As an experienced blogger, Rachael enjoys sharing what she's learned from lived experience with others who are just starting out.
What do you do?
Many people hate that question, whether unemployed, self-employed, gigging, or employed in a way that lacks prestige. Yet people almost always ask it when you introduce yourself. My answer? Lots of things. I’m learning digital photography and pixel art. I’m working on a novel, or possibly a few different book ideas. What I do for money, or the bulk of my money, is a combination of blogging, delivering food, and pet sitting. As hobbies, I have YouTube, Netflix, video games, and painting. If I had to do the same thing, all day, every, I think I would explode. I’m an INFP type in the MBTI, a personality type that’s not suited to conventional careers.
The cons of the gigging life should be obvious. You will make less money. You have to rely on multiple income streams because none of them alone will probably be enough. You wait out dry spells when no one is using the app. Also, the apps take a chunk of your earnings. Whether they earn that chunk is debatable.
But, there are five major reasons why I love my gigging life. All of them come down to the freedom to choose my lifestyle. When I work, when I don't, who I work for, what tasks I accept, and so on. I place a higher value on that freedom than others, who choose a more stable source of income, with less freedom. I'm not saying it will be right for everyone. But here's why it's definitely right for me.
1. No Dress Code!
My opinion of office dress codes is that they’re stuffy, painful, antiquated, and sexist. If schools don’t have uniforms anymore, why should offices? Especially if I’m not being paid much. I understand the need for suits in settings with high prestige, like a courtroom. In those cases, dressing a specific way shows high respect for the institution you’re working for. But in an insurance company? In a collections agency? In a call center? Nah. I’m wearing sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt. You’re not paying me enough for a suit or a dress.
As a creative person, I find dress codes stifling, unnecessarily so. Does it really hurt anyone if a waitress has blue hair?
The gig economy almost always guarantees that whatever work I do, I can do it in casual attire. People who want their food on time don’t really seem to mind if you deliver it in sweat pants. Or have blue hair. It’s mostly young people using the apps. I don’t have to worry about placating hair-trigger conservative elders, who think the worst imaginable thing that could happen to them is to have to accept food from a service worker with a tattoo.
2. I Don't Ask Anyone Else for a Break
Another problem I had with school that carried over to how I feel about the workplace. It's dehumanizing to have to ask another person when you can take a potty break. And if you're one of those people that likes to menstruate, and you have a male supervisor, that's tough t*tties. In school, we got very short times to walk to our next class. But teachers didn't like to give hall passes to go to the bathroom. Some students end up peeing in front of others because they get into an argument with their teacher about their bladder. In front of their whole class.
In many workplaces, the "bathroom breaks" policy is just as dehumanizing, infantilizing, and unforgiving.
Some people put up with it because they have no choice. But I've decided that, as an adult, I can choose when and for how long I can go to the bathroom. And I don't need anyone's permission. With DoorDash, I deliver food as fast as possible. But I always take a break between deliveries if I have to.
Also, some offices only give you 15 or 30 minute lunch breaks. I don't know about you, but that isn't enough time for me. Plus, I'm into fast food. And even though "fast" is in the name, 30 minute breaks I got when I worked at a call center were not enough to drive to a restaurant, order, and eat. I'm not making and eating the same 5 nasty sandwiches each week just for the convenience of a corporation.
3. I See That I'm Helping People - More Directly
Whether you’re gigging for Uber, Lyft, InstaCart, TaskRabbit, PostMates, DoorDash, GrubHub, Rover, whatever—the fun is in the fact that you’re always helping people. Of course, when I was delivering pizzas for a big chain, or working in a call center, I was also helping people. But it somehow felt less personally satisfying. Perhaps it’s because most gig apps have a rating system. You know pretty fast if your last customer was happy or not. With pizza delivery or the call center, I just had to hope they were happy. Sure, with the call center job, QA was regularly giving me feedback on my calls. But I never got individual reviews from customers about their experiences working with me.
When I worked for those company jobs, I felt like I was working for the company, not for the customers. I constantly felt pressured more by what I thought the company wanted me to do and say than making the customers happy. But with gig jobs, service providers are more independent in how they go about making the customers happy. It feels like I’m working for my customers, more than for the app. I want to follow the apps' rules and guidelines for best practices, but it’s not a manager, or a giant mega-corp training video. It just doesn’t feel as overbearing. It’s better to have guidelines and suggestions than rules, whenever possible.
