With the global pandemic, everyone is feeling the pinch, and money is tight for a lot of people looking for a way to make some extra cash. Thankfully, the gig economy took off well before the current extenuating circumstances, so you have a wealth of options at your disposal to scrounge together some extra scratch to help you get by.
Of course, the gig economy is a great way to make extra money on the side as a part-time job even if you already have a steady income. Even better, this situation gives you much more control since you are only looking to supplement your income rather than replace it.
Either way, figuring out the gig economy in our contemporary times can be trickier than you might expect, with plenty of unscrupulous actors looking to take advantage of people who do not know better. To help make sure you set out on the right foot, we break down the gig economy from top to bottom, providing all of the information you need to thrive.
What Is The Gig Economy?
Initially, the term “gig” was coined by jazz musicians and referred to a musical performance or studio set that was inherently temporary. That temporary mentality carries over to the use of the term today, where a gig job generally means anything temporary, whether the gig lasts for an hour, day, or longer.
The gig economy has technically been around for as long as civilization, but rarely did people have the infrastructural and logistical tools to make use of it. More often than not, a gig job before the internet relied on you knowing someone who regularly hired people for one-off jobs or as a temporary employee.
The temporary part of a gig job means that you are not a true employee of the person hiring you and that you are likely going to need to find another gig once the current one finishes. Thankfully, the gig economy is flourishing, and one of the best benefits is that you get to choose which gigs you take rather than a boss telling you what jobs you have to do.
What Is A Gig Economy Job?
As mentioned prior, a gig economy job is not like “traditional” jobs that you might be used to when working for a larger corporation or even a mom and pop establishment. For starters, most gig economy workers are not even “employees” in any legal or technical sense.
Instead, gig economy jobs are filled by what is known as an “independent contractor,” which has both advantages and disadvantages when compared to traditional employees. One of the biggest selling points about being an independent contractor is you technically do not have a boss or anyone else with absolute authority over you.
Alternatively, an independent contractor is considered their own “boss” who signs a contract with another person or entity, and the terms of the agreement dictate the working relationship. Granted, this differs from gig to gig with some companies or employers stipulating more authoritarian rules and guidelines into the contract.
Full-Time vs Part-Time Gig Economy Jobs
One thing to consider when getting into the gig economy is how often or how much spare time you want to put into your side hustle jobs and how much extra income you need. Because of some of the benefits a gig affords, especially as it relates to personal freedom, it can be tempting to get a taste of success in one gig and decide you want to do it full-time.
While that is certainly an option, we recommend you take a gig as a secondary form of income to your traditional full-time job – at least until you establish yourself within the gig’s field. Part of the issue comes from the fact that many gigs, especially those with less oversight, can be a bit streaky.
Some weeks or months you may find yourself inundated with more work than you know what to do with and can make a lot of money in short order. On the other hand, other months may dry up and leave you with leaner prospects that can create a strain on managing your budget, especially if you live in a household with dependents or you are the primary breadwinner.
Generally, you should only move to the gig economy as your primary source of income if you already make close to as much money compared to your traditional job and still have to turn clients away.
Keep in mind, you should likely perform your gig for a year or more to note if the field suffers from seasonal ups and downs (often after Christmas and during the summer season).
Pros and Cons of the Gig Economy
These are the reasons a job in the gig economy is better than a traditional job.
Who’s the Boss?
Being your own boss is easily one of the best things about the gig economy as you technically accomplish your tasks how you want and can set your own pace.
Though, as mentioned prior, some clients may want you to agree to more oversight, potentially as much as a traditional job.
While these are not always bad premises, it is worth noting that a gig contract that provides the clients with more authority undercuts a lot of the benefits of being an independent contractor in the first place. In that instance, you get all of the downsides of having a boss without any of the benefits or protections of being a legal employee.
I Want It My Way
Regardless, one of the best qualities of a gig is that you do not have to do any job that you do not choose to do with the tasks of the gig spelled out in the contract.
However, this also places a bit more responsibility on you to figure out what the gig demands before accepting the contract to make sure you are not expected to do tasks you did not want to.
Granted, this depends on the gig in question where some gigs use an aggregating system to manage the gigs available, and the gigs follow a specific set of expectations. However, other types of gigs might be a bit more freeform and require the client to define the terms of a completed task.
