You know, as a self-proclaimed rebel, I am actually very conservative when it comes to working. I like being at Bourke Accounting because, if I show up every week and do my job, there’s a paycheck in my account come Friday. Same hours, same pay, no surprises. How did I become so boring?
This is also exactly why I couldn’t be a server. Servers often bust their butts for hours, do everything right and still walk away with an 80-cent tip and a snarky smirk when the transaction is completed (reminder: tip your servers well). No, sir, that is not the life for me. This, of course, is also why I couldn’t be a part of the gig economy.
Remember that holiday office party when you had a little too much joy and had to call an Uber? That Uber driver was part of the gig economy. The gig economy is “based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients…through an online platform” (Investopedia.com). Why am I always surprised when a new term is introduced to define something familiar? I guess “gig economy” sounds fancier than freelancer.
Gig economy workers have steadily increased over the past few years. According to Naco.org, the number increased “by over 19 percent from 2005 to 2015.” In addition, it is expected that people involved in the gig economy will grow “from 3.9 million Americans in 2016 to 9.2 million by 2021” (Naco.org). Naco.org explains that these freelancers get involved with this sort of work for the “flexibility, freedom and personal fulfillment” they experience. They are able to set their own hours, set their own workload and avoid being tethered to a timeclock.
If you’re the adventurous, free-spirited type, this seems like a pretty good deal. However, and problematically, the business that hired you isn’t responsible for withholding your taxes. For example, a survey from Taxfoundation.org reported that “34 percent [of gig economy workers] did not know that they may be required to make quarterly estimated payments to the IRS.” Also, while it’s recommended that these workers plan on “paying 25-30 percent of each of their paychecks for taxes in order to not owe the IRS” (WGU.edu) at tax time, a lot of them aren’t doing it. Whether it’s out of ignorance or believing that underreporting will go unnoticed, they’re causing themselves quite a few problems.
Another feature of the gig economy that people don’t think about is the social aspect. First, there’s the isolation. “Some workers may find the remote, removed life of the gig economy a problem” (WGU.edu), as there are no shared weekend stories or banter around the copier. In addition, gig economy is self-employment. If no one is calling for your services, well, you’re not exactly employed. Finally, the hiring companies don’t provide benefits, so, unless you’re a good budgeter, you “may end up consuming more county social services” (Naco.org).
Depending on what sort of person you are, being a freelancer might be a great option for you. For a lot of us, though, there are too many moving and mysterious parts to make for a peaceful work experience. As a personal aside, I also don’t want a stranger losing his lunch in Henrietta (my car) no matter how expensive that lunch might have been.
I’m not trying to talk anyone out of working the gig economy, there are just a few things to consider. The initial step should be speaking with your Bourke Accounting bookkeeper or tax preparer. They can set up a quarterly tax payment schedule for you and keep you from owing thousands at the end of the year. They can also help you sort out a budget to keep you fed through lean times. Finally, a Bourke Accounting pro can recommend a good car detailer if the extremely icky happens to your leather interior.
Written by Sue H.