That the gig economy is growing at an ever-increasing rate is an irrefutable fact. With more than 57 million Americans involved and $1.4 trillion+ changing hands annually, the gig economy reflects people’s desires for more flexible work opportunities and greater freedom as to how, when, and where work is performed. For the past few years, we have been observing the gig economy and its workers in considerable detail, focusing on exploring the nuances that exist in gig economy work and the similarities and differences among gig workers.
First, we found a tendency for more individuals to pursue multiple gigs in 2021 than in 2020. More specifically, people entering the gig economy over the past year were more interested in pursuing multiple gigs than simply working a single gig. The increase in multiple gigs is correlated with less time being spent on a primary gig. It is possible to speculate that only working one gig is becoming less popular because many gigs are complementary to other gigs. Since gigs often involve underutilized time, hard assets, knowledge, and skills, the trend toward working multiple gigs may also indicate a desire to leverage such assets as effectively as possible. Moreover, working multiple gigs could be a leading indicator that a gig worker is taking steps toward becoming more micro-entrepreneurial.
Second, we also found that gigs are more likely to be carried out through online platforms in 2021 than in 2020 and the trend is forecasted to continue. This movement, due to both technology advances and the increasing adoption of online platforms by a variety of companies—both large and small increase the effectiveness and efficiency workers can explore when adopting a gig opportunity. There are no physical constraints nor limitations of geography or time zone when working a gig that is primarily based upon utilization of digital tools.
The third trend we discovered is a continuation of realistic earnings expectations among gig workers. Whereas our prior research found that about two-thirds of the people entering the gig economy expected to earn less than $500 per month from a gig (and actually did so), our current research indicates that this income expectation has actually increased a bit. However, about 71 percent of the gig workers surveyed in October 2021 have the same expectation as those survey in July of 2020. Likewise, the primary motivations that gig workers report for working their gigs have not changed over the past year. More than 80 percent of the gig workers surveyed in 2020 and 2021 stated that paying bills, saving and investing more, and improving personal lifestyles motivated their gig work.
In summary, the gig economy and its associated gig workers are here to stay. The many choices in how work can be performed support the needs and desires of all segments in society — from Generation Z to Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers — who seek an opportunity to embrace alternative ways to work and use their entrepreneurial skills.