Setting The Pace
Another great quality of the gig economy, arguably one of the best given how this form of employment should be used, is the flexible schedule. While some gigs may put you in a bit of a crunch depending on the situation, especially if they have a hard deadline, most gigs allow you to work when you want.
If you only want a part-time gig, this is great as you can pick up the gig when you have the free time without having to worry about losing the gig when you get busier. That said, this often requires you to manage your time more than with a traditional job where you clock in and out at a regular time every day.
Wherever I Wander
This benefit is a bit dependent on what gig you choose as some gigs are limited in terms of how and where you work. That said, if your gig simply gives you an assignment with or without a deadline and the freedom to complete the task as you see fit, there is no reason you have to sit at home and do it.
As we will get to, working outside of the house in a public or semi-public setting can not only be invigorating but may help stave off one of the cons commonly associated with gigs. Still, if you have ever been trapped in an office on a beautiful day, lamenting the fact that you could not go and enjoy the outdoors, you may not have that issue with some gigs.
Alternatively, if you like the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop or the quiet public peace of a library, many gigs allow you to work in those locations without issue. Of course, most of these gigs still require you to work on a laptop or smart device, so make sure the location has access to an internet connection or a cell signal before trekking out there.
These are all the reasons gig economy jobs may be difficult compared to the traditional corporate system.
Quality, Not Quantity
Depending on the field, gigs are just as often determined by their quality as well as quantity, which means you can end up in a situation where the client refuses to pay you until you meet some (often vague) standard. This can turn into a situation where the contract drags and drags as you are asked to make revision after revision or redo the work.
While this is somewhat understandable, it is essential to note that the wording of the contract can rope you into a gig where the client requires you continuously redo your work until the number of hours spent on the gig is far more than would equal minimum wage for the pay.
That is why it is essential, if at all possible, to obtain a clear understanding of what the prerequisites for a completed gig are before signing the contract and getting to work. Do not be afraid to ask either as some clients may not have a lot of experience and could use questions to help define for themselves what they expect.
On Your Own
While having so much freedom may be invigorating in one sense, it also requires you to accept an equal amount of responsibility which can incur financial costs. Because the gig economy centers around independent contractors, those contractors are expected to cover the overhead costs of completing the assigned job.
For some gigs, these costs may not amount to much, but for other gigs, these overhead costs can be upwards of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. If a gig is likely to have overhead costs, it pays to do some research to make sure that the client covers the overhead costs that are necessary to complete the job.
This also means that you need to prepare and file your own taxes using the 1099 form instead of the W-9 and W-2 forms. On top of that, independent contractors are expected to file quarterly instead annually which can require significantly more time and more rigorous record keeping.
Survival Of The Fittest
Another potential concern with gig economy workers is that, unlike employers, the client does not need to provide any additional benefits outside of the agreed-upon payment for the job. This means that the gig economy is a bad place to look for a retirement plan, health insurance, car insurance, or any other kind of insurance policy you might otherwise get at a traditional job.
While the gig economy is great to make extra money on the side, people who try to use it as a replacement for full-time employment often find they make less when you add up all of the benefits a traditional job normally provides.
The gig economy requires you to pay for your own benefits and most gigs only offer a modest increase in competitive pay compared to a traditional full-time job in the same field.
All By Myself
The final major concern you should consider is how isolating gig work can be, though this may matter more depending on your general sociability. However, even those who think of themselves as introverts (when most of us are actually ambiverts) can be shocked to realize how secluded from the rest of society they feel.
You may think you hate that one guy at the office who will not stop talking about his favorite sports team, but hours of continued silence outside of the noise of your own work can be deafening. Even if you generally prefer to be alone, the degree of social segregation gig work can impose may leave you missing coworkers you once complained about.
Thankfully, those gigs that allow you to choose the location of your work open up the possibility to go somewhere public and substitute the office for a more open area. You should definitely invest in some noise-canceling headphones if you take this route, but it can offer a nice middle-ground between isolation and a busy atmosphere.
Gig Economy Statistics
Whether you want to supplement your income with a part-time gig or strike out on your own and be your own boss full-time, it helps to have some data at your fingertips. When it comes to the gig economy, the data is a bit sparse since it is so new, but all of the signs seem to be pointing up.
Upwards of 10% of Americans, or over 16 million people, were considered full-time gig economy contractors as of December of 2019. Of course, with the rise of the global pandemic and the massive number of job losses following the various lockdowns, that number has almost certainly risen by leaps and bounds.
