Over the past decade, technological advances have brought about a whole new economy – popularly known as the ‘gig economy’, defined as “the exchange of labour for money between individuals or companies via digital platforms. Mobile applications such as Uber, Deliveroo and Fiverr have all risen to prominence and brought about a whole new type of employee who is able to work whenever they want on their own schedule.
Now, you may wonder how these historically low paying jobs are suddenly so popular especially since the pandemic, but people are no longer so picky and they value flexibility. Whereas previously, I for example, worked for one employer in an office and was tied down to a 40 hour a week contract, working in the gig economy has actually allowed me to earn more per hour than I did in an office, albeit with a few caveats discussed later.
When I worked in a corporate setting, my contract required me to work a minimum of 40 hours a week but often it would go over. By the time I got home I would have little energy to do anything but eat and sleep – not the most productive use of my time by any means. Unfortunately (or fortunately in hindsight) I was laid off due to the Covid pandemic and immediately put myself back out there looking for jobs. Very few corporate jobs were available so I turned to becoming a delivery driver to plug the gaps as what was first supposed to be a temporary option, but I have continued despite numerous job offers to get back into corporate.
How, you might ask, can I earn more as a delivery driver than what I was earning in corporate? Well it comes down to choice. I am able to work for as many companies as I want. I could do a few hours for Deliveroo in the morning and switch over to Uber Eats in the afternoon/evening, and with fast and consistent orders, I can make almost the same amount from deliveries alone as I would on my regular office contract.
As I am able to dictate my own hours (I choose to only work 6 hours a day doing deliveries), I can also designate some of my time to work on developing my personal skills. I have spent two hours a day for the past year learning coding and graphic design from online courses and then offering my services for these on platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork. This is what really took my income to the next level. While deliveries give me a relatively consistent income, my computing skills, learnt in my recently acquired spare time, are starting to make up the bulk of my income. I have learnt to build websites, apps and even completed a project for a meeting room booking system, all in the space of little over a year!
Now the downside. Being a contracted employee you are offered job security and as we have seen during the pandemic, the government’s furlough support kept many people paid and employed even when the businesses were shut. Working as a freelancer in general will not afford you these benefits. If you don’t work you don’t get paid, it’s as simple as that. If you are sick, you won’t be getting sick pay or support from your employers.
Overall, while my situation came about through unfortunate circumstances, it was certainly a blessing in disguise. I have been able to learn new skills and take control of my work life, as well as earn more than I did as a contracted employee.