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Reflecting on One Year in the Gig Economy • Money After Graduation

As the year comes to an end, we’re urged to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 365 days, and think about the future. Going forward, I can’t help but think about the goals I had last year vs the ones I have now. No amount of new year’s resolutions can ever truly prepare you for what life might throw at you, but it is fulfilling to set things to work toward, even if those things change.

I can certainly say for myself that this past year has revealed a lot to me about my career goals and money management style. And, having spent this past year solely as a gig worker, I recognize that this type of work experience is what changed things for me.

What does it mean to be a gig worker?

Gig workers are workers who earn their income outside of typical, long-term employment but rather through short-term, freelance, part-time, and temporary jobs.

How being a gig worker has affected my finances and lifestyle

Since around this time last year, I’ve been employed in the gig economy. From freelance writing, to babysitting and petsitting, to a summertime service job. And the all these jobs have cumulatively impacted my personal finances and day to day life.

Budgeting methods

Not having a fixed income has led me to trying lots of different budgeting methods. While at times difficult, budgeting on a gig worker’s income is possible.

Having to rethink my budget with a fluctuating income has taught me a lot about what to prioritize in my budget and how. For example I set a pre-determined minimum income/month based on a reoccurring gig. This is what I can rely on to live off of each month. Should I make more, I budget the rest for for other necessities or to bulk up aspects of my minimum income budget.I might have a little extra to put toward my student debt or grab some takeout on a higher income month.

There are also other ways to budget on an unpredictable income that might work for you!

My career goals changed

The variety of types of work I did this past year helped me realize components of an ideal work environment for me. And thus, helped me determine a career path I want to suit my own day to day needs, long term goals, and passions.

Some gigs taught me what I don’t want, and some taught me high priorities for my future work environment. For example I realized how I benefitted from hands on work, while I felt more burnt out from more stationary tasks. Reflecting on all these factors helped me determine a career that would bode well with them.

I learned an emergency fund is a must

Speaking from experience, I know building an emergency fund is easier said than done when your annual income is barely enough to afford day to day life, let alone maybe a couple things for yourself. It’s easy to put your emergency fund on the back burner. Especially if it feels like there’s no clear way to actually save one.

This is how I feel about saving my own emergency fund, and while it’s true that I have limited funds for savings, being in the gig economy will certainly urge you to start saving one up. Even if it’s little by little, like the $20 Emergency Fund.

There were definitely moments of financial uncertainty and anxiety throughout this past year. Moments that left me wishing I had an emergency fund to support me, yet still felt unable to start saving one. Because of this experience, I’m going to begin saving more consistently to look out for my future self.

RELATED: A Step By Step Guide To Building an Emergency Fund

A monetized hobby or passion is not always the way to go

A lot of gig workers tend to dive in by making one of their hobbies or passions their gig of choice. This is something I’m guilty of doing too, and while it works sometimes, it doesn’t always. It can be smart to make money off of a skill you’ve already mastered, but it’s not worth it if it will take the joy out of it for you in the future. I try to limit the more creative jobs I take on and reserve those experiences for myself.

I find it more difficult to save money as a gig worker

I’ve come to learn it is more difficult for me save money as a gig worker vs when I’ve had a fixed income. The reliableness of a fixed income is a positive thing in many ways. When you’re budgeting on an income you can’t specifically count on, sometimes savings slip through the cracks and other expenses get prioritized.

Pros and Cons of the Gig Economy

While being a gig worker definitely helped me learn a lot, there are both pros and cons worth noting.

Pros

  • You have the opportunity to develop many different skillsets
  • It offers flexibility
  • Remote working options
  • You’re in charge of your schedule
  • You get to make connections in many spheres of work

Cons

  • Inconsistent income
  • Managing multiple projects on your own can cause stress
  • Lack of benefits
  • Lack of social community without co-workers
  • Not having an employer pay your income tax on your behalf means you haven’t to manage it on your own

How to actually get gigs

If you want to start getting into gig work, you should be open to many types of work, advertise yourself, and seek out opportunities whenever you can. Being too restricted in your work availability can lead to not getting hired. But if you have a unique, specific skillset you want to use you have to market it for people to know its value. Join LinkedIn, make a website, send some inquiry e-mails. Put your name out there to begin.

Once you’ve got yourself started, be true your set prices and invoice due dates. If you run your gig work like your own business, your clients and you can have a professional, and hopefully long-lasting relationship.

Final thoughts

The gig economy isn’t ideal a lot of the time. It’s a product of necessity for people to earn money within a capitalistic society that withholds opportunities from economically and socially marginalized people. Nevertheless, it exists and makes space for employment opportunities that can be hard to find in long term settings.

While I can’t see myself being a gig worker forever, it is a role that serves me as I strive toward other career goals. And it gives me a chance to make use of a variety of skills I already have. The past year has definitely taught me a lot about my career and personal finances and I look forward to what’s to come, no matter the work I’m doing.

Source
Reflecting on One Year in the Gig Economy • Money After Graduation is written by Emily Norton for www.moneyaftergraduation.com

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