Can You Really Make a Living in the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is here to stay. That's the prediction, anyway. And while some underemployed workers are rejoicing at the growing opportunity to choose their own hours and boost their post-recession income, some experts are concerned that more and more Americans will wind up working gigs for the whole of their income rather than just the occasional cash infusion. If traditional, salaried jobs take a back seat to one-time gigs, one of the biggest fears among folks studying the sharing economy is that workers will get stuck with lackluster or wholly nonexistent benefit packages and an unstable job outlook. (See also: 6 Smart Ways to Make It Rain Today)

So, how much can the average freelance-gigger really earn piecing together an income from a string of odd jobs? Is it plausible to jump headfirst into the sharing economy and expect to earn a good living? We did the math for you.


The claim: Uber says its drivers earn $6 more per hour than traditional cabbies. This statement, however, fails to take into consideration the fact that Uber drivers are not reimbursed by the company for insurance, gas, car maintenance, nor the ever-depreciating value of the vehicle itself — a combined cost that the company estimates to be about $15,000 per year in New York City. The data is shaky, but, at least in some cities, Uber drivers still make out better than regular cabbies when these expenses are accounted for. Of course, a lot of it has to do with peak hours and regional gas costs. So take these estimates for what they are — estimates.

Perhaps, just as important as the financials is Uber employee satisfaction, which just so happens to rank notably high. A 2014 survey of 601 Uber drivers found that 78% of participants are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with Uber, and 71% said their income had increased since they started working for the company. That bodes well for ridesharing's future.

And while Uber isn't the only ridesharing company out there, its workers tend to earn more than those at competing brands, such as Lyft. According to an analysis by NerdWallet, Uber drivers earn an average of $16 per ride, while Lyft drivers earn about $11.50. Based on those estimates, the average Uber driver needs to give about 60 rides per week to make an annual income of $50,000, while those working for Lyft need to provide about 84 rides a week.

Conclusion: It's possible to make a solid living in the ridesharing market, but you have to hustle. You also have to have patience and financial flexibility to weather the ebb and flow of peak hours, peak seasons, and fluctuating gasoline prices.

Gigs With TaskRabbit

From picking up groceries to weedwacking, TaskRabbit is the one-stop-shop for finding a set of nearby helping hands. As a Tasker, you can shop for tasks that you are willing and able to perform in your area. For each task that you successfully complete, you collect a predetermined payment, of which TaskRabbit collects a 30% service fee. There are also occasional overhead costs, like when a task requires you to use public transit or drive your own vehicle.

Jamie Viggiano, Taskrabbit's VP of marketing, reports that roughly 10%-15% of the site's Taskers regularly earn $6,000 to $7,000 a month, after the commission is deducted. Exhibit A: Brian Schrier of San Francisco told Time Magazine that he averages about $2,000 per week performing tasks ranging from carpentry to folding shirts. And David Cordova, 31, of New York City, said he earns up to $4,000 per month working six-hour days (two to three gigs per day) Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturday, too.

Conclusion: It's important to note that Brian and David are examples of exceptional Taskers — only a small minority of Taskers are making a living using TaskRabbit. But, if you commit yourself, it's possible.

Tour Guiding With Vayable

Vayable, the app that pairs tourists with local guides in major cities, offers users an authentic travel experience in exchange for a fee, which amounts to whatever the local guide decides is fair. (The company takes a 15% cut.) This marketplace for personalized and unique travel experiences is transforming the travel market. But can it transform your wallet?

Right now, the going rate — which, of course, you set yourself — for an eight-hour tour of West Maui is $500, while a three-hour after-dark tour of Moscow is $107. In New York City, one of the most popular offerings is a customized running tour of New York, priced at $50 per hour. Sebastien, the athlete who offers the New York running tour, has 34 reviews, which means he's earned at least $1,445 using Vayable.

Conclusion: Depending on how tourist-friendly your locale is, you can earn a nice hunk of extra change offering guided tours and experiences through Vayable. But until the network grows, it's nothing to quit your day job over.

Are you making a stable living in the gig economy? Share your tips!

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