One-Stop-Shop Guide to the Gig Economy

The side hustle. The odd job. The gig. However you choose to identify it, freelance work has been a cornerstone of content-generating industries like entertainment, design, and copywriting for quite some time. Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax, recently published a report outlining how the gig economy is transforming the way people work. On the record with CNN Business, Intuit CEO Brad Smith said that gig workers are “estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce and expected to be 43 percent by the year 2020.”

So, what exactly is a “gig?” Simply put, a gig is a temporary position with a predetermined window of activity, expectations, and potential deliverables for which a freelance worker is paid. In some cases, it’s project-based work that continues until the client’s need is met, in either a full- or part-time capacity. In most cases, especially when it comes to doing your taxes, gig workers are considered independent contractors or freelancers, so it’s up to them to secure their own work. This often means hunting for and acquiring leads.

In 2019, there are a number of apps and sites dedicated to connecting freelancers with clients, and vice-versa. While a gig-based approach to employment does not provide benefits such as health insurance, a 401(K), PTO, or parental leave, it allows a freer means of making a living that puts you in direct control of your income. It should be noted that it is possible for gig work to become something more consistent, even a salaried position, particularly if you consistently meet clients’ expectations.

Read on to learn more about 14 of the best, most-frequently used sites and apps for gig work, with information on the nature of the work, who might like working that way, costs, and how to apply.

99designs

A service connecting graphic designers with clients, 99designs has two methods of facilitating that connection, both of which are client-directed. First, a designer works directly with a client who has viewed their profile and portfolio. Or, clients may start a contest in which many designers submit their ideas and the client picks their favorites.

As a freelance designer, you can start an account for free, but there is a $100 introduction fee when you first begin working with a client that is spread out over the first $500 in business you do with that client. In addition, 99designs provides top-notch customer service, support, fraud protection, and secure payments by charging platform fees at three levels: 15 percent for entry, 10 percent for mid, and 5 percent for top level.

Amazon Flex

Among its many satellite endeavors, Amazon’s Flex initiative enables those with a valid driver’s license and clean record to become a Delivery Partner. Using the Amazon Flex app on your Android or iPhone, you can claim delivery jobs, pick up the specified parcels, and use your own vehicle to deliver those parcels.

Amazon’s market for these independently-contracted jobs can earn drivers between $18 and $25 an hour, depending on location. Currently, only a handful of cities on the east coast and one in Colorado offer Flex driver opportunities, but that list will no doubt expand in the coming years.

Craigslist Gigs

Given how significant its presence is in the reselling market, many are surprised to learn that Craigslist also hosts a gigs section, allowing clients to post jobs in need of completion.

The site uses the categories of computer, creative, crew, domestic, event, labor, talent, and writing to organize postings. It operates in the same way that Craigslist does. You’ll find that many clients will pay via PayPal or will insist on a cash-only arrangement. Whatever you do, be sure to archive any email threads in which you have agreed upon a payable-on-delivery expectation with the client.

Fiverr

One of the most well-known and widely-used platforms for microgigs, Fiverr caters to designers, developers, writers, video editors, social media marketers, voice-over artists, composers, and many more. Freelancers create a gig that showcases their talents and abilities, clients search for and choose freelancers that match their project needs, and freelancers are paid in entirety upon completion.

Famously begun as a site where creatives offered $5 gigs, it has since grown to include jobs that command quotes as high as $10,000. With over 200 categories in which you can offer your talents, the sky’s the limit.

FlexJobs

One of the web’s most reliable sources for remote work, FlexJobs has helped to spearhead the new-collar jobs movement by offering freelance jobs, employee jobs, and gigs that are both full- and part-time. Prospective candidates can search and select jobs, but to apply, you must become a member. The annual cost is $49.95, which ensures a job search process free of ads and scams and a steady flow of verified employers and postings—all of which are hand-screened and selected by employment experts.

The site also hosts a side jobs blog that’s an excellent resource for those looking to learn more about the gig economy and cultivate job-winning freelancing habits.

Freelance Writing Gigs

If you’re a writer who wants to work remotely and you enjoy a spectrum of work from contract to project-based, Freelance Writing Gigs is a crucial resource in the search for writing work online. Their jobs board collates postings and displays exclusive content related to finding freelance writing work.

GrubHub

GrubHub is a food delivery service that allows independent contractors to claim jobs collecting and delivering meals ordered by clients. Usually meals are of the fast food variety, but options can and do also include many other types of restaurants that do not normally deliver. By accessing this untapped market and applying a gigging workforce, GrubHub has taken the Postmates approach to markets untouched by Postmates itself, enabling gigging workers all over the country to try their hand at delivering from franchises to hungry customers.

