be different. Deliver food on your bike to a new address daily. Or drive for ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft and have a unique experience with every new passenger who slides into your car. 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 a lot of instances, you’ll only make supplemental income. Depending on what you do, you can earn a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in addition to your full-time income. Airbnb is one of the more lucrative share platforms, with the average monthly income sitting at $900. Creatives, such as graphic designers and writers, can earn a lot—as can IT professionals.
There’s no such thing as a perfect situation, and working gigs is no exception. Sure, the benefits can be incredible, but the cons can be a thorn in your side.
- Benefits: It’s going to be up to you to take care of your insurance, 401K, and any other perks that are specific to working a full-time traditional job. There is, however, a push toward allowing contract workers to receive benefits, but you can’t count on that yet.
- Lower pay: Put it this way, if you want to get a gig, you may have to bid at a lower price than you would normally feel comfortable with. But on the flip side, lowballing and doing a great job could lead to more higher-paying gigs with the same companies.
- Job stability: With this type of career path, you may find many lulls in your work schedule.
- Competition: Many of the freelance sites are oversaturated with people vying for the same positions. The competition is fierce, and you’re likely to get overlooked because so many people are selling their services for pennies, literally.
- Chasing the money: Sometimes it’s really difficult to get paid for services rendered. Invoices go unread—and unpaid—causing you to keep sending reminder emails. Freelance workers are bound to have some invoices that remain open indefinitely. It’s par for the course.
DOES A “GIG ECONOMY” MEAN THAT LIFETIME CAREERS ARE OBSOLETE?
No, lifetime careers are, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a thing. But for some companies, and some positions, it makes sense to hire freelancers. Especially if it’s a short-term project that doesn’t require a full-time employee. And, for some workers, they prefer the advantages working gigs allows for their lifestyle.
Stepping into many of the roles offered by this type of work economy are baby boomers, who are looking for supplemental income, and millennials, who have a tendency to be more nomadic than any previous generation.
HIGHEST PAYING GIG JOBS
It seems 80 percent of side gig freelancers earn less than $500 per month, especially if you’re using sites like Uber, Etsy, Fiverr, and other skillshare type platforms. To really earn a living—one that can sustain a certain lifestyle—may still take a college degree or equivalent experience.
Here are some of the types of 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 and earn over $117 per hour.
- 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 are earning well over $87 per hour. You need to be an expert level coder in C++, Python, and Solidity.
- Robotics: The thought of robots taking over jobs, and then the world, is very Skynet-ish (think Terminator). But the reality is, robots stepping in and doing some of the mundane jobs once delegated to humans is happening at this very moment. Are you extremely familiar with SolidWorks Professional, eDrawings, Simplify3D, and other mechanical engineering software? Then you can work as a robotics freelancer, earning over $76 per hour. And maybe you can save humankind from a robot takeover.
- 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 earn an average of $66 per hour.
- 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. The average hourly pay for this freelance job is $51.
- 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 over $50 per hour as a freelancer.
- 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. Freelance social media professionals can earn a nice living, demanding between $67-$94K annually.
- 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. As a freelance brand strategist, you can earn well over $66K per year.
- Business consulting: As a freelance business consultant, you have the potential to earn over $71K annually. 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 over $56K annually.
- 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 $25 per hour to way over $100.
- Graphic design: Depending on what type of graphic designer you are, you can earn between $35-$150 per hour; some can even ask for $300 per hour. Typically, logo designers earn more. Having mad design skills in infographics will pick up a pretty penny, as well.
It would be a disservice to not mention freelance video editors ($72K annually), software developers ($150 per hour), and Instagram marketers ($31/hour).
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 bajillion 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 fro. 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 in investment, banking, or any type of business professional? Find freelance work in your industry.
- TaskRabbit: This site was purchased by Ikea about a year ago. 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 these.
- Uber: This popular platform has many car owners earning some 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.
No matter what your skill set is, you can make the gig economy work for you.