What is a Gig Worker? Pros & Cons in the Gig Economy

Jul 14, 2020

gig worker making food delivery

If the idea of a flexible schedule and being your own boss sounds like your ideal life, then a gig job is for you. And you’re not alone. According to the Gig Economy and Alternative Work Arrangement report, 36% of Americans earn a part-time or full-time income as a gig worker. However, if you prefer the benefits of steady employment and not worrying about your next source of income, then the gig economy is not for you. Yet what is a gig worker exactly? And what are the overall pros and cons of a gig economy?

What is a gig worker?

“Gig worker” is basically a worker classification. The umbrella term “gig workers” can encompass a broad set of temporary workers, from pet sitters to virtual assistants. You can even be a part-time professor and fit into the gig economy. Some common names include contingent workers, freelancers, contract workers, web developers and independent contractors.

A gig worker is someone who takes on hourly or part-time jobs in everything from catering events to software development. The work is usually temporary and completed during a specified time under a nonstandard work arrangement. You can find jobs by answering job ads, posting services on social media, creating a website to advertise your services, or use a gig platform like ShiftPixy or Uber. Uber drivers may be considered gig workers along with delivery drivers. There is also an abundance of platforms that help people find online jobs and job opportunities that can be considered gigs. Gig workers are independent contractors who bring a skill set to the table for a specific type of (usually) temporary project.

Employers hire the gig worker for a specific project or set shifts per week. The digitalization of the economy due to smartphones, apps, and social media has made it possible for gig workers to connect with flexible and ongoing gig economy jobs that don’t require a long-term commitment.

Pros and cons of the gig economy

Understanding the gig economy means looking and the advantages and disadvantages of being a gig worker. Like all choices in life, nothing is black and white, and deciding to jump into the gig economy means understanding both sides to determine if it’s right for you. There are many career paths for all types of gig workers, so let’s look at some pros and cons.


Be your own boss

No one likes to be told what to do all day. One of the most significant benefits for gig workers and freelancers is the ability to be your own boss. Sure, you have to follow the direction of your current supervisor or manager during the project, but in the end, you only have to answer to yourself.

Set a flexible schedule

One of the best reasons for jumping into gig employment is having a flexible job schedule. Working on different gigs allows you to have the flexibility and freedom that most 9-5 jobs can’t offer.

If you need to take off Friday to jet out on a ski trip or get off early enough to pick the kids up from school, the gig economy provides this independence. You have the luxury to set your hours, location, and in some cases, rates.

Accept only the jobs you want

The freelance economy offers flexibility plus job choice. Since you set your schedule, you have more freedom to accept only the jobs you like. Okay, perhaps, you’re not in a position to be picky (everyone needs to pay bills), but if you work for someone you don’t connect with or can’t stand the work, you can always say no.

Earn money on your terms

A lot of gig workers choose to become full time, and others use side gig jobs as supplemental income. Wherever you land in the gig economy, you still possess the ability to earn money on your terms. Depending on the kind of job you do, you can set your rates for your services and help create the details of your temporary contract. Your income is more in your control.

Focus on your passions

When you work a traditional full-time job, you may not have a lot of time to pursue your passions—all your creative energy spent on meeting goals and deadlines. Being in the gig economy allows you to set your schedule and how many hours you rack up. Your side job can pay your bills and give you time to pursue your dreams.


As with every good thing in life, there are cons of being in the gig workforce. Working side jobs is hard work and may not be worth the freedom and flexibility.

Always looking for the next gig

Since your work is temporary and may only last a few days or weeks, you continuously need to touch up your resume and apply for the next gig. Applying for multiple jobs on an ongoing basis can become exhausting.

One helpful solution for this is to join a gig platform or agency to send you a steady stream of work. The platform or agency may take a small percentage, but the job’s security may be worth the price.

No employee benefits

The most significant benefits of a full-time gig are health insurance and employee benefits. Full-time salaried employees have the security of health insurance, a company-sponsored retirement plan, and accrued vacation.

Many independent contractors don’t get paid when they’re not working, so if you plan to take a holiday, you need to plan to make sure you work enough hours. You also need to make sure you purchase your health insurance and set aside money for retirement.

It’s helpful to understand that gig platform workers, when they take a freelance job – graphic design to post-hole digging, are not covered under the labor protections established in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Variable income

One month you’re flush with dough and the next a long dry spell. You can experience short or long periods without a paycheck as a gig worker. If you have a full-time job, your paycheck is steady, making budgeting somewhat easier.

No taxes removed

Because of this worker classification, independent workers don’t have any payroll taxes taken out, nor do they pay into Social Security. While it may seem significant to receive all your earnings, you still need to pay Uncle Sam. It’s easy for freelancers and gig economy workers to spend all their money and not pay taxes. A successful gig worker gets into the habit each quarter to send their required amount to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)..

Also, as a gig worker, you don’t pay into unemployment or disability insurance. If you lose your gig, you can’t apply for unemployment. Only in some instances, as with the CARES Act, could you benefit, and this was only during an extreme health crisis.

Lack of connection

Working full time in an office helps build relationships between workers. When you have a side hustle or work a variety of jobs, you may become isolated or lack connection in your career and life. As a gig worker, you may receive limited guidance from your project manager and make mistakes.

Burnout and exhaustion

Participating in the gig economy may cause burnout and exhaustion. You may end up working twice as much as you should when you have the freedom to choose when and if you enter the labor force. The risk of losing the gig or worrying about having enough income the next month may push you to take on more work than you can handle. It’s common for gig economy workers to burn out.

How to become a successful gig worker?

Quitting your day job may be the best decision you’ve ever made, but having a plan in place before leaping is best. Reach out to other professionals in your occupation; join a platform economy to help you connect and network with individuals in the same area, and take the time to enhance your skills.

As reported by the Gig Economy Data Hub, two-thirds of gig workers are satisfied with their non-traditional jobs. Leaping into the gig economy gives you flexibility and freedom— two things a traditional job can’t.