Be a gigster

Overview

Economic and demographic shifts have given rise to the gig economy – a way of working on a project basis with extreme flexibility requiring minimal certifications, and no sales or marketing per se. It’s a great way to earn extra income with minimal upfront investment or ongoing expense and independence. The market for gig workers is large and growing. According to the results of Upwork’s Freelance Forward 2020 survey, in 2019, 36% of the U.S. workforce had participated in the freelance/gig economy, and more than a quarter of those workers were 55+. You don’t need a formal business plan; you simply need time and flexibility. Whether you’re just exploring this option or have already decided to go the gig route, the information on these pages will provide you with clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

10 yes/no questions to help you determine if this is a good direction for you

Do I like project/hourly type work?

Is my schedule and availability flexible?

Do I have good time management skills?

Can I work with irregular schedules?

Can I be available on short notice?

Am I OK with an irregular and somewhat unpredictable income stream?

Do I accept that gig work is short or project term and typically doesn’t allow for advancement?

Am I willing to sacrifice personal time to respond to work assignments on short notice?

Am I tech-savvy with online platforms and work tools?

Am I prepared for keeping track and paying estimated taxes if my gig income exceeds a certain threshold?

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If your answer is “yes” to 6 or more questions, this is probably a good direction to pursue.

Essential traits, skills and competencies of gigsters

  • Discipline
  • Time management
  • Ability to work independently
  • Communication
  • Tech-savvy
  • Flexibility

Advantages of gig work

  • Work for multiple and even competing companies
  • High degree of control over your schedule
  • Minimal or no overhead
  • Tax benefits
  • No startup costs
  • No coworker distractions

Examples of gig jobs:

Find unique opportunities on local job boards.

  • Uber / Lyft/ Doordash driver
  • Online teacher
  • Property manager
  • Housesitter
  • Pet sitter
  • Virtual assistant
  • Language tutor
  • Translator

Use your home to generate extra income

  • Airbnb host
  • VRBO

Q&A

Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns for those interested in becoming a gigster.

Question

What’s the difference between freelancing and a gig?

Answer

The difference is subtle. Freelancing tends to be more of a permanent, long-term working situation where you specialize in a particular skill or expertise and build a clientele. Freelancers are also usually paid upon completion of their contract or deliverable. A gigster typically does a short-term project-based job. Gigsters may work for the same clients day-to-day, but they are usually paid by the unit of work produced, or a single-day rate.

In both cases, the person is generally not considered an employee, and thereby not entitled to typical employee benefits. At the end of the year, instead of a W-2 and earnings summary that you would get from an employer, you will typically receive a 1099 from your clients.

Question

What is the size of the gig economy in the U.S.?

Answer

According to an Upwork survey, more than 36% of the total U.S. workforce did freelance work in 2019. That’s more than 57 million people out of a workforce of 164.4 million who worked as moonlighters, freelancers, or independent contractors (or gigsters). 26% of the 55+ workers were independent contractors, meaning they did work on a project-to-project basis.

In both cases, the person is generally not considered an employee, and thereby not entitled to typical employee benefits. At the end of the year, instead of a W-2 and earnings summary that you would get from an employer, you will typically receive a 1099 from your clients.

Question

How can I find work in the gig economy?

Answer

The majority of freelancers and gigsters use internet marketplace platforms such as Upwork, Gigster, TaskRabbit, Rover and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to find jobs.

Question

What are some benefits of gig work?

Answer

Recent economic and workforce shifts have shown that remote working through freelancing or gigging is not only possible but can be highly productive and rewarding. These nontraditional avenues of work can eliminate long commutes, stress of the corporate world, and give people more control over their lives. The financial revenue is directly dependent upon the type of work you choose to do, and the number of projects you take on.

Question

Is gig work physically demanding?

Answer

This depends on what kind of work you are doing. A Doordash driver or pet sitter will require a lot of physical activity, but teaching online classes or working as a tutor or translator will require limited physical stress.

Question

What are some of the downsides of gig work?

Answer

The biggest concern is access to affordable healthcare. For most retirees this is not an issue thanks to Medicare. Another concern is unpredictable and inconsistent income and no company sponsored retirement savings. Independent (1099) workers have to pay taxes directly to the IRS. And since gig workers are typically considered self-employed, they will generally pay both the employer’s share and employee’s share of social security and Medicare tax. This means that instead of 7.65% for just the employee’s share, they pay 15.3%. However, on the plus side, a self-employed person can deduct business related expenses from income.

It is a good idea to work with an accountant the first time you file taxes as a self-employed individual. It is an even better idea to check with an accountant ahead of time so you have an idea of what you should put aside for your yearly taxes, and which expenses will be tax-deductible, so you can track them.

Question

Does gigging require any specialized training or advanced education?

Answer

This is dependent upon what kind of jobs you’ll be searching for. There are opportunities for work with little or no specialized training or education. For instance, house sitting, or driving for Uber are a few examples. Other gigs will be largely dependent upon the skills you bring to them, like tutoring, translating or teaching online.

Option Evaluator

Assess this option against the following eight criteria:

Option Evaluator Graphic

Additional resources

Next steps:

Step 1

Determine if it makes sense for you to become a gigster based on the “Is this Right for Me” section.

Step 2

Consider and decide what kind of work you want to do.

Step 3

Depending on your interest, research the marketplace sites to see how profiles are crafted.

Step 4

Build your own skills profile.

Step 5

Create a portfolio of relevant work you have done, if needed (depending upon the job)

Step 6

Look for gig postings.

Step 7

Select a few postings that appeal to you and apply.

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Get started

Talk to an expert. Explore the options. Dig a little deeper. See if this is right for you.