That said, those numbers are likely even lower, with close to 57 million Americans or close to 20% participating in the gig economy in some capacity. This means that over half of the gig economy contractors are part-time and use various kinds of gigs to supplement their full-time income.
But do not worry that you have already missed the boat if you are interested in getting a gig as the US Bureau of Labor expects that number to rise another 10% over the next couple of years. It is also important to remember that the gig economy is still in its adolescence, so the labor market is liable to swing back a bit in contractors’ favor as more and more companies look for gig workers to cut overhead costs.
Granted, where you live plays a vital role in your ability to find gigs with states and rural areas showing some of the lowest rates of contractors and available gig clients.
Thankfully, the gig economy seems to be age agnostic with retirees making up the largest share of contractors at a whopping 24.1% and those aged 45-64 making up another 26.5% – that means over 50% of gig contractors are over the age of 40.
How Much Can You Make In the Gig Economy?
How much you can make in the gig economy depends heavily on which field you go into, the local market, and how much time and energy you put into it. If you go into a field that many people take part in, the sheer numbers of people available will drive the cost of labor down and reduce your profits.
Likewise, if you live in a region with a lot of people, chances are there will be more potential clients, but there will also be more competition with other contractors.
Finally, whether you work part-time or full-time will also play a role as well as how much initiative you take in promoting yourself depending on the field and platform.
How To Land A Gig
That said, many gig economy jobs do not have a particular company managing them and function more through modified modern classifieds.
Bidding And First Come, First Served
There are often a couple of ways you can land a gig depending on the platform in question, but they tend to boil down to “first come, first served” and bidding. The former method is pretty self-explanatory, where there is a pool of potential contractors, and the first person to accept the contract gets the gig and pays a fixed price.
This method works great for the contractor, though it also tends to find more clients who do not really know what they want or what they are doing. First come, first served contracts also often lack defining instructions, which may lead to conflicts with the client about the quality of the completed work.
Contracts that require you to bid on them can be a bit tricky, though they can also be far more lucrative – depending on your field. One of the potential issues with bidding contracts is that it often becomes a race to the bottom where each contract worker tries to bid lower than the competition.
Depending on how the contractors are screened, the expertise of the client, and the size of the labor pool, can lead to a situation where most people only secure contracts by working for less than minimum wage. This is especially common in creative fields where people who live in poorer countries can bid significantly lower than people who work in more affluent countries and still make good money for their region.
Of course, not every field is created equally, and there are plenty of gigs that tend to pay reasonably well regardless of the region or market competition. If you look for a gig in a field that requires a highly technical or specialized skill set, you can often make far more when stringing contracts along, even if you have to bid for them.
Regardless of the type of allocation method used, one way to help land a gig is by carefully reading whatever prompt the potential client provides and asking relevant questions that highlight your familiarity with the field. Granted, this may not work as well for first come, first served situations as someone else can just come along and snatch it up.
But for bidding on contracts, a curious mind that highlights potential ambiguities, unclear expectations, or potential pitfalls provides the client with some confidence in your previous experience and willingness to work through problems. However, make sure to avoid coming off as too pushy since some clients may not know precisely what you want and can better be served by helping guide them through the process.
Where To Find Gig Economy Jobs
Most solid gig economy jobs have some type of app or website that makes finding and applying for gigs much easier than before the internet existed. That said, there are still some traditional media outlets, like the newspaper, that will occasionally post gigs, but they generally still require you to sign up to a website or app.
Depending on the platform, you might even be able to sign up for a website or app and get email notifications when a potential gig opens up, keeping aware of job openings. Google is a great place to find gig apps and websites.
To help give you a jumpstart in your search for a great gig, we compiled a list of some of the best gig websites and apps on the online market.
14 Best Gig Economy Jobs And Apps
Pretty much all of these platforms have mobile apps that work on virtually any smart device (whether Android or iOS), making it even easier to get started in the highpaying gig economy. Just be aware that some of these platforms have a more thorough vetting process than others and have the necessary information on hand.
On top of that, not all platforms pay through the same mediums, though PayPal tends to be a pretty safe bet. Even better, most clients have to pay using a credit card or another digital payment method, so you never have to worry about getting stiffed like before online contracting.
