A small but growing number of people find work on a gig-by-gig basis, through apps and websites such as ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber, home-cleaning service Handy, or freelance marketplace Upwork. Like many temps, part-time workers, and contract workers, these individuals give up most of the stability and safety features that come with full-time jobs.
Rebuilding the social-security safety net for a new labor landscape will involve changing laws and creating new ones. In the meantime, some companies and nonprofits have built products to help support gig workers:
The Freelancers Union has for decades advocated on behalf of independent workers’ rights, most recently in its campaign in New York City to create a law that protects them from clients who don’t pay. It’s not technically a union (only employees, not freelancers, have protected collective bargaining rights), but rather a nonprofit federation that freelancers can join for free. The organization offers a medical plan (with Empire BlueCross BlueShield) that includes access to two Freelancers Union primary care medical centers in New York City, with no co-pay. It also offers plans for dental, life, and disability insurance, as well as a 401(k).
Born as an organization for lobbying local governments to instate favorable legislation for sharing economy companies (guess who backed it), Peers has recently remade itself as a for-profit resource for gig economy workers. Its most useful features include a searchable database for gig economy income sources and another that aggregates sources for Airbnb management help, financial and tax software, insurance, and legal help. Profiles of gig economy companies include ratings and reviews from workers, as well as average monthly earnings.
For jobs that involve driving, SherpaShare’s “tracker” app helps keep track of miles and other car-related expenses (which, because you are a mini-business, you’ll want to know for tax purposes). It’s free for the first 80 drives every month, and after that costs $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year.
SherpaShare has a second app, a forum-style social network called Pulse, that works as a watercooler for non-employees.
Dependable paychecks may be the best part about having a job without regular hours. Even tries to re-create that feeling of security for freelancers by loaning them money during times they make lower than their average wages and then paying itself back. Still in beta, the app will eventually cost $3 per week.