With businesses closing their doors due to health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are wondering how they can make money, pay their bills, and provide for their families. And it could get worse. According to CNBC, the Federal Reserve estimates that in a worst-case scenario, 47 million people could lose their jobs. That’s a whopping 32.1% unemployment rate.
Prolonged shutdowns and the shift to telecommuting make traditional employment in many fields a shaky prospect for the near future. How can you keep earning in such an environment?
The answer is through the gig economy. The gig economy is the array of work available through online or nontraditional means, such as freelancing, Uber driving, and Airbnb subletting. A 2016 Pew study found that nearly one-quarter of all Americans earn some money through the gig economy. And a 2018 Gallup poll found that 36 percent of all Americans earn some money through the gig economy.
Gig economy jobs allow you to make money on your own schedule using skills or tools you already have, and many allow you to work from home. In some cases, they can even be more lucrative than traditional jobs.
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While gig economy jobs don’t provide the same level of security as traditional employment, you can work them in lieu of traditional employment or supplement your existing income. It also gives you greater flexibility in determining when and how often you work.
Depending on your abilities and credentials, there are many gig economy jobs you can start doing to make money right now. For other gigs, you can develop the skills now so you can land more lucrative work in the future.
Benefits of the Gig Economy
The gig economy’s independent contractors and online platform laborers work freelance jobs or for on-demand companies like Uber, Fiverr, or DoorDash. The Internet powers the gig economy, making it possible for people to connect without having to go through traditional offline means, allowing buyers and sellers to exchange services and money much more rapidly.
One significant advantage of the gig economy is that it has lowered the barrier of entry for many fields. For example, Uber allows anyone who owns a car to become a taxi driver without having to go through an expensive and time-consuming certification process. Similarly, freelance writers can find clients without having to go through the traditional application process.
Another benefit of the gig economy is that it gives workers greater scheduling flexibility. You can set your schedule around the times when you’re most productive or that allow you to earn the most money — for example, driving for Uber during the morning and evening rush hours.
Finally, gig economy work can pay more than location-based employment, depending on the type of job. For example, according to a 2019 CNBC report, one-third of Upwork freelancers make at least $50 an hour. If you have a regular 9-to-5 job, you can also get a side gig to make extra money.
Succeeding in the gig economy requires you to be driven and hardworking since getting paid depends on how much and how well you work. And if you’re relying on gig work for your sole income, you must personally manage certain aspects of your finances many traditional employers provide for. It’s up to you to plan to survive a job without benefits and learn how freelancing affects your taxes.
However, with gig work becoming a more substantial part of the economy, if you have a good work ethic and the right skills, you can earn a living working gigs. And if you develop a good relationship with a particular client, it could even lead to a full-time position with benefits.
Gig Economy Jobs You Can Start Doing Right Now
Like traditional work, how much money you can make in the gig economy depends on your experience and your credentials. There are many gig economy jobs you’re likely already qualified for and that you can start doing right now.
One of the most popular gig economy jobs is working for a ridesharing service, which allows users to turn their cars into taxis. Ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Bolt have become popular among users because they’re cheaper and more convenient than traditional taxis.
Ridesharing services require you to own a car and a smartphone, and they involve a background check and application process during which you become acquainted with the service’s rules and regulations. This process is quick and allows you to start earning money almost immediately.
Working for a ridesharing service offers flexible work hours and doesn’t require any additional tools or skills. With the growing popularity of ridesharing, it’s usually easy to find passengers to ferry around your area. In addition to fares, rideshare drivers can make tips. A 2020 Gridwise report indicates that Uber and Lyft drivers earn a median hourly wage of approximately $12.50 to $22, depending on the city.
Note that ridesharing services are not available in all areas. If you don’t live in or near a medium to large city, you may not be able to work for a ridesharing platform. Check what services are available in your area.
On-demand delivery services make it possible to have almost anything delivered to your door. While only a handful of restaurants have traditionally offered home delivery, the gig economy has opened up this process via food delivery apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats. There’s also Postmates, a delivery service that delivers more than food, including alcohol, groceries, and personal items. These platforms, much like ridesharing services, pay you to deliver food to customers.
Delivery gigs require you to own a smartphone, but unlike ridesharing, you don’t need to own a car. If you have a bicycle or motorcycle, you can work for many food delivery companies. And you can start making money almost immediately with food delivery.
With the growing popularity of delivery services, there are considerable opportunities in this field. These services also allow you to collect tips in addition to delivery fees. According to USA Today, the typical delivery gig pays $11 to $18 per hour.
If you have a spare room in your apartment or house or own another property you aren’t using, you can sublet it on a vacation rental site. Subletting services allow you to rent out your property to tourists, travelers, and short-term residents. Everyone knows about Airbnb, but the service has multiple competitors, including HomeAway, Vrbo, and FlipKey.
