The booming gig economy can provide great opportunities for moms and caregivers to make money while allowing for schedule flexibility. But as with all great opportunities, there are also risks. Here are some of the pros and cons of working in the gig economy with children.
Set your own hours: The gig economy is great for fitting in pediatrician appointments, school plays, sick days, exam week, or internships. With no one to report to, you get to live by your own set of priorities. This draws in workers who are students, single moms, immigrants, and others whose circumstances may be limiting them.
Work from home (if possible): For moms with children not yet in school, working from home is the best of both worlds—you can skip child care expenses while still earning an income! Unfortunately, most gig positions require transport of some kind: either transporting yourself to clients (e.g. dog walking, physical training), transporting goods to clients (e.g. grocery delivery, food service), or transporting clients themselves (e.g. ride-hailing). These transportation gigs won’t work with small children who cannot be left unsupervised but can be great for moms whose children are in school all day.
Be your own boss: The prospect of opening a small business in today’s economy can be enticing but intimidating. Working in the gig economy gives you a taste of a business owner’s autonomy without the financial risk. There is a lot of growth and learning opportunities offered to those who strive to make their small business a profitable and professional venture.
Financial perks: If you are in the house-sharing business, your rent or mortgage becomes a tax deduction. For most self-employment, necessities such as internet and phone service are considered work expenses. These deductions are a great way to help with costs of life that would otherwise have to be paid for anyway.
No guaranteed income: Those in the gig economy are more vulnerable than most to changes in customer preference and trends. Without a steady paycheck to rely on, getting bills paid on time and creating a budget can be challenging.
Personal liability: Sure, you can take all the sick days you need, but these sick days will come at your expense. If you drive for a ride-hailing service and your vehicle breaks down, you’re on your own. Drivers could end up responsible for others in a ride-hailing-related crash, and homeowners may have to pay for a house guest whose injury was determined a fault of the host. In addition, although they are tax-deductible, you are responsible for your car payment, insurance, oil changes, mileage, and repairs. And you can forget about paid vacation days and retirement plans. For most, the gig economy is a side job or a short-term option. It is a poor substitute for full-time employment.
Issues with pay: Some companies take large (and often increasing) percentages out of their independent contractors’ paychecks. Other companies may let you set your own rates, but this can lead those seeking a competitive edge to undercut standard prices, prompting others to lower their rates as well and creating an overall “race to the bottom” effect. Independent contractors are also responsible for paying their own taxes, which are typically due ahead of time so as not to give them an advantage over those whose deductions are withheld throughout the year. It can be tempting to ignore this expense, until April comes around.
Time management: Setting your own hours can be tricky for those not highly motivated or not focused on managing multiple priorities. Sometimes the need for self-care will have to be put aside in order to work at peak business hours. Forgoing sleep or skipping the gym may be required to make budget on any given week. You will constantly need to determine what must be done now versus what can be be done later.
The gig economy is subjective. What works for one may not be the best solution for another, and what helps today may need to be adjusted tomorrow. There are times when the drawbacks may seem overwhelming, but there are also times when the benefits make it all worthwhile.
By Yaki Cahoon and Dalana Quintana