Fiverr is one of the old-school gig apps and, as the name implies, truly did begin its career as a place where people could sell their skills for $5 a pop. Thankfully, Fiverr expanded a bit since then and now allows a wider range of different services with the option to set your rates to make an actual living wage.
While not as internet venerable as Fiverr, TaskRabbit has still been around a while. However, it was recently purchased by Ikea due to the high demand of users to put together their furniture. Of course, TaskRabbit gigs may have you performing all kinds of odds and ends labor jobs, including running errands, moving things, or even standing in line.
Upwork started primarily as a low-end app for entry-level freelance writers and was dominated by non-Western writers. These days, however, it is a reliable option for anyone in the creative or developing gig markets and even increased their standards to serve as a barrier for entry to ensure skilled contractors and higher pay.
Similar to Upwork in both how it started and where it is today, Freelancer has positioned itself a bit more towards the creative market. However, they still offer plenty of options for semi-technical contractors as well. This is a great app for someone who has social media or other marketing experience as well as website design.
ThumbTack is another labor-based gig app, but they focused more on skilled labor that requires some kind of certification than general labor. As such, if you are a plumber, electrician, or other construction-related contractors, ThumbTack makes it easier to find clients without having to work for a corporation.
Roadie is a delivery gig app, but unlike some of the others that are more popular, this gig can cover pretty much any delivery and span a large distance. While you might often find food delivery gigs, you can also find gigs that need someone to move furniture or even travel out of state.
InstaCart, similar to Postmates, is a more traditional kind of delivery app in the sense that it focuses exclusively on delivering food, mostly groceries in this instance. InstaCart makes it easy for the client to choose which groceries from which store as well as let you get in touch if the store is out of something, and you need to make a substitution.
FlexJobs is an excellent place for high-skilled, technical contractors to find jobs, but it does come with the overhead cost of a monthly subscription. However, only Upwork and Guru come close to competing with this gig platform when it comes to robotics, cryptocurrency, VR, or any other highly technical gig.
For people who love animals, Rover is a godsend in the gig economy as this app connects pet owners to workers for dog-walking and pet-sitting. While it may seem a bit low-end for those just starting, anyone with a legitimate background in animal care can earn substantial pay, especially for overnight stays or when working with animals that have disabilities.
The complement in the care industry to Rover, Care.com may not be quite as agile on the internet as Rover but offers a wide range of potential services and clients. If you have relevant work experience in hospice and caring for people, this is an excellent option for finding high-paying gigs.
DoorDash is one of the premier prepared food delivery apps on the market and saw massive growth in use and pay during the pandemic. While there may be a bit of a slowdown when things get back to normal, this should remain a great way to make money fast on the side for a while.
Uber is the big daddy of ride-sharing apps and can be found in even most small to medium-sized cities across America. That said, Uber has plenty of issues with how they handle their contractors but balance those difficulties by being more popular and offering better pay.
Lyft might be seen as the “little brother” to Uber in a lot of the bigger cities across the US, but in other places around the world, it is the favored rideshare option.
AirBnB, or the automotive equivalent Getaround, is the go-to app for renting out your property to travelers when you are not using it. Even better, this is a gig that does not occupy your time or energy (with little overhead costs too), allowing you to spend more time on gigs that require your time and effort.
What Are the Different Gig Fields
This field covers all of the different items that you but do not use all of the time that you can rent out to other people. By far, the most famous of these types of gigs is AirBnB, which is a great way to make a little extra cash if you have a second property or plan to be out of town for a couple of days.
That said, there are other types of rental gigs, too, with the next most common allowing you to rent out a vehicle in a similar way as Airbnb. Though that service tends to require a bit more thorough background as any renter needs a driver’s license, and your personal vehicle requires broader automotive insurance than just liability.
Delivery gigs may have taken a bit longer to get off of the ground, but with the social distancing and lockdown imposed by the global pandemic, this service shows no signs of slowing down. More often than not, delivery services involve delivering some form of food, but it can come from a couple of different places.
While prepared food from local restaurants might be the most popular right now, one of the first forms of a food delivery service came from gigs that delivered groceries. Though it might not be as well known or publicized, Amazon even offers a delivery gig called Flex that allows you to deliver packages from Amazon warehouses to its customers.
Of all the different types of gigs on the market today, perhaps none of them are as famous and commonplace as driving gigs. Rather than paying a wage and the overhead of taxi cabs, driving gigs like Uber and Lyft allow anyone with a clean(ish) driving record and insurance to hustle some cash as a part-time driver.
