Ever ordered from DoorDash? Ever hitched a ride with Uber or Lyft? Maybe you’ve had your groceries picked up by Postmates. Stayed the weekend in an Airbnb. Or maybe you had a graphic or company logo created via Fivver. And let’s not forget real estate photos and video with OBEO or Vacasa. All of these companies are a part of the widely known “gig economy.”
Gig workers are primarily independent contractors. They work with no benefits or taxes taken from their pay. They are on their own, and thus bear the responsibility of keeping track of quarterly taxes, managing their healthcare, and maintaining their equipment and property.
A job like Uber or DoorDash is a quick and easy way to make more money. You can start and stop when you like, accept or ignore deliveries or rides, and generally work at your own pace. It can be great come the holidays when people seek extra cash for their gift lists. Or maybe you have a spare bedroom that you can rent out (think Airbnb), or you’re an aspiring photographer or graphic artist (think Fivver). The chance to make extra cash seems endless. And you’re not tied down to a specific company and only working for them, although this is certainly not a bad thing when you consider things like benefits.
But what of those who do it full time? Who drive or deliver eight hours a day? Who honestly like playing host to travelers? Or who have endless artistic ideas or a great eye for images and composition? What if they have decided that a “gig” job is their career?
In California, a law went into effect back in January of this year that classified all independent contractors, including gig workers, as regular employees. California is flush with freelancers thanks to the film industry, and other tech positions through the state. Employers, of course, were not so thrilled, because of those benefits mentioned above. Healthcare, taxes, and paid time off were required to be extended to these workers, greatly increasing costs to the companies that utilize them. DoorDash and Uber filed suit. Airbnb has tussled with regulators for years. Vox, the left-leaning news media company, cut ties with 200 freelancers. As of this writing, it appears voters in the state have modified the law this past election, not requiring the full employee status.
For my part, as a new transplant to the Treasure Valley, I’ve DoorDashed and worked for UberEats since coming to Idaho back in the fall of 2019. I’ve recently signed on with OBEO as a drone pilot. My plan has always been to to do the “gig” thing temporarily while I looked for steadier, full-time employment.
Alas…I’ve currently got 2300 deliveries under my belt over the past 13 months. I’ve just started with OBEO. Regular work has been difficult to secure, especially in my field, video production. But I’m grateful for the gig work. It enables me to provide something for my family (my wife works also), and in the case of OBEO, keep my drone skills sharp.
If you utilize these services, be aware that the people doing them are between jobs or just starting out in the job market. They’re willing to make the effort to “make their own keep,” however minimal. They also may already have jobs but use the gig jobs to supplement their income. We all know how hard Covid-19 has affected the greater economy as a whole.
So the next time you use an Uber or order out through DoorDash or GrubHub, try if you can to tip your worker well. You’d be amazed what the base pay is for some jobs. I once waited at Walmart for 90 minutes for a delivery that was paying me $7. Once I got the delivery, and dropped it off, I was tipped a generous $1. Gig workers are not rich. And they’re doing a service for YOU. Remember them, especially this holiday season, if you are able.
Who knows? You might find yourself a part of the “gig” economy sometime in the future. Pay it forward.