Nearly 1 in 4 Americans Have Dabbled in Gig Work – Why?

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans Have Dabbled in Gig Work – Why?

More people are finding fulfilling, lucrative flex work in the gig economy.

Sometimes, two careers are better than one. That’s the experience of many American workers who take on side gigs, turning hobbies into income sources and finding opportunities to reinvent themselves.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that there were 57 million workers in the gig economy in 2018, adding up to 36% of the United States workforce. Experts expect that number to continue to rise as the gig economy makes flexible temporary jobs more common.

A CreditLoan survey revealed that millennials were more likely to perform gig work – 43% of those ages 25 to 34 had, versus 18% of those 65 or older. However, side jobs make it easier for those looking to leave the full-time workforce. Nearly 67% of workers said they preferred flexible work as they transition into retirement, according to a 2017 survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

The reasons for flex work are diverse. People do gigs to boost pay, pursue hobbies, as a main source of income, to help family, and to sharpen skills.

Find meaning, networking opportunities and an ego boost

Ella Tyler, a retired lawyer profiled by CNBC, says her side job as a tutor for the Law School Admission Test is about boosting her confidence. “As you get older, you wonder if you still have it. And yes, I do.”

Some create freelance careers after a layoff to pursue work that’s meaningful. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Schwartz, a former speech therapist who has helped hundreds of immigrants reduce their accents since 2012 via her startup, Better Speech Now.

Others are building social ties – and exit plans – through gig work on online platforms like Minted, a marketplace where artists can sell work and find mentors. Through Minted’s buddy program, Chris Griffith was paired with Anna Gardner, an artist in her 50s. “We’ve formed a terrific friendship,” Griffith told Forbes magazine. She enjoys her online workplace so much, she’s hoping it will replace her regular 9-to-5. “I’m looking forward to having Minted as a kind of second career where I can work from home, be flexible and still do all of the things that retired people do.”

Gig work? There’s an app for that

Apps such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit connect gig workers with clients on demand, removing some logistical hassles associated with independent contracting.

Nearly 24% of all Americans have found work via this digital “platform economy,” according to the Pew Research Center, whether they sold something via eBay or drove for Lyft. Perhaps telling is that the majority of platform users surveyed – 42% – said they took on these gigs for fun because it gives them something to do.

However, it’s not all just for kicks. Some experts worry these apps will create an environment in which more workers face unstable careers that lack benefits. In fact, few people in the survey said they saw the potential for a full-time career in using these platforms.

Follow your passion, fill your piggy bank

Considering a side gig? There are many ways to get started. But first, consider what you do best and the types of work you enjoy. Which of your skills might benefit others? Is there a particular industry you’ve always wanted to try but never had the chance?

To gather ideas, scan sites such as Fiverr or Upwork and imagine how you might adapt a job to your skill set. Don’t be afraid to pursue a passion project, but also keep in mind that some gigs pay better than others.

Just like in a regular 9-to-5, you should set goals so you’ll know how much time to put into your side job. You might plan to earn a set amount or add a certain number of clients per quarter. Consult your financial and tax advisors to consider your unique financial situation. For example, side income could move you into a higher tax bracket or could affect a beneficiary’s Social Security check if earnings exceed certain limits.

If you are close to retirement, note that Social Security recipients can earn up to the following amounts annually without reducing their retirement benefits:

  • Up to $17,640 (in 2019) before the year they reach full retirement age; and
  • Up to $46,920 (in 2019) in the year of reaching full retirement age.

Once you’ve found your niche, capitalize on it. Using your unique experiences in a side job may leave your passions more fulfilled, with a fuller wallet.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018 CreditLoan survey, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, Pew Research Center