A Guide for Navigating the Gig Economy as a Gig Worker
If you’re a gig worker, you know firsthand how the gig economy is rapidly changing the nature of employment and the way we think about work. According to a study, 36% of the U.S. workforce, or about 57 million people, are now participating in the gig economy. And it’s expected to keep growing, with some experts predicting that by 2027, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.
As a gig worker, it’s important to understand your rights and what protections are available to you. While you don’t have the same legal protections as traditional employees, there are still laws in place to ensure that you’re treated fairly and paid appropriately. Here’s a guide to navigating the gig economy:
- Know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. Gig workers are often classified as independent contractors, which means they don’t have the same legal protections as employees. However, the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor isn’t always clear-cut. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the main factor in determining whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is the degree of control the employer has over the worker. If the employer has the right to control the worker’s actions and working conditions, the worker is generally considered an employee. As a gig worker, it’s important to know where you stand so you can advocate for your rights if necessary.
- Understand the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is a federal law that sets standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, and other employment practices. It applies to most workers in the U.S., including employees, but not independent contractors. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the FLSA does apply to independent contractors who are engaged in interstate commerce, such as truck drivers and delivery drivers. If you’re unsure whether the FLSA applies to you as a gig worker, you can contact the Department of Labor for more information. Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)
- Know your rights under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act is a New York City law that requires that gig workers be paid on time and in full for their work. Under the law, gig workers have the right to receive a written contract for any project that pays $800 or more. The contract must include the scope of the work, the rate of pay, and the payment deadline. If the client doesn’t pay on time, gig workers can file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs and seek damages. This law is a great resource for gig workers in New York City, but it’s worth noting that gig workers in other areas may not have the same protections. For more information: Freelancers Union | The Freelance Isn’t Free Law – Freelancers Union
- Consider purchasing insurance. As a gig worker, you may not have access to traditional benefits like health insurance and workers’ compensation. To protect yourself, you may want to consider purchasing insurance to cover these types of risks. For example, you could purchase a health insurance policy through the individual market or a short-term insurance plan. You might also want to consider purchasing liability insurance to protect yourself in case of accidents or injuries on the job. As a gig worker, it’s important to have a solid plan in place to protect yourself and your family in case of unexpected events.
- Join a professional organization or union. Professional organizations and unions can provide gig workers with support, resources, and a sense of community. They can also advocate for the rights of gig workers and work to improve working conditions. If you’re a gig worker, you might want to consider joining a professional organization or union in your industry. Some organizations, like the National Writers Union, specifically cater to freelancers and gig workers. Joining an organization or union can also give you access to resources like legal assistance, training, and networking opportunities.6.
- Be proactive in advocating for your rights. As a gig worker, you don’t have the same legal protections as traditional employees, so it’s important to be proactive in advocating for your rights. This includes being informed about the laws that do exist to protect gig workers, such as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, and using them to your advantage if necessary. It’s also a good idea to have a contract in place with clients to clearly outline the terms of your work and protect your interests. If you do encounter a problem or dispute with a client, don’t be afraid to seek out legal assistance or guidance from a professional organization or union. Remember, as a gig worker, you have the right to fair treatment and payment, and it’s important to speak up and advocate for yourself if you feel your rights are being violated.
In conclusion, navigating the gig economy as a gig worker can be challenging, but it’s also an exciting and rewarding opportunity. By understanding your rights and being proactive in advocating for yourself, you can build a successful and fulfilling career as a gig worker. Don’t be afraid to seek out resources and support, whether it’s through professional organizations, unions, or online groups. With a little bit of effort and knowledge, you can succeed in the gig economy and make a living on your own terms.
If you are just starting out as a freelancer, also check out: 10 Great Tips For Starting as A Freelancer.