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Gig Economy ≠ Freelancing

Written by Cory Healy on April 14, 2017

The allure of the gig economy is a siren song: work when you want; set your own hours; BE YOUR OWN BOSS.

The Gig Economy isn’t doing you any favors in the long-term. And make no mistake: it is not synonymous with freelancing or self-employment.

Companies like Uber and Fivver romanticize the gig economy. No doubt, it’s great when you’re in between jobs or need to make some extra cash. In the long term, being constantly on the prowl for the next job notification to maintain a steady amount of income is not a healthy substitute for job stability, security, and benefits.

Speaking from personal experience: I came to New York on an unpaid internship and landed a steady job as a dishwasher to support myself. It didn’t take long for me to buy into the allure of setting my own hours through gig economy services while netting more that I'd make in minimum wage jobs before.

What I didn’t know was that the majority of my day would be me canvassing for competitive job openings to select from and scheduling myself to work all sorts of hours to make a minimum amount. I was hooked on the gig economy in my more desperate job-seeking times and it was abundantly clear that the text notifications, the pings, and the enticing offers to get more more more money were controlling me.

We can do better than this. (@b_cavello)

Uber was the first company to pioneer what is now the modern day gig economy. An official census in 2015 showed that 54 million Americans work in the gig economy in either part-time or full-time capacity. The early and continued success of Uber as a "unicorn" (i.e. Uber as a 'start-up') fawned over by the media masked it long enough for it to become the behemoth it's become now: a multiple red flag hydra that proves there are consequences to the "move fast and break things" Silicon Valley mindset.

While gig economy companies (i.e. Uber of X companies) aren't nearly as egregious, they all play a similar role in disrupting the workforce. Employees aren't classified as employees but as independent contractors. The line they sell you to 'be your own boss' begets the fact you are without benefits and are responsible for your own upkeep for any and all things necessary to do your job. Hopefully, you don't become injured on the job because these companies have no obligation to help you.

Uber is becoming the first arbiter of the gig economy that's becoming tested—most recently with The New York Times over how they use behavior manipulation to entice drivers to stay on the clock. Meanwhile, they routinely misclassify workers as independent contractors, deny healthcare coverage, don’t help with upkeep costs and force people to be idle for company profit. Propping up Uber as an example of bad behavior within the gig economy shines a light on the faults of the gig economy—resulting in newfound calls for accountability and solutions.

If you're looking for a job, nothing beats security and stability. Clearly-outlined contract work, self-employment through freelancing, and full-time jobs grant you real autonomy—unlike the gussied-up temporary fix provided by the gig economy.