In this new section, we’ve been covering the gig economy at length. Indeed, as is the case with the rise of new ways to do business, many exciting new ideas and concepts pop up constantly. Yet, an aspect of the gig economy we haven’t addressed yet is all-important: beyond numbers, statistics, and marketplaces, it’s the gig worker who acts as the lifeblood for the whole thing. After all, where would we be without the brave freelancers who turn in high-quality work day after day?
Saying that full-time employment is dead would be a case of total hyperbole. But, conversely, saying that temporary jobs are massively on the rise isn’t. Work is plentiful, but how we engage with it is moving at a fast clip; not too long ago, if we wanted a significant paycheck, most likely we had to apply for steady employment. Yet, in 2021, that’s just one of several ways to approach the job market.
It’s these new opportunities that allow the gig worker to flourish.
But, hold on, what is a gig? “Gig” itself is just a colloquial term that refers to temporary work. Freelancers typically use these terms, saying that they’ve “booked,” or “landed” a gig, or job. Let’s take a more in-depth look at this topic.
What Is a Gig Worker?
As we’ve established, gigs are temporary jobs that are typically (but not exclusively) short-term. Thus, a gig worker is a freelancer or independent contractor, that operates on a per-job basis for one or more clients.
And yes, gig workers or independent contractors fall under their own classification by governments. In contrast to full-time employees, they don’t have access to benefits like paid vacation time, health and retirement plans, or having their taxes deducted automatically. Whereas employees have to fill out W-2 to have their taxes deducted, a gig worker has to fill a 1099 form every year to pay their own taxes. “Full-time freelancers,” or “permalance” workers, may have to fill out a W-9 form. Ultimately, gig workers are similar to employees in that they still have to pay income taxes and they still must know which of the tax brackets 2022 applies to their level of income.
Does this mean the typical gig worker is not under contract? Quite the contrary, in fact; most gig workers are working either under short or long-term contracts. But, these contracts generally specify that there is no employer-employee relationship. Thus, gig workers don’t receive the typical benefits associated with long-term employment, and both sides can terminate the professional relationship at any time.
So, what are the benefits of being a gig worker, then? To many, it’s the flexibility of being able to opt in and out of jobs, and managing their own schedules. In their view, they handily beat out the comfort of a steady paycheck and the typical worker benefits. The other, of course, is the tremendous availability of work available, especially online. This makes gig work a very attractive proposition to younger generations especially.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Flexibility is a very attractive idea for most workers. While safety and security have their merits, an increasing amount of US workers are opting for the allure of being a gig worker. Hence, recent surveys are showing this tendency, from 35% of the workforce in 2019 to even greater future projections.
In our article about independent work, we wrote about some data points by MBOpartners:
- It’s predicted that in the next 10 years, around 50% of the American workforce will work in some independent capacity.
- Around 15% of American workers already participate in the “side hustle” or gig economy.
- Gen Z’ers are expected to be the most entrepreneurial generation yet, and we should see the gig economy increase substantially because of this.
- In 2020, 48% of the private workforce in the U.S. had worked independently at some time during their careers. The number will probably reach 54 percent by 2025, which is a rate of more than three times that of the growth of employment.
These numbers support the assertion that younger generations are typically choosing new work structures beyond the employer-employee ones. Moreover, they seem to be interested in being able to set their own times and applying for a variety of work rather than stability.
Even more so, the amount of variety that gig work offers is staggering compared to other job types.
What Type of Work Does a Gig Worker Do?
So, we’ve established that a gig worker works short or long-term on-demand; they sign up to do a task and they do it for a stint of time. But, even though people associate gig workers mostly with tech—Google employs over 120,000 freelancers— the scope of gig work is much broader, and not just an online phenomenon.
For instance, here are some jobs that people typically associate with online gig work:
- Video Editor
- Sound Engineer
- Voice-Over Artist
You may be familiar with these because they exemplify the best Bunny Studio services. But, some jobs you typically wouldn’t peg as gig work are:
- Dog Walking
- Delivery Driver
- Elderly Companion
We could see any of the jobs above—and many, many more— as freelancing or gig work. Also, they could be side hustles, or full-time positions as well. The takeaway is that it’s not so easy to classify something as gig work or not just because of the activity itself.
