Gig jobs can go by many names – freelancing, side hustles, temp jobs or contract work – but they all operate under the same basic principle. Workers move from one assignment to the next, selecting the jobs they want and working under conditions they choose.
“The gig economy gives you ultimate flexibility,” says Ross Buhrdorf, founder and CEO of ZenBusiness, a company that provides tools to freelancers and entrepreneurs who want to start a business. The platform has helped 150,000 new businesses launch since March 2020, compared to 30,000 in the year before.
While gig work is traditionally thought of as relatively unskilled side hustles, such as driving for ridesharing services, the scope of this sector is actually much larger. There are plenty of opportunities for white collar workers as well, says Austin Fox, CEO of digital staffing firm PeopleCaddie.
Here are five examples of great gig jobs across a variety of industries:
- Delivery Driver.
- Accounting/Finance Professional.
- Software Developer/IT Consultant.
- Environmental, Health and Safety Worker.
For traditional short-term gig jobs that let you work when and where you want, being a delivery driver provides maximum flexibility plus good earning potential. Whether they are delivering food via DoorDash, groceries through Shipt or home improvement purchases on the Roadie app, drivers often receive a flat fee for deliveries plus customer tips.
Delivery work is especially good for those who don’t want to commit to future jobs. Today’s delivery app companies make it easy for workers to log on at any time to find jobs that can be completed immediately.
Journalists and writers are among the popular professions for freelance workers, says Morten Petersen, founder and CEO of freelance marketplace Worksome. While some in this profession write for traditional publishers such as newspapers and magazines, digital media has opened up new avenues of work. Professionals are needed to write, edit and proofread online articles, website content and marketing materials, for instance.
Freelance writers and editors may find assignments through referrals from their network, or they may pitch story ideas to publications. Websites such as Worksome, Upwork and FlexJobs can also connect writers to available opportunities.
Tax associates, auditors and accountants are among the professional workers that are in demand for contract work, according to Fox. “Anybody that is basically in the client services field,” he says.
Contingent labor providers such as PeopleCaddie can connect companies with freelancers, or work may be available through platforms such as Worksome and Upwork. Some professionals may decide to go the self-employment route as financial advisors and find individual, rather than corporate, clients.
Software Developer/IT Consultant
Software consultants were among the most popular businesses launched via ZenBusiness since last spring, Buhrdorf says. However, any occupation in the field of informational technology may be a good choice for gig work. Companies often need graphic designers, website developers and other IT professionals for short-term projects.
As with other white-collar side hustles and gig work, jobs may come through personal referrals or online marketplaces. Consultants may also market their services directly to companies who have technology needs but aren’t big enough to have a dedicated IT department.
Environmental, Health and Safety Worker
Gig work can be found in unexpected places as well. “The gig economy is a game-changing format for the risk management and environmental, health and safety (EHS) industry,” says Michelle Tinsley, chief operating officer and co-founder of YellowBird, a company that connects certified EHS workers to short-term projects and routine assessments. The gig economy has made it possible for laid-off workers and those seeking flexible schedules to find positions specific to their skills.
“On the other hand, business leaders need EHS expertise, but many simply can’t afford a full-time EHS professional to handle all of their companies’ needs,” Tinsley says. In that case, contract workers can provide services such Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, risk assessments and environmental surveys.
Potential Pitfalls of Relying on Gig Work
With today’s gig economy apps and online marketplaces, it’s certainly doable to string together enough side hustles or freelance jobs to earn a living. However, it’s not as simple as earning money as an employee.
“You are starting a small business in a sense,” Buhrdorf says. That means you’ll likely need to contend with all the following:
Unpaid work requirements. Unlike regular hourly employment, you can’t bill for all the hours you spend on gig-related work tasks. “You obviously have to find your gigs,” Petersen says. That alone can take hours when you are just starting out. Plus, you may need to invoice clients, track payments and manage business taxes, which could require quarterly payments. All that takes time, which is unpaid, although it is a good idea to try to factor in those hours when setting rates.
High expectations. Contract workers can mean lower tax and benefit costs for employers and for that reason, companies may be willing to pay temporary workers more than they would pay an employee. But a company may not be willing to keep paying higher rates for work that is subpar or even average. “Exceptional wages need to be supported by exceptional work,” Fox says. “Contractors need to bring their A game every day.”
Unpredictable income. Unlike a traditional job that pays out on a regular schedule, payment for gig work can be erratic. “It may be a while before you get your first paycheck,” Petersen notes. It’s best not to change your lifestyle or take on new expenses until you have money in savings and a steady stream of income arriving each month.
No benefits. As a contract, freelance or gig worker, you’re on your own when it comes to obtaining health insurance and setting up a retirement account. There are options available – such as individual health plans on the government marketplace and IRAs for retirement savings – but they require a little more time and effort than benefits from an employer would entail.
Working for yourself is a viable option in the gig economy, and the pandemic may be helping to fuel job opportunities. “A trend that was already happening has been accelerated,” Buhrdorf says. “I think this is something that has permanently changed.”