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2018 Report: Debunking Myths About the Gig Economy

The phrase “gig economy” was first used after the financial crisis in early 2009, according to the Financial Times. With the explosive success of companies like Uber and Airbnb during that time, gig work became synonymous with ridesharing and other short-term arrangements. Since then, companies like Upwork and Fiverr have emerged, connecting freelancers with available work.

But is there more to being a gig worker than providing a ride, running an errand or freelancing? We sought out to know more about gig workers’ motivations, the kind of work they want to do and what opportunity it might present to businesses.

Our 2018 Profile of a Gig Worker report surveyed more than 2,000 potential gig workers and through the course of our research, we uncovered data that debunked some myths related gig work. Results showed that respondents have a deep interest in business-based work at local establishments like bars, restaurants, retail stores or warehouses -- upending some of the basic assumptions about working in the gig economy. Here are just some of the trends we found:

Gig Work is Not Just an Urban Trend

Not often thought of as a suburban or rural phenomenon, we found that a majority of those who are a good fit for business-based gig work live outside of a city. Only 28 percent live in urban areas, while 59 percent reside in the suburbs and 13 percent are in rural areas. Urban dwellers are more likely to take advantage of ride-sharing or errand-running services. Our results show there’s a significant population of workers living in rural and suburban areas who might be primed for a different kind of gig work that isn’t driving for a rideshare service or running errands but instead working for local establishments.

Driving for a Ride Share Service Isn’t For Everyone -- Especially Women

With gig work often being closely associated with ride sharing, we wanted to know why or why not survey respondents chose to provide that service. Far-and-away, the number one reason respondents said they didn’t drive was because they reported feeling unsafe -- with almost 46 percent saying it was the primary reason they wouldn’t pursue it as a side hustle. When asked how seriously they considered driving passengers through a ridesharing service, of those who responded, almost 64 percent of women said they would either not seriously consider it, or not consider it at all.

Employed, Educated People Want Gigs Too

We wanted to know more about the respondents backgrounds, including their employment status and education level. While some might assume gig workers are unemployed, we found that three quarters of people with other jobs - whether part-time or full-time - are still interested in doing gig work. Our survey also revealed that business-based gig workers are well educated, with 58 percent having an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Digging deeper, more than one third (34 percent) received a Bachelor’s degree while 13 percent had an Associate’s degree and another 11 percent completed their Master’s degree.

Gig Workers Have Other (More Substantial) Forms of Income

Not surprisingly, we discovered that 74 percent of our respondents said they pursued gig work for financial reasons. While 37 percent said they need income to support themselves and family, our survey found there are other financial reasons people pursue gigs. Twenty-two percent of respondents use gigs to supplement their income, 8 percent are working gigs for faster access to income and 7 percent are saving for a financial goal or life event. The remaining 10 percent are picking up business-based gigs to stay busy or active.

While some survey results confirmed assumptions about gig workers, much of the data served up new discoveries. To see the entire report, download the 2018 Shiftgig Report: Profile of a Gig Worker here.

June 28, 2018 | Andrea Weinfurt