It is worth noting that both Uber and Lyft face some harsh criticism from worker’s rights groups and even a couple of states’ governments. Part of this comes from the fact that you have to cover all of the overhead costs for your vehicle, which can make the profit margins of gig slim compared to others.
Like many of the fields on our list, caregiving is a broad term that covers several similar gigs that have slight differences between them. Perhaps the most classic gig in this field is babysitting, which now has the power of the internet to make it easier for both clients and contractors to find the right match.
Less common but growing is the gig of in-house hospice care where you take care of an elderly or infirm person, though this gig tends to require more background knowledge and certifications. Finally, dog-walking and pet sitting is a great gig for anyone with a bit of free time that loves to hang out with animals.
While this may be a general field, the creative gigs available cover a much broader range of skill sets than some of the other gig fields on our list. While these kinds of gigs have existed for decades and known as freelancers, the need for more content on the internet has seen their numbers swell.
Probably the most common type of creative gig is freelance writers, though you may want to be careful if you are worried about attribution as many of these gigs are for ghostwriters. After writing, visual mediums tend to dominate creative gigs with graphic design, photography, and general art, taking the top spots.
This is another gig field that has been around for as long as civilization but finds a breath of new life thanks to the organizing and logistical tools of the internet. Some of the most common types of labor gigs involve simply performing various tasks around a house or other property with plenty of apps to help get you started.
Of course, if you have a genuine skill, handyman gigs are quickly becoming a way for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and more to find new clients. Also considered a labor gig is the secret shopper who has been around since newspaper classifieds. Just make sure to vet the company first as this gig tends to have scams more than others.
You might also consider customer service in this group, but they can again often slip into other groups depending on the breadth of their jobs.
While large brands with a nationwide or even global influence often hire large advertising firms, a small to medium-sized business owner might turn to marketing contractors to fill that role. Unlike many of the previous fields mentioned, marketing gigs have much higher pay than average and are easier to turn into full-time work if you want.
That said, you will definitely need a bit of internet savvy, and it helps to be an internet native if you want to break into the marketing gig fields. Some of the marketing gigs focus more on social media or even individual platforms, but the more consistent and profitable marketing gigs focus on internet marketing in general.
Marketing or managing Instagram, LinkedIn accounts, or other professional networks can also be quite lucrative for those with many followers of highly sought after skills, respectively.
Out of all the different gig fields available, those that require high-level scientific technical skills by far pay the most. These types of gigs can pay anywhere from $30/hour to well over $100/hour at the high end, which makes them a great candidate for someone with the appropriate knowledge and education to get out of the rat race and become their own boss.
Granted, the pay tends to correlate to the rarity of the knowledge required, not necessarily the skill of the contractor, but that does not change the fact that this field is booming. Everything from website design to coding sits at the mid-level with skills related to VR and robotics paying near the upper end of this field.
A Wide Variety Of Popular Gig Economy Jobs
This is a comprehensive list of some of the most popular and high paying gig economy jobs.
- Deliver Groceries
- Deliver Prepared Meals
- Deliver Packages
- General Delivery Driver
- House Rental
- Vehicle Rental
- Designer Rental
- Consumer Goods Rental
- Pet Walking/Sitting
- Mystery Shopping
- General Labor
Creative & Design
- Video/Audio Editing
- Graphic Design Branding
- General Graphic Design
- Clothing Design
- Printable Designs
- Digital Marketing
- Social Media
- Online Ad Management
- Virtual Assistant
- Web Designer
- Deep Learning
- Ethical Hacker
- Blockchain Architect
- Robotics Engineer
- Information Systems/Information Technology
- Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Programming
As we can see, there is plenty of opportunities (and money) for an enterprising individual willing to take the initiative. Granted, some of these gigs are better left as secondary sources of additional income, but if you have a highly technical skill that is in high demand, you may be able to quit your day job altogether.
That said, regardless of the kind of gig you go for, make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into ahead of time – especially if you are trying to make it your primary source of income. Know the legal difference between an employee and an independent contractor so you will not lose benefits you might otherwise need.
Even if you do not plan on quitting your day job anytime soon, it never hurts to browse our list of helpful apps that can get you started on making some extra scratch or “fun money.” With all of the different fields and jobs available, pretty much everyone can find a gig or two that appeals to their interests, fits their schedule, and relies on their skills.