What Is the Gig Economy? Definition and Career Advice

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Independent work is a popular way to earn money in your free time, but it is also a source of primary income for many. From grocery delivery to rideshare, independent work attracts different independent contractors. If you are interested in the industry or are considering independent work, you may want to learn more about it. In this article, we cover what the gig economy is and how it works, outline the various jobs and offer some tips for success in this kind of work.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is a work environment where large numbers of people work as independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. Independent workers typically perform flexible, short-term onetime transactions. Many freelancers and members of this industry rely on tips as income.

Related: How To Get a Gig Job

What does gig stand for?

The word gig refers to the temporary or singular nature of the work. The word comes from the music industry, where it refers to a single performance in a venue. Venues usually pay performers for each time they perform. Though the performers may repeat the same performances, each performance is an individual job, which is where this industry got its name.

What is considered a gig job?

A gig is a temporary task completed by an independent worker. Companies can develop a concept for work that independent contractors can do. That company then develops a system for assigning that work to various contractors, usually through the use of cell phone apps.

People who want to make extra money outside of their regular job or those wanting to do only independent work access these platforms and receive compensation for their work. This can involve things like rideshare and food delivery. Many facets of this industry are facilitated by the use of technology like GPS, online ordering and applications. These are some of the primary models for companies that facilitate independent work:

  • Digital skill venues: This model focuses on providing a method of communication between those who have specialised abilities and their clients. For example, this may include child care, hair and beauty services, cleaning services and plumbing or electrical repairs.

  • Servicing platforms: A servicing platform allows people to create job postings for the work they need completed and choose between various freelancers to complete the work. This can include skills like graphic design, writing, animation and music production.

  • Asset demand model: The asset model is very prevalent within this industry, facilitating common services like rideshare, food and grocery delivery and accommodation. In this model, the independent worker may perform more similar jobs than in other models.

What are examples of gig workers?

There are many types of independent work, and as flexible work becomes more popular, new jobs continue to develop. These are some of the most common types:

  • Rideshare: This is a job in which the independent contractor typically uses their personal car to provide transportation to customers who order rides through an app. This is one of the more popular types and has helped to change transportation, especially in cities.

  • Education: Education typically involves tutoring, and sometimes teaching short-term classes online. For example, a teacher may use an online platform over the summer to teach maths or English.

  • Delivery: Workers often deliver restaurant food, groceries, snacks and other goods through delivery platforms. This is another very popular job that many independent workers choose because it can be lucrative, especially in large populations.

  • Production: For those who have specialised creative skills, creating custom products or art can be a lucrative opportunity. For example, a person who loves to quilt may use time outside of their career to create custom quilts for their clients.

  • Skill-based: There are many other types of jobs, also be known as freelancing, that freelancers can usually complete from a laptop or other computer. This can include writing, coding and virtual assistant work.

Related: What Is a Freelancer? Definition, Skills and Popular Jobs

Benefits of the gig economy

This industry continues to grow and develop due to its increasing flexibility and demand. These are some perks of independent work:

Develop skillsets faster

By freelancing or working independently, you may develop many skills at the same time. For example, if you work a full-time job as an accountant, you may build your mathematical abilities. By delivering food outside of your normal work hours, you may also improve your communication, time-management and customer service abilities.

Choose when you can work

If you have a complicated or complex schedule regarding your home life, this industry may be a great way for you to schedule your independent work around it. For example, if you must take children to sports practices and manage other engagements, it might be difficult to have a regular job. Because an independent worker determines their own schedule, it makes it easier to earn money while managing other responsibilities.

Determine which jobs to take

When working a regular full-time job, you may not get to choose which tasks and responsibilities you must manage. You may have the freedom to decline any job that does not appeal to your interests, time or energy. This allows you to pursue the jobs that make you the happiest and can improve your work experience. For example, you may choose not to accept a job creating a piece of art or writing that doesn't interest you or contradicts your beliefs.

Gain more financial freedom

Providing rideshare services, delivering foods or creating custom crafts can help you build your financial freedom, especially if doing so outside of a regular career. Some choose to do independent work to pay off debts or save up for big purchases. By completing a few jobs a week, you can save money over the course of the year.

Balance work and life duties

By working when you want to and choosing the jobs that you like most, you can balance your work and life duties. Choosing to freelance full-time may also reduce your need for a commute or other job-related expenses. In this industry, you are not obligated to work on holidays or at weekends and you can prioritise your family or other responsibilities as you need to.

Related: What Is Remote Work?

Important skills for gig workers

These are some important skills for independent workers to have:

  • Adaptability: In this industry, you may perform many types of tasks. If one type of job is not available or lucrative, it is important that you can adapt and move into doing a different one.

  • Dependability: It is important that you can reliably deliver quality work to your clients or customers. By showing consistent dependability, you can increase the chance that the client or organisation may select you for future jobs.

  • Motivation: As an independent worker, you can work as much as you want to. The proper motivation allows you to strive for excellence and earn more money.

  • Customer service: Many forms of this work involve working closely with customers, and the ability to provide great customer service may earn you better ratings and allow you to make more money or find better jobs.

  • Resiliency: Developing resiliency is an important skill for independent work, as it allows you to provide the best service and care to your clients at all times. For example, the holiday season is usually a very busy time for independent work, and resiliency can make it simpler to maintain a positive attitude.

  • Time-management: As an independent contractor, it is important that you can complete jobs promptly.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Tips for doing gig work

These are some tips you can use to be successful in the industry:

  • Choose jobs you enjoy: By choosing the work you enjoy, you may be more motivated to work and provide a better experience for your customers.

  • Use what you have to your advantage: If you are a house owner, you can rent your property out when you are away. As a car owner, you may want to do rideshare or deliveries.

  • Determine the best times to work: Depending on your tasks, consider working during the busiest times. For example, if you deliver food, consider working during mealtimes or on the busiest days of the week.

  • Optimise with extra tools or tech: Because independent work often requires you to use your phone, consider bringing a portable charger so you can maintain a charge on your phone and ensure you are available for your customers and clients.

  • Make a consistent routine: Planning to perform your jobs consistently throughout the week or each day can help you stay on task and reach your earning goals.

  • Establish a savings account: Because the earnings from jobs can fluctuate, it is a good idea to have reliable savings in case your earnings for a period are lower than normal.

  • Work in multiple job types: By diversifying your income and working in different kinds of jobs, you can optimise your time and increase your earnings. For example, this might mean delivering groceries during the day and delivering restaurant food during the afternoon and evening.

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