There was once a time when the only people who used the word “gig” were musicians chatting about a booking. Today, virtually every newspaper and magazine features the booming gig economy — or how to make the most of it — on a regular basis. Though the term generally refers to people who have taken leave of their full-time jobs, choosing instead to work as independent contractors, there are many who are participating on freelance platforms as a way to supplement their income.
No matter whether you’re considering entering this flexible, unpredictable world, you won’t be alone. Businesswire has reported that more than one in three professionals turned to freelancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as businesses have reopened and people have returned to work, a recent Pew Research study found that 9% of Americans were involved in gig work and that 31% of those — roughly 3 percent of U.S. adults — did gig work as their main job.
Gig work has plenty of benefits, but it has its drawbacks too. The most obvious advantage is the flexibility of making your own hours and being your own boss. Drawbacks include the unpredictability of work, the lack of paid benefits, and having to pay self-employment taxes.
If you’re wondering whether gig work is right for you, you have plenty of options available. Platforms exist for people with specialized skills as well as for unskilled workers, drivers, and grocery pickers. To give you an idea of the opportunities available, we’ve assembled a list of some of the top platforms for finding gig work.
- Freelancer – This site offers the opportunity to post a personal profile that highlights your skills and then to bid on jobs in over 1,800 categories. Employers post their job descriptions and review the profile posted by each worker whose skills match their needs. Payments are made in milestones. The site has a membership fee after the first month, with a variety of membership options available.
- Instacart – Signing up to be a contractor for this delivery service means you become a personal shopper, picking out items based on clients’ orders and then delivering them, Instacart’s gig workers do most of their shopping for clients at specific big brand stores. Must have constant access to a smartphone and a vehicle and must be able to lift 50 pounds without accommodation. In addition to being paid based on the job itself, you also have the opportunity to earn tips.
- TaskRabbit – TaskRabbit matches those who need help with odd jobs and errands with people with the skill to do them. Jobs can range from driving to a physician’s office to helping somebody move or assemble furniture. This last task was posted so frequently on the platform that it attracted the attention of furniture giant IKEA, which purchased the site in 2017 and now offers a TaskRabbit service option with their furniture purchases. Gig workers download the site’s app and are then notified when somebody in their area posts a job they may want to complete.
- Care.com – This platform matches pet sitters, babysitters, tutors, housekeepers, and senior caretakers with those in need of their services. Signing up as a contractor on this site requires submitting to a background check in order to ensure the safety of those being cared for. Skills such as CPR or first aid certification are particularly valuable. This site does not take a percentage of earnings but does charge a membership fee.
The gig economy offers limitless options for earnings, regardless of what your skill levels are. If you choose to get involved, make sure that you understand all the financial ramifications: payments are made through third-party platforms and reported to the IRS, so it is important that you are including all freelance income on your tax return and paying quarterly estimated income tax on all earnings.