4. Flexible Scheduling That's Actually Flexible!
If you browse jobs on sites like Indeed, almost everyone says they have flexible scheduling. But that’s almost never as flexible as it is on gig apps. You don’t go in whenever you want and leave whenever you want. I think it’d be cool if say, Starbucks had that feature. But if you work most jobs, they want you to be flexible enough to come in extra hours on demand, but they will also assign you hours you can’t choose, that are hard to change or argue with.
This is where I get into my “I’m a sad mental health case” story again. I don’t enjoy feeling like a victim. But I have diagnosed PTSD, depression, and social anxiety. I’m in therapy and on medication, although for years, I was undiagnosed and lacked access to treatment. Even with treatment, I need flexible working times that are actually flexible. I can’t choose when I will feel too anxious or too depressed to work. And, when I had regular jobs, the options were not pretty. I might try to go in anyway, with my mental illness symptoms making it nearly impossible to do my job well. I was frequently suicidal and a ball of self-hatred whenever I was at work and unable to work correctly due to a mental breakdown. But if I called in sick, I got yelled at. Or I’d have to produce a doctor’s note, and they almost never accept mental health as an “excuse”. You must be physically ill or injured. So I quit jobs because more than once, I had breakdowns and racked up too many inexcusable absences.
With the gig economy, I don't have to worry about my attendance. It's not like school. I am not penalized for my uncontrollable mental health. Which brings me to my final reason I prefer gigging to working.
5. I Can Quit My Job For Weeks or Months - And Come Back Later
Humans used to survive winter by staying in and sleeping a lot. I think that little piece of ancestral wisdom is worth honoring. They would conserve energy by not moving or being very active, and eat very little. Nowadays, humans are expected to work a lot and consume a lot, year round. If I had the physical and mental stamina, I might prefer more seasonal work. Something like farming or construction. I like having bursts where I work, followed by days of rest and digest.
I’ve quit many of my gig jobs temporarily. Because that month I didn’t need as much extra money, or because I stopped wanting to do the gig regularly. Doing anything repetitively gets tiring and boring, even something fun.
Sometimes, I think I may have kept my call center or pizza delivery jobs if I could have taken extended breaks from them. If I could have taken a few weeks to a few months off and came back later, refreshed. But entry-level jobs are painfully stingy about time off. You better lose a limb or be giving birth. And if so, you're expected to recover and rush back to work quickly. Gigging opens up a new possibility for how I can choose to live my life.
Gigging: The new grind? Or, is it an escape FROM the grind?
Is gigging a way to make up for the dehumanizing, cruel, oppressive nature of capitalism? Not really. The main problem with it is under-compensation. It's nice to do if you don't need that much money. But if you're feeding three kids, you really won't have the flexible hours or ability to take long breaks. And many ride-share drivers do not feel adequately compensated for gas, oil changes, and other maintenance on their vehicle. But if you can handle a lower or less consistent income, perhaps with disability benefits, food stamps, unemployment, or the help of a spouse's support, it's a great way to earn extra money without feeling like you've sold your soul, or returned to middle school. For me, freedom to make my life my own is something that money can't buy.
© 2020 Rachael Lefler
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 04, 2020:
I was not familiar with the term "gigging," as compared to doing temporary jobs. I am happy that it works to your satisfaction. Many people choose to work temporary jobs for many different reasons.
Alahn Empatia on March 03, 2020:
I really appreciate this article. I enjoy your writing style. It is a genuine insight into the oftentimes expected lifestyle of working a 9-5. I believe you captured the freedom and at times restraint of making the choice to do gigs. I have to agree that doing gigs is the best even with it's drawbacks.
Conny Manero from Toronto on March 03, 2020:
You're a lazy bum. Sure you can gig instead of working, but do you have health insurance? Do you pay toward a pension fund? For that matter, do you live at home, have a roommate or do you rent a space? I can't imagine you make enough money to afford decent housing on your own. If you live at home you sponge off your parents. They should kick you out and then we'll see what's what. Or maybe you have a partner who supports you. Either way, get off your ass and get a job!