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Make Money Between Jobs: The Gig Economy Could Save Your Bacon

gig economy making money between jobs

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, nearly 25% of Americans now earn at least some money through the “gig economy”—also known as freelance, contract or on-demand work. Others put that number even higher. Made up of independent contractors, online sellers, freelancers, artists and more, one thing is for sure: the number of Americans participating in this economy is steadily rising.

In fact, the percentage of independent workers has grown in every sector of the economy since 2003. (The last time the U.S. Census Bureau published data on “nonemployer businesses” was 2016, though a new data collecting initiative is underway). To be sure, not every (or even most) of on-demand workers are earning their principal income through independent avenues.  But, as means of earning quick cash on your own terms, gig economy work can bolster your savings or even contribute to your financial safety net until you land your next job.

Why the rising gig economy?

Despite the fancy name, the fact that individuals set up small money-making ventures is hardly something new. What is new, however—and what accounts for their growth—is the ease with which folks can now hang out a shingle.

That’s because the digital marketplace has made matching customers with workers a click or two away. Handymen, hired drivers, graphic designers and collectors are just a few of the people making good use of third-party online platforms (and their apps).  

More generally, the internet has allowed more people to work remotely, whether that means living the life of a “digital nomad,” or staying put while serving clients around the world. So influential is this digital technology, in fact, recent studies by LinkedIn and Intuit have predicted that more than 40% of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of freelancers by 2020.

Lest you think only millennials are attracted to the benefits of freelancing—among them flexible schedules, work variety and daily autonomy—independent workers scan all demographics. While perfect for students with unpredictable schedules and young adults who can weather financial uncertainty, self-employment can be equally appealing to retirees who want to remain active and/or explore a new vocation.

What the gig economy means for you

Seeing that the majority of gig workers reported their side jobs only supplement their steady income, most would be ill-advised to quit their day jobs (or, ahem, their job searches). Realistically, a side-hustle is unlikely to replace your previous income (much less any benefits that came with it). But for the unemployed or underemployed, the growing gig economy can be a life saver. At worst, you’ll gain new skills and contacts. At best, your entrepreneurial prowess may someday make job interviews a thing of your past.

Get your gig on

Think you’ve got a skill (or two) to hawk? Think through the following prompts and glance at the list of job examples for resources and inspiration.  Then join the 25% (and growing) of people making extra cash on their own terms!

Knowing what to offer

Assess your skills and any experience that you can offer

Take into consideration any time constraints (job search duties, kids’ school schedule)

Research online platforms and wages related to your trade (blogs by current freelancers in the field are a good place to start)

Decide if you want a third-party platform (a company that advertises the jobs and seals the deal for you) or to work for yourself—or a combination of the two. While you’ll usually make more money without a middleman, you’ll benefit from their database and reputation.

When you’re ready to join the digital marketplace, get some business cards, set up a simple website and/or post your skills on Craigslist, neighborhood and community websites, social media and through your local chamber of commerce.

Examples of gig economy work:    

See the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for detailed profiles of these and other occupations. For new job trends, consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Outlook site.

  • Driver / car sharing / delivery driver
  • House cleaner
  • Electrician / plumber
  • Rent out a room or your whole home
  • Personal assistant
  • Pet sitter / dog walker
  • Appliance repair / home repair
  • Carpenter / painter
  • Grant writer / technical writer
  • Interpreter / Transcription
  • Photographer / Videographer
  • Laundry services
  • Online seller
  • Personal shopper
  • Musician
  • Graphic designer
  • Artist
  • Web and software developer
  • Computer programmer
  • Blogger / writer