Navigating the World of the Gig Economy

The joke that whatever X is, “there’s an app for that,” is more accurate than funny anymore. The “gig economy” has reached the point where personal services—cleaning, driving, delivery, odd jobs—are operating in the same space as traditional contract and freelance employment like graphic design, IT support and home health care. These services are usually accessed via a smartphone app that connects a registered worker with a client in need.
As you become more comfortable with using apps in your job search and career networking, it may become attractive to register with one or more services as a way to gain experience and earn some money, even to replace a regular job. You should be careful, though, about how you approach gig work, and what it means for you personally and financially.
Where to Work
There are apps for almost any service that you can imagine nowadays, so it’s possible to find opportunities that match almost any skills and availability. Here are just a few examples:

  • Lyft and Uber: These popular and widely known “ride sharing” apps connect drivers with people who need rides; if you have a car and/or a valid driver’s license, you can probably register with one (or both, as some drivers do).
  • Handy and TaskRabbit: People use these to find help with what you might call “handyman services,” plus some general labor and errands that they don’t have the time or skill to handle themselves.
  • Postmates and DoorDash: These are delivery apps—it might be food, it might be packages, but having a car and a flexible schedule can mean earning money by moving things from one place to another.
  • and Sitter: These are for child care (; it can be as simple as old-fashioned babysitting, but client demands (CPR and first aid certification, driver’s license, references, etc.) may limit opportunities if you don’t have experience.

Many of these apps also include more seasoned professionals, too, and there are apps—like Fancy Hands for personal assistance and Upwork for creative services—that cater specifically to traditional gig workers, like freelance writers. You can explore all kinds of gig economy apps on Hurdlr.
The Risks
There are benefits to gig work, especially if a full-time job doesn’t fit your schedule—it’s usually flexible, can pay better per job than an hourly wage, and can help you get work experience in a field that you want to enter professionally—but there are also risks.
This article covers many of the common concerns, and there are others as well; some companies using gig labor have been sued by workers for lack of payment and exploitative practices, and even some of the biggest run into legal and regulatory trouble around types of employment and allowing un-credentialed people to do work that requires certification.
The greatest concerns are on what gig work usually leaves out—unlike full-time employment, there are usually no health care or retirement benefits, nor a fixed schedule or wage to plan around, and paying income taxes becomes your responsibility.
Keep all of these things in mind if you’re thinking about gig work; you may be able to make it work for you, either part-time or even to make a living, but be mindful of the risks and the additional responsibilities that come with it, too. You may be able to get good localized advice at your local Goodwill.