What Is the Gig Economy and What Is a Gig Worker?


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As more and more people look online to earn a living, the gig economy continues to expand. If you’re looking for work or just a small side income, so-called “gigs” are well worth considering.

Completing small tasks for cash is often a lot easier than finding traditional employment. Depending on your skillset, it also has the potential to be more profitable.

This article will discuss exactly what the gig economy is, what type of work is available, and finally, where you can go to find it.

What Is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is a global market where companies and independent contractors interact and ultimately exchange the completion of tasks for money.

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Unlike the traditional labor market, contracts are short-term only. So-called “gigs” can last anywhere from five minutes to a year.

The gig economy allows companies to hire people to complete one-off tasks without taking on a traditional employee. It allows contractors to take on these tasks without agreeing to work for a set period of time.

It’s popular because it offers a much more flexible alternative to traditional (long-term) employment arrangements. But it’s also often criticized because gig workers do not receive traditional benefits.

What Is a Gig Worker?

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A gig worker is anyone who takes on a task for financial reward without having a traditional employment contract in place. It is an umbrella term that is often used to refer to both temp workers and freelancers.

The term gig worker can apply to anyone from the electrician that works in your home to the delivery driver that delivers your food.

The Pros and Cons of Gig Work

Gig work has definite advantages over traditional employment, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Here are a few of its pros and cons.

Pro: Easier to Find

The most obvious benefit of gig work is that it’s easy to find. Companies are a lot more willing to take a chance on someone for individual tasks than they are for a full-time position. Gig work can therefore be very useful for those who would like to enter a new industry.

Pro: More Flexible

Gig work is highly flexible. Provided there is sufficient demand for your skillset, you can basically make your own schedule. You decide when you work, who you work for, and exactly which tasks you take on.

Pro: Greater Variety

Gig work also offers constant opportunities for change. No fixed contract means that you are free to change “jobs” whenever you want. You can choose short-term gigs that allow you to gain new skills or even those that you simply find interesting.

Con: Inconsistent

While gig work is more flexible, it’s also a lot less predictable. You might find that you have a lot of work one month and barely enough to survive the next. If you don’t have a significant financial cushion, this can make gig work unsustainable.

Con: Potentially Bad Hours

In theory, gig workers can choose their own hours. But this only happens if your skills are in high demand. If not, you might find that you have no choice but to take what you can get. Skipping the nine to five sounds like a great idea until you find out that it’s being replaced by having to work every weekend.

Con: No Benefits

Most gig workers don’t get benefits. This means that things like health insurance, retirement contributions, and holiday pay all disappear when you decide that you don’t want a traditional employment contract.

Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons that the gig economy has grown so large. Many employers prefer to hire gig workers because they end up being cheaper.

Which Industries Offer Gig Work?

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As the gig economy expands, so does the number of industries where you can find gig work.

Ultimately, however, gig work is most commonly found in industries where there is a high demand for one-off tasks which can be completed in a short period of time, contributing to a high turnover of employees.

  • Transportation: Transportation is arguably the most well-known example of gig work. Both ride-sharing and on-demand food delivery workers fall squarely into the gig economy.
  • Computing/IT: Many businesses look to gig workers to complete everything from software development to website design.
  • Construction: The short-term nature of most construction projects makes it a natural choice for gig workers.
  • Media: Writers, photographers, and video editors are all frequently hired on a short-term basis. In a similar fashion to IT work, these gig workers often work remotely.
  • Art: If an artist is making money, they will often do so as a gig worker. This category includes everything from musicians to painters.

Where to Find Gig Work

If you’re interested in gig work, most opportunities are found online.

Upwork

Millions of freelancers around the world use Upwork. It’s designed exclusively for remote work. It’s possible to find work that’s paid hourly or as a fixed price per completed task. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, it is highly competitive.

Fiverr

Fiverr is famous for five-dollar services, but many contractors charge many times that. The most popular services are typically in media, but just about any skill, however strange, can be monetized.

FlexJobs

FlexJobs is one of the world’s largest work from home platforms. You can use it to find both gig work and full-time jobs. All of the work is remote, and there are over 50 different categories.

NextDoor

NextDoor can help you find gigs in your local neighborhood. It’s most applicable to in-person services. This includes everything from child care to waste disposal.

Craigslist

Craigslist has a specific section just for side gigs. You can use Craiglist to find both remote work and in-person gigs. As always, however, users of Craigslist do need to watch out for scams.

It’s important to note that while most types of gig work are advertised online, a lot can also be found by simply looking at your local classified ads and via traditional networking.

Is Gig Work Right for You?

If you’re looking to make more money, the gig economy is certainly a viable option. As a gig worker, you will have access to both opportunities and a level of flexibility that simply cannot be found in traditional employment.

At the same time, however, it’s important to understand that this type of employment does come at a cost. Gig work might be easy to find, but it isn’t always an easy way to earn a living.

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