August 01, 2017

American’s Paychecks from Gig Work

According to Pew Research Center, almost 25% of all Americans participate in the sharing economy, doing things from driving for ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber, or performing odd jobs through platforms like TaskRabbit or Fiver. Proponents of these digital earning platforms say that beyond an income, they also offer important benefits such as freedom and flexibility to work at a time and place of one’s choosing, or the ability to turn a hobby into a source of income. However, others worry that this type of gig work represents a shift in which workers face increased financial instability and are required to be responsible for their own pay and benefits.

Approximately 8% of Americans used digital platforms to take on a job or task, and 18% earned money by selling something online, while 1% rented out their properties on a home-sharing site. Adding up everyone who has performed at least of these activities, approximately 24% of American adults have earned money in the gig economy in 2016.

The survey highlights several themes related to the platform economy:

  • The wide diversity of ways in which Americans earn money from various digital platforms
  • Differences between Americans who earn money from labor platforms where users contribute time and effort versus those who earn money from capital platforms where they contribute goods or possessions
  • The mixed views about jobs in the emerging gig economy.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 23% of those who utilize gig platforms for work are students
  • 19% of online sellers say that social media is extremely important to helping them sell their products
  • 26% of gig platform users consider themselves to be employees of the services they use to find work, while 68% view themselves as independent contractors
  • 29% of gig workers have performed work using these sites for which they did not receive payment

So how much do most Americans actually earn from their side hustles? Recent data calculations from Earnest and reported by Priceonomics and CNBC show that 85% of side-gig workers make less than $500 per month. And of all the platforms examined, Airbnb hosts earn the most.

Money Earned in the Sharing Economy by Platform

Source: CNBC

It is unsurprising that the platforms with the higher average monthly earnings are those where people are able to capitalize on their assets (such as real estate or cars) to create streams of passive income.

The Six-Figure Freelancer?

Beyond sharing economy platforms, there are other ways that freelancers earn income. According to U.S. Census data, about 3.2 million U.S. freelancers (or one-fifth of all U.S. freelancers) earn at least six-figures per year. This type of freelancer, projected to represent 43% of the workforce by 2020, generated almost approximately $1.2 trillion in revenue in 2016 across freelance work, part-time gigs and projects. Data from LinkedIn ProFinder reveals that just over half of all independent professionals’ report earning 100% of their annual income from freelance work. In 2016, the leading industries for work are working, business consulting, and design.