Surviving in the Gig Economy

gig economy graphic with cell and word artAs a creative person without a degree, the gig economy field has always appealed to me. I have had various jobs in customer service that have left me emotionally drained and unable to create art and enjoy my life, due to long hours and low wages.

It seemed at first that gig economy jobs were the perfect solution. No more dealing with condescending and racist employers, no more long grueling hours dictated by my employer. I thought that I could build my own support networks, make money doing simple things while creating my own schedule, and most importantly be able to pursue my creative passions and endeavors.

Like most things that seem too good to be true, gig economy jobs are certainly not at all what I expected. I thought that I would be able to secure steady work using a popular pet sitting website. What I have found is that it is extremely competitive and very hit or miss. During the holidays you may be able to make a decent wage, but usually it is very hard to book clients. Additionally, the website takes a large portion of your pay while you do all of the work booking clients.

Navigating the Gig Economy

It’s a little strange to navigate gig economy jobs at first because it is all about distinguishing yourself from the crowd. You need to work very hard just to get enough money to pay some bills, let alone all of them. The marketing of many gig economy jobs is that this is your “side hustle.” There is even a commercial for Uber where the announcer says “get your side hustle on.” And they are right. There is no monthly income guarantee. The gig economy best works as a source of supplemental income.

Navigating gig economy jobs as a primary source of income makes it hard to budget, pay bills, and support yourself and family. It also takes more time than I anticipated, making it just as challenging to balance my life and work as it was before – not to mention to the many hours spent looking for work that I am not actually compensated for.

The scary thing is, as employers realize how cheap and easy it is to not have regular employees but gig economy independent contractors, the harder it is to find that stable and main source of income.”

The scary thing is, as employers realize how cheap and easy it is to not have regular employees but gig economy independent contractors, the harder it is to find that stable and main source of income.

Employers Benefit Most

Employers are picking up on how much money they save by not having actual employees. And as gig economy jobs increase, stable sources of income – the ones they inadvertently reference in their side hustle commercials – begin to disappear. Overall I would say that gig economy jobs could be very worth it – if you have something more concrete that is your main source of income.

The scary thing is, as employers realize how cheap and easy it is to not have regular employees but gig economy independent contractors, the harder it is to find that stable and main source of income. It is very hard to try to use gig economy jobs on a full-time basis, which is what more and more workers like myself find ourselves trying to do.

Working as an independent contractor, I am also not entitled to benefits like paid sick leave or health insurance. This seemed okay at first, as I am on my partner’s health insurance plan. But I do have to ask myself, if her job disappears, what will happen to us? How will we secure work in an economy increasingly reliant on independent contractor positions?

What happens when the gig economy becomes the new labor standard?

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