What changes? The mode of work, rather than the work. Gig work radically alters our relationships to our investments of time, money, and effort.
Gig Worker vs. Self-Employed: What’s the Difference?
In layman’s terms, or in an effective sense, not much, really. Even significant marketplaces in the gig economy—such as ourselves at Bunny Studio— tend to lump these two types together. And, it’s true, a gig worker is a self-employed, self-directed professional who can work for one or multiple clients.
Things even seem to be the same in the realm of “death and taxes.” According to Jobble:
Independent contractor” is a formal term is used by the Internal Revenue Service to classify workers for income and tax purposes. On the other hand, “independent worker” and “gig worker” are more colloquial and informal.
Independent workers are not hired as an employee to the company that chooses them.
The IRS website’s definition of an Independent Contractor states: “If you are an independent contractor, you are self-employed.”
Being self-employed refers to the lack of employer-employee relationship you would have had if hired for a company. Self-employed workers are responsible for tracking their own work and expenses.
So, as we can see, these definitions go hand-in-hand with our own observations. But, still, not every author agrees. For instance, Deborah Sweeney, of She Owns It, opines:
Members of the gig economy, on the other hand, work side gigs such as rideshare driving or freelance writing in addition to maintaining a traditional full-time job. Their primary source of income is the paycheck from their full-time position, with side hustles bringing in a little extra money.
Nonetheless, new times bring about the need for new definitions. And we absolutely are of the opinion that a gig worker works primarily as a freelancer, and not as a “sidelancer.” Of course, both things are not mutually exclusive, but you definitely need to know which side of the fence you stand on when it comes to doing your taxes. While the IRS is clear on the subject, you may want to check what your main source of income is and work your way up from there.
Some Other Benefits of Being a Gig Worker
So far, we’ve established that gig work offers flexibility as its main asset. But what does this entail, exactly, and why do does the typical gig worker covet it so much? After all, isn’t it a smarter choice to just try to find a steady job and call it a day? Let’s take a look:
Setting Your Own Hours
Many people are not cut out to be a “company of one.” While that’s perfectly OK, many could not conceive working 9 to 5 every day. Being a gig worker affords that perfect middle ground where discipline and opportunity intersect; workers can choose to do as much work or as little work as fits their daily schedule. And, as long as they meet their production quotas and deadlines, it doesn’t matter how they organize their work as long as it gets done.
This, in addition, helps many gig workers achieve an acceptable work/life balance. In turn, this entails having greater satisfaction with their lives, as well as being able to pour time and effort into other, more personal endeavors.
Multiple Income Streams
Being an employee is mainly about stability. But, many workers who feel they have more to give feel short-changed under traditional arrangements. While some companies reward employees via various service awards for going the extra mile, many feel that their efforts are not recognized appropriately, or don’t impact their final pay.
Gig workers, on the other hand, tend to work with multiple clients at once. Meaning, they can supplement their income streams, and augment them as much as they are able to. The workers with the highest production capabilities not only land better clients, but they land more of them, making their income far greater than what’s available for the typical employee.
Not Just One Skill
Some people find themselves trapped in repetitive jobs that don’t challenge their skills. Or worse, some find that their employers don’t reward their skills accordingly, especially those who can deploy a variety of abilities in a single job, even if it goes above and beyond their job description.
A gig worker can have different professional profiles depending on their abilities. For instance, it’s conceivable that a person can be a capable translator, voice artist, and writer. This, in turn, allows them to apply for a much broader variety of jobs. Therefore, they can also expand their professional and economic perspectives accordingly.
Being a gig worker is not going to go away anytime soon. In combination with quality freelance marketplaces such as Bunny Studio and remote work becoming a mainstay, along with other factors, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future.
As always, at Bunny Studio we will continue to strive to improve our platform, both for those seeking high-quality creative solutions and for the talented freelancers who become a part of our family.