There's money to be made in the gig economy, if you do it right. You'll want to make sure you know your real rate, how to maximize your earnings, how to file your taxes, and how to find the right gig for your unique skillset.

Looking for a way to make a bit of extra cash?

With the rise of delivery apps, rideshares, and on-demand, well, pretty much anything, there are lots of options out there. But it can be hard to figure out which ones are worth pursuing with your limited spare time.

You already work hard enough at your 9-5 and you’re not sure if you want another job. You’re also not sure if any of these side hustles you keep hearing about pay real money or if they’re just a scam.

Let’s take a look at the gig economy. What is it? And can you actually earn an income?

What is a Gig Worker?

Gig work is picking up short-term, flexible jobs that pay you per task. These can range from delivering food, to walking dogs, to setting up furniture. They’re typically on-demand work for a set fee, and you’re paid every single time you perform that service.

Because gig work is usually set up through a company (think: Uber, DoorDash, etc.), you don’t have to worry about many of the things that come with more entrepreneurial side hustles, like paying for marketing or trying to find clients.

Pros and Cons of the Gig Economy

Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about marketing since the app finds clients for you.
  • You can easily find other gig workers to ask for advice.
  • Gig work is flexible — you get to decide when you work.
  • You get paid for every gig you perform.

Cons

  • The pay may not always be as advertised. Many apps will advertise what you can make without factoring in your expenses (e.g., fuel if you drive, or your travel time).
  • Lack of job security. You’re at the mercy of the app. A few bad ratings could make you lose out on jobs.
  • You will have to spend money upfront on insurance and other expenses with some gigs. For example, you’re responsible for your own insurance as a rideshare driver.

What about Gig Work Scams?

Not all gig job offers are created equal, and there’s no shortage of shady people out there who are willing to waste your time.

Here are a few tips for spotting scams:

  • You can’t verify if the company/app is even legit.
  • They make you pay an upfront free for no other reason than just to sign up or be a member. (Note that some legitimate apps do charge a fee for background checks or other vetting purposes.)
  • There’s no interview or application process to get approved.
  • They find you. They come to you with promises of easy money or some other suspicious pitch.
  • The job posting is filled with errors.

Read more: How to Recognize and Avoid Work-from-Home Scams

5 Ways to Make Money in the Gig Economy

There are lots of companies and apps out there offering gig work. Here are five of the most popular:

1. Apply for random work on TaskRabbit

What can you do on TaskRabbit? Everything.

Tasks range from setting up Ikea furniture to waiting in line for someone. Yes, you read that correctly. There are people getting paid to wait in line as a gig.

If you have any handy skills or are able to perform odd jobs, you can instantly pick up paid gigs on TaskRabbit.

With so many possibilities, all requiring different skills and with different rates of pay, here’s how to find the right TaskRabbit gig (and pay rate) for you:

  • Look at popular gigs near you. Find out what’s popular — and what’s missing — in your area.
  • Scroll until you find something that you could do (ranging from handiwork to chores around the house).
  • Check what others are charging for this service.
  • Get a ballpark figure of what you could make as a gig worker.
  • Offer your services.

How much can you make with TaskRabbit?

I looked up similar services to what I could offer on TaskRabbit to see the pay range. You could make anywhere from $60 to $151 to assemble a desk, up to $159 to lift furniture upstairs, and up to $80/hour to wait in line for somebody.

Are there any fees with TaskRabbit?

You don’t have to spend any money upfront to create an account on TaskRabbit. You can accept jobs when you have time and get paid every time you perform a task.

Learn more on TaskRabbit.

2. Work with dogs on Rover

Are you a dog person? Do you enjoy going for walks?

There are many options on Rover to make money as a gig worker. You can host furry friends for the night as a dogsitter or walk dogs on your lunch break.

How much can you make with Rover?

You can earn up $20 per 30-minute walk and up to $75 per night if you want to host dogs overnight.

The rates can also fluctuate depending on where you live and what services you’re willing to offer. I have friends who make good money by going on long walks with dogs during the day and dogsitting for the night (up to $80/night).

Are there any fees with Rover?

You do have to pay a one-time $25 processing fee to apply to be dogsitter since they do a background check. Once you’re approved, you can start applying for gigs.

Learn more on Rover.

3. Deliver groceries, meals, or alcohol (UberEats, DoorDash, etc.)

You can deliver food, meals, and even alcohol for people. There are established companies like DoorDash and UberEats, while new competitors are constantly emerging.