Instacart

If you have a knack for shopping and following detailed lists, Instacart could be a great side-gig for you. Depending on the area in which you live, any number of major grocery chains such as Krogers, Safeway, Costco, Natural Grocers, Albertsons, and even PetCo have entered into partnerships with Instacart to allow their freelancers to shop in their stores. Becoming a shopper with Instacart means adherence to the company’s independent contractor agreement, in addition to observing state and local laws regarding contracting.

Lyft

Lyft is a transportation network company that offers ridesharing services of varying levels, from quick and affordable to luxurious and private. App users signal their need for a pickup, and nearby drivers on duty respond, arriving shortly to ferry them to their respective destinations.

If you have a working vehicle that meets Lyft’s requirements, you can begin almost immediately, once filling out the driver’s application. You can even enroll in the Express Driver program, which lets drivers 25 years and above rent a vehicle from Lyft in which they can begin to earn money.

Postmates

In many ways, Postmates set the standard for gig-based goods delivery by independent contract when it was founded in 2011. To deliver with Postmates is to join “the fleet.”

Once you download the app and register, you can enter your ZIP code or address to receive targeted notifications on a real-time map that allows you to accept deliveries of food, drinks, and groceries to recipients in your local area. The service is currently offered only in major cities across the US, including New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, and others.

One major perk to the structure of this gig is that, as a freelancer, you keep 100 percent of your earnings. It’s highly likely that Postmates will move in to smaller areas as time goes on, so stay in the loop by inputting your information in the delivery locations search.

Rover

If you love dogs but don’t have the time to adopt a pet, you might consider the dog sitting and boarding service Rover. Using this service, you can become one of the “treat-your-dog-like-family” people, house sitting pets overnight, and boarding dogs for longer periods of time or for shorter engagements, whatever the client needs.

Sitters build a public profile that features reviews and a verification system that vets their skills. If you’re an experienced social media user, Rover features a sharing element that allows the client to check in on their pets. Sitters typically respond at regular intervals with photos of the happy pet. All payments are securely processed through the app or via the Rover website.

Task Rabbit

If you come from lines of work that are labor-oriented such as moving, furniture assembly and manufacturing, mounting, installation, cleaning, industrial labor, or general handyman services, then you might think about becoming a tasker with Task Rabbit. You can join a background-checked workforce of over 140,000 professionals with an incredibly wide range of skills and talents. Task Rabbit helps those with projects to be accomplished find local people with a specific set of physical and assembly skills. Clients describe their tasks, use this description as a framework from which to search the Task Rabbit database for freelancers who meet those criteria, and then set up conditions and make payment arrangements, all via the iPhone or Android app.

Toptal

If you have a rich occupational background in design, UX, software development, finance management, project management, or product management, then you should consider applying to be a freelancer with Toptal. You should note, however, that the competition is fierce: Toptal accepts only the top three percent of high-performing and highly-rated freelancers, who must undergo a rigorous application process.

Like many other talent-seeking platforms, clients seek out freelancers by informing Toptal as to their project needs. The service then locates the perfect freelancer match. Using Toptal as a platform is entirely secure and comes with first-rate customer support.

Uber

Among the most well-known gig-based services, Uber is the second TNC (transportation network company) on this list. Their model is similar to Lyft’s, and by now it’s a fixture of the gig economy. App users input their need for a pickup, and the closest Uber driver can choose whether or not to respond. As a driver, once you accept the job, your name, license plate number, photo, rating, and temporary phone number is made available to clients. Uber drivers tend to net about the same as Lyft drivers, after deducting driving expenses.

So Which Line of Work is Right for You?

It’s important to know yourself and your employment goals before making the leap to a gig-based income. Consider your interests and hobbies, former jobs, internships, exchanges, and whatever else might be relevant to determine what kind of work you’d be qualified and best suited to do. Your passions come seriously into play, because creative skills often emerge from experiences that inspired you. Make sure to know what your skills are and where you need improvement. Maintaining this self-awareness will keep you open to constructive criticism and will make it easier to adjust to gig work’s mode of constant feedback and adaptation.

Adapting means a willingness to see things in new ways, hear client perspectives, and meet emerging client needs. It’s about cultivating a self-guided work ethic that prioritizes prompt and reliable correspondence; learning new systems, apps, or software as necessary; and putting in a lot of extra time taking seminars, watching tutorials, reading guides, and reskilling as-required by your line(s) of work.

Making sure not to overdo it should be a major priority. Think about when exactly you have time for gig work. If you’re already working another job, your availability may be limited, so it’s advised that you choose gigs which work within your daily schedule. This is true, however, even if you don’t have another job. It’s much easier to work within your existing availability than it is trying to abruptly adjust to a schedule that requires more of your personal time and input than most hourly work. Schedule periods for rest and relaxation whenever possible. Don’t spread yourself too thin!

Kenneth Parker
Kenneth Parker
Writer

A graduate of the University of Oregon, Kenneth Parker is sometimes a musician and rarely a poet. His work spans copy editing, feature writing, and dissertation development.

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