Written by Anthony Wilbourne
Ever play the video game “DuckTales?” If so, you may recall moving the Scrooge sprite around the screen so a diamond would appear. When I worked with Lyft and DoorDash, getting a gig involved a similar action. I drove around the city, trying to make orders appear on my phone. I don’t drive for Lyft or DoorDash anymore, so the process in which I currently receive gigs is different. The “diamonds” can appear independently and I don’t necessarily have to be close by to get them. This is probably the best way to think of gig work. A game. A game in which you’re trying to make things happen.
If you think of gig work as “work,” you may wind up hating it. A gig isn’t as easy as it may seem. Although transporting a person or delivering a package may be easier than delivering a presentation or managing a team, the task isn’t without challenges. A courier, for instance, may encounter a traffic problem, software issue or address that was incorrectly provided by a customer. Additional challenges may include the cost of maintaining their vehicle or pressure of adhering to the company’s rules. For most people, it may be easier to just work as an employee–not an independent contractor. At least you’d receive a minimum wage, workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits. Nonetheless, it can be nice to get away from an employer, go out and do your own thing.
I enjoy gig work because of the freedom it provides. The ability to work when, where and even how I want makes me feel more in control of my life. I get a sense of fulfillment from whatever gig app I master. I rest easier knowing that I have options, wiggle room. Making a game out of the affair can be exciting and somewhat rewarding. I even use it to my advantage. I’m creative, so when working gigs, I often look for things I could use in current or future projects. I may study a logo on some building and compare it to something I’ve done or am planning to do. I may observe a street, setting or individual and use it in a story. In the past, I used gig work to sharpen my rhetoric, promote a business or research a topic.
While transporting people as a Lyft driver, I promoted a website that I had recently developed. I installed two small trays near the front passenger seat. Each tray contained a different set of business cards. One set promoted my website while the other (set) promoted me as an independent contractor. I waited for passengers to ask about the cards before explaining them. Perhaps half of my passengers inquired about the website. Some might have even visited it. I wouldn’t have been able to do this under the roof of my employer. I would have had to tell people about my cards whether they asked or not.
Another nice thing about gig work is the ability to explore. One of the apps with which I work makes this easier than ever before. If I want to take a vacation, move to another state or even travel around the country, I could drive someplace and potentially support myself with whatever gigs are available. I wouldn’t have to ask the people behind the app to update my service area or wait ex-amount of days for a response.
If I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that, in just one day, everything can change. On one day, you may have a comfortable job, and on another, you may be unemployed, trying to re-enter your field, and if you do re-enter it, you may not work in a capacity that pays what you were paid before. Gig work serves as a kind of safety net that keeps people from falling too far down. We should adopt a better way for gig workers to continue playing the game. Maybe a universal savings account into which they can invest–covering things like paid-time off, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance or…well, you decide.