How much can you make with delivery gigs?

Our writer who tested making deliveries for DoorDash found that he earned about $15/hour. But the amount that you can earn will depend on where you live and what the demand is like.

Are there any fees with delivery gigs?

You’ll need to factor in fuel costs and other expenses if you end up using your own vehicle.

Learn more on DoorDash.

4. Test out Fiverr (or Upwork)

You can offer a variety of random gigs on websites like Fiverr or Upwork. The services can range from voiceover work to creating a custom logo. The service that you offer will depend on your specialized skillset.

How much can you make with Fiverr?

Fiverr originally got its name because everything on there was $5. That’s now changed, and rates on similar freelancing sites can vary wildly, so your best bet in setting your rates is to reverse-engineer it: think of what service(s) you can offer and then see what the going rate is for a similar job.

Our writer tested out Fiverr and found the rates to be fair.

Are there any fees with Fiverr?

There are no fees to get started on Fiverr, but they will take a 20% cut every time as a service fee.

Learn more at Fiverr.

5. Offer an Airbnb Experience

Did you know that Airbnb is now more than just places to sleep?

Airbnb Experiences are tours and activities available for booking through Airbnb — everything from food crawls, to Tarot card readings, to yoga classes with goats. Really, there are no limits to what you can turn into an activity with Airbnb.

How much can you make with Airbnb Experiences?

Below are some of the most popular activities in New York City. As you can see, you can charge $55/person going thrift shopping or $30/person leading a street art tour.

Source: Airbnb.com

 

Your goal should be to create an experience with limited expenses to help you maximize your earnings.

Are there any fees with Airbnb Experiences?

Airbnb takes a 20% service fee for every experience.

Learn more on Airbnb.

How to Find Opportunities in the Gig Economy

Look for what’s popular around you. Are you in a city with many dogs? Are there many people looking for commute options? A friend of mine got into alcohol delivery during the pandemic lockdown because these apps were advertising everywhere for workers.

Then, think of what you can offer. Are you handy enough to assemble desks on TaskRabbit? Do you have spare time to wait in line? Could you create graphics on Fiverr?

Once you’ve narrowed your options, go through the process to get approved. Keep in mind that some gigs may require things like background checks, so there may be a lag between when you sign up and when you can actually start applying for gigs.

Financial Considerations for Being a Gig Worker

Before you start applying for work in the gig economy, there are a few financial considerations you should think about.

You have to know your real rate

In other words, is it worth it? It’s important that you calculate your real rate per hour, so that you know how much you’re actually bringing in.

For example, how much money are you pocketing compared to how much time it takes to complete the gig job?

Note that gig apps are pretty clever when it comes to marketing how much you could potentially make, so be sure to do your own math.

It’s on you to maximize your earnings

The truth is that your earnings in the gig economy will depend on where you live, the amount of time that you work, and when you work.

For example, a friend of mine wanted to make some money during the day because his main job as an artist had him working evenings. So, he started delivering food. He soon realized that the lunch hour paid a surge fee and he was able to bring in $100 for just three hours of work. As a bonus, he delivered food on his bike so he got his exercise in for the day as well.

Filing taxes is your responsibility

One thing that you have to factor in with any new source of income is taxes.

As a gig worker, you’re considered an independent contractor, which means no taxes are withheld. It’s up to you to track your earnings and report them in your tax filings. It’s a good idea to set aside 20% to 30% of your income for tax time. Put it into a different bank account so you’re not tempted to spend it.

Read more: How Much Should you Budget for Self-employed Taxes as a Freelancer?

The Bottom Line on Making Money as a Gig Worker

The gig economy offers flexible work so that you can make money on your own schedule.

If you’re looking to bring in some extra money, or if you just want to test the waters of entrepreneurship, then the gig economy is perfect for you.

Featured image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Photo of Martin Dasko, writer for MoneyUnder30
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Martin Dasko has been helping Millennials make sense of their finances without missing out on life since 2008. He started his financial writing career as a business major at Ryerson when he realized that there was so much school didn't teach us about managing money. Once Martin earned his Bachelor of Commerce degree, he focused on helping young people manage their finances by creating content about paying off debt, investing for the future, and making more money. Martin has been featured in the New York Times, The Toronto Star, and has been quoted by many other major publications on financial topics. Martin covers topics ranging from investing in real estate to trying to build your credit score without letting life pass you by. He has self-published numerous books on Amazon and has been writing for highly-ranked personal finance websites for over a decade.