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Subletting services have become popular among travelers in recent years because they offer a more authentic traveling experience than hotels. They’re often cheaper as well. Renting on Airbnb can be especially lucrative if you live in or near a major tourist destination. Depending on your location, you can also purchase apartments or homes and lease them out on Airbnb. According to a 2017 survey from Earnest, Airbnb hosts earn more than anyone else in the gig economy, taking in an average of $924 a month.
Note that some cities and countries have banned or severely restricted hosting services. For example, many property firms in the United States forbid tenants or owners from subletting their units. Others may require you to seek permission. Check your local laws and regulations or your rental agreement to see if you’re allowed to rent your properties on Airbnb and other sites.
Dog-walking services like are popular in large cities and are usually used by busy professionals who can’t take care of their dogs during the day. If you love dogs, walking them could be a rewarding way to make some extra cash.
Apps like Rover allow you to sign up to walk or look after other peoples’ dogs. According to a salary review from Glassdoor, Rover dog walkers earn $16 per hour on average.
Another popular gig economy job is cleaning homes or businesses via apps such as Handy or Care.com. Clean spaces on the side while working a full-time job, or line up enough cleaning work to fill the entire week.
While you sometimes have to provide your own supplies, according to Payscale, the average Handy cleaner makes $17 per hour.
Other Easy Gigs
There are too many side gigs you can start now to list them all. For example, Thumbtack allows you to make money doing odd jobs like assembling or moving furniture. And Staffy acts as a digital temp agency, allowing you to apply for same-day jobs in a variety of fields. For even more ideas, see our review of the most popular side gigs.
How to Make Money With Your Skills in the Gig Economy
If you have a skill or talent that lets you earn a living at a conventional job, you can begin selling your expertise online. These are some examples of fields that you can work in from the comfort of your home.
Freelance Writing, Editing, or Translating
One of the most popular ways to make money in the gig economy is freelance writing and editing or proofreading. According to Copyblogger, skilled freelance writers can make as much as $100 to $250 per hour, depending on the type of writing they specialize in and their background. But the average pay for established freelance writers on Upwork is closer to $30 to $50 per hour.
Freelance writing runs the gamut from blog posts and informational content to more specialized types of writing, such as legal writing, academic writing, technical writing, and medical writing. Specialists can typically charge higher rates than those who engage in more general types of writing.
One great thing about freelance writing and editing is that it requires nothing other than a computer and an Internet connection. You can make money as a freelance writer anywhere in the world as long as you can set up your computer and get online.
If you’re fluent in multiple languages, you can also make a living online through freelance translating. Because the number of multilingual people in the job market is small, freelance translators are typically able to find steady gigs. If you’re fluent in difficult-to-learn, in-demand languages like Mandarin Chinese or Japanese, opportunities abound. According to data from Zip Recruiter, as of March 2020, the average hourly pay for a U.S. freelance translator was $29 per hour. But it can go as high as $74 per hour.
Computer programming — more commonly known as coding — has increasingly moved into the digital realm thanks to improved Internet speeds and telecommuting. Working from home is now very common in this industry.
Popular programming languages include Python, SQL, and Java, and given the relative difficulty of learning programming, you can command a high rate working as a freelance programmer. Career Karma puts the average hourly wage for a programmer at about $60.
If you don’t know how to code but would like to learn, numerous resources online can help you. Websites such as Udemy offer full online courses taught by credentialed programming professionals in addition to classes on many other subjects. If you just need to refresh your skills, you may be able to find free or inexpensive courses online.
Many businesses and individuals hire accountants and CPAs to help them keep track of their finances. With the gig economy, you can now move your accounting business online and work from home. According to Forbes, freelance accountants can earn as much as $215 an hour, depending on their credentials.
If you have worked in law, you can put your expertise to use in the gig economy. According to CNBC, services like legal entity structuring, trade law, and trademark consulting can command up to $85 per hour on sites like Upwork.
Information technology (IT) specialists are always in high demand due to the ever-evolving nature of computer technology and the need for businesses to keep their systems running. IT specialists can now work many jobs remotely, with IT strategy gigs commanding up to $165 per hour online, according to Upwork.
Other Gig Economy Jobs
You can translate a great many skills and talents you already have into the gig economy. For example, if you have experience teaching English, there are many websites like VIPkid or Education First that allow you to teach English online. Examples of high-earning gig economy jobs include art, psychiatry, and financial consulting. Their high pay plus the added flexibility and convenience that comes with working from home makes them gigs to aspire to.
High-Paying Gig Economy Websites
If you have a skill or talent and want to put it to use in the gig economy, there are websites where you can connect with clients directly. There are a variety of sites where you can sell your skills online.
Upwork is by far the largest freelancing jobs platform on the Internet, with hundreds of thousands of gigs in a wide variety of fields. According to WebsiteBuilder, 12 million freelancers use Upwork to connect with clients and earn money with minimal hassle. Upwork says that its freelance talent is available to do “Just about everything,” including but not limited to translation, branding, engineering, data science, business analysis, tax preparation, recruiting, legal services, sales, design, and writing.
