Everyone’s talking about the “gig economy”—and a growing number of people work in it. The term might seem like something new, but it really isn’t. Before apps brought the idea of on-demand services and gig work to everybody’s phone, the gig economy was sometimes called the freelance economy, agile workforce, or even temporary work.
It may also seem like everyone has a side hustle these days. Or that people have quit their high-powered day jobs for gig economy jobs that pay just as well but with less stress. And, while some people have successfully transitioned from 9-to-5er to gigger, the truth is, the gig economy isn’t just on-demand work.
No matter what industry a gig worker is in, the gig economy consists of small tasks that the worker completes. These tasks can be anything from getting groceries to writing code. A gig worker can opt to work for a set amount of hours (like choosing a shift) or work by the project. Once the task or shift is complete, the worker moves on to the next gig. That might be another task with the same company, or something entirely different with another company.
In most cases, the shifts or projects are flexible. A gig worker might have a day job where they work a traditional 9-to-5 job, and then a second “gig job” from 5-to-9 at night. Or, a gig worker might work multiple “gigs” to create a full-time job, but on a flexible or alternative schedule. Gig workers can also choose to work from 9-to-5.
While many people think that the “company” is an employer, in the gig economy, that is not the case. Many companies that utilize gig workers—Uber, Instacart, TaskRabbit, MechanicalTurk—do not employ the gig worker. The company is merely the “connector,” bringing contractors and clients together.