Lately there's been a spotlight on the gig economy, an online free-for-all where individuals can supplement their incomes or cobble together a living by ferrying passengers around in their cars, renting out spare rooms or doing odd jobs.
But for all the flexibility of gigging, the reality is less romantic. It is often a necessity rather than a lifestyle choice—and it can come with significant downsides. It's no wonder that a slew of apps have sprung up to cater to the needs of this growing class of indie worker.
Here is a roundup of tools that can help you survive, and thrive, in the gig economy.
1. Find a side hustle.
There are plenty of sites that help you monetize your unused assets or your spare time. Good with a wrench? Try Handy, the site for home-related services from plumbing to TV mounting to cleaning. Dog lover? Get paid to walk dogs on Rover, or pooch sit—in your own home or that of your charge's—on Dogvacay. Care.com helps people find babysitters, nannies and tutors. Or rent out your car when it's not in use at Turo.com.
2. Smooth out your earnings.
A big drawback for gig economy workers is the income uncertainty that comes with variable gig-by-gig pay. New tools can help you smooth out your earnings.
Even helps gig workers plan for expenses and round up their purchases to build up savings, which can be used to cover shortfalls. Steady, an app that helps people find suitable gigs, offers an income-tracking feature to help determine which jobs generate the most income. SherpaShare was designed for gig economy drivers, who often work for multiple services. It allows them track and analyze earnings across multiple platforms, and maximize their earnings potential.
Being a for-hire solo professional can be lonely. So a number of tools have sprung up to provide a forum for these workers.
SoLoFunds, meanwhile, is a peer-to-peer lending app that lets individuals to borrow small amounts of money to make ends meet. Designed to provide an alternative to payday loans, it offers low rates and a scoring process that relies on cash flow and social data in lieu of credit scores. Business credit cards can also see you through lean times, but shop around for the lowest interest rate and look for perks such as cash back or points that can be used for flights and other purchases.
3. Save for retirement.
Unlike people those with traditional full-time jobs, gig economy workers do not have access to employee-sponsored retirement plans. While some states, such as Oregon, California and Illinois, are working on state-sponsored retirement plans for independent contractors, in the meantime, private sector startups are aiming to fill the gap. Digital investment apps including Betterment and Honest Dollar are partnering with gig economy employers, including Uber and Lyft, respectively, to offer retirement savings tools to their workers.
4. Get insured.
Another vital benefit freelance workers often do without is insurance. Whether health or liability insurance, it's a risky gamble. But the “insuretech" market is increasingly turning its attention to gig workers and their special needs.
Trupo, a insurance startup spun out of the Freelancers Union, offers health insurance designed specifically for indie contractors. For non-health insurance, upstarts like Slice and Dinghy offer affordable pay-as-you-go insurance covering everything from vehicles to expensive equipment, like cameras. These flexible plans allow drivers or delivery workers, for example, to pay for vehicle insurance only when they're on the job. They also offer coverage for cybersecurity breaches, work-related injuries and other liabilities.
5. Find a community.
Being a for-hire solo professional can be lonely. So a number of tools have sprung up to provide a forum for these workers. SherpaShare, for example, found its initial success by offering a way for rideshare drivers to chat online with one another and compare experiences. Other tools focus on helping workers subject to variable or part-time shifts. Coworker.org helps workers within large corporations with part-time or variable shifts (think: retail workers, flight attendants and baristas) organize and advocate for better policies, while Shyft provide a forum for shift workers to help them swap shifts and manage their schedules.
Armed with the right tools, you can make the most of the gig economy.
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