You can use Upwork to create a customized profile and portfolio as well as list your rates and more. The site does take a cut of your earnings in the form of a service fee, but as you do more work for the same client, the service fee gets lower. Upwork’s pricing structure is a per-client sliding scale based on your lifetime billings across all hourly and fixed-price contracts you’ve ever had with them on Upwork. A 20% fee applies to the first $500 of lifetime billings. From $500.01 to $10,000, they apply a 10% fee. And for billings over $10,000, the fee drops to 5% for all remaining work.
But you do receive a benefit from the service fee since the platform’s payment protection adds peace of mind you’ll get paid for the work you do.
Some Upwork freelancers earn more than $250 an hour, according to CNBC, with one-third making at least $50 per hour, which puts them in the top 10% of U.S. wage earners overall.
Fiverr is a long-running gig website where writers, programmers, and artists offer various services for just $5. While that doesn’t sound like much, the site has a robust add-on system, allowing you to charge much more per job completed.
Like Upwork, Fiverr allows you to create a customized portfolio and profile to show off your work and credentials. The site takes a 20 percent cut of all jobs completed, which is steeper than Upwork, but Fiverr is a reputable option for those just getting started in the gig economy.
Your Own Website
If you have a strong professional reputation, you can start your own website to tout services directly to clients.
Using your own website to make money is more difficult than using a platform like Upwork because you don’t have a built-in pool of potential clients and jobs to access. However, with a website, you’ll have maximum flexibility to set your own rates and can keep 100 percent of everything you make.
You can start your own portfolio website using free platforms like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. You can also use a paid service such as Bluehost, which offer the added benefits of a custom URL and a specialist who can install content management software for you.
Other Apps & Websites
There are numerous apps and platforms, including many sharing economy apps, such as Spot, which lets you rent out your parking space, and Turo, which lets you rent your car. These are excellent sources for people looking to create full-time income by stringing together multiple gigs as well as for traditional employees looking to make extra money in their spare time.
How to Create a Home Space for Working
To many, working from home sounds idyllic, but one challenge is creating separation between work and the rest of your life. If you’re pursuing a gig economy job that requires home work, like freelancing or programming, it helps to have a comfortable and dedicated workspace that limits distractions so you can stay on task.
1. Create a Comfortable Place to Work
If you don’t have a spare room to convert into a home office, find a space large enough for a desk and computer chair. Even if you live in a small apartment, you can still transform a corner of your home into a side gig sanctuary. According to Bloomberg, collapsible desks are increasingly popular among gig economy workers because they’re small, easy to assemble and take part, and are portable.
Depending on the work you do, you may need different types of furniture and tools. For example, a graphic designer may require a larger desk than a freelance writer if they need to accommodate additional monitors. Another factor to consider is lighting. If your home space has natural light from windows, it can make you more productive and happier. A 2018 Cornell University found that natural light reduces headaches and eyestrain caused by computer usage.
2. Make Sure You Have Quality Internet Access
Many gig economy jobs require you to be online to work, so a high-speed Internet connection is a must. While you don’t need a lightning-fast connection, you don’t want to be stuck with a slow connection that disrupts high bandwidth activities like videoconferencing. Look into reliable providers like AT&T or Xfinity.
3. Be Mindful of Gadgets
While tools such as smartphones and tablets can aid gig economy productivity, they can also be serious productivity killers. Design your home space so you have a minimum of distractions when you’re on the job. Leave your gaming consoles, TV, and books in other rooms so they don’t tempt you.
4. Keep Track of Time
Since gig economy workers can set their own hours, you may find yourself pulling a 14-hour day at times and doing barely anything the next day. Proper time management is key to success when working from home. You don’t want to burn yourself out.
One potential downside to working anytime and anywhere is the tendency to overwork. A 2017 report from the United Nations International Labour Organization found that while employees are more productive when they work outside a conventional office, they’re also more vulnerable to working longer hours, a more intense work pace, and at times, greater stress. To prevent burnout, designate a time to wake up in the morning and set work hours throughout the day. While it’s OK to put in overtime if you’re working on something important, maintaining a proper work-life balance can make you more productive over the long haul and keep you sane.
5. Consider a Coworking Space
If your home is too cramped or distracting for you to be productive, consider joining a coworking space. These facilities rent out private offices to freelancers who want to concentrate on work. They also generally offer perks like mailing addresses and dedicated phone lines.
With the rise of the gig economy, coworking spaces have sprung up in many cities, so if you live in a large city or metro area, you can easily find one that meets your needs.
Freelancing is no longer just a side hustle or the domain of an enterprising few. The gig economy has made it possible for millions of workers to earn money on their own terms, set their own hours, and avoid long commutes. Mastercard projects that by 2023, more than half of U.S. workers will participate at least partially in the gig economy.
Have you worked in the gig economy before? What other tips would you offer to gig economy workers or aspiring workers?
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