Gig Tales: The Math

Let’s get one thing straight: Gig apps, like traditional staffing agencies are far more lucrative for those who run them than for those who work for them. This is perhaps true of all businesses, but I think most business have a bit more skin in the game than staffing agencies/gig apps who are middle men in the truest sense of the expression. While the idea that someone else is offering my labor for up to 40% more than they are paying me certainly bothers me, in this instance, it is the “cost” of doing business. For that reason, it is really important that I treat gig work like a business. Unlike my work at University B, gig work is not a career, there is no room for advancement, not benefits, no personal or professional development, and no other perks beyond the occasionally free staff meal. The relationship I have with the gig app is entirely transactional and it is important that I do my best to determine the ongoing value of the transaction on my end as they endlessly do for their end.

When I decided to join the gig apps, I initially created this gig tracker. I wanted to track the projected shift vs. the actual shift (this helps with determining whether or not to accept a gig if a client consistently cuts staff early), the rate of pay, billed hours, the distance from my home to the event location, and the actual payment. I then planned to use this information to determine my vehicle costs (billed to myself at the IRS rate of $0.50/mile), uniform costs (if the requested uniform required a piece of clothing I did not already own), and taxes (most gigs hire workers as 1099 independent contractors and do not take out taxes; however, Instawork in particular has quite a few clients for which W-2 documentation is required). I would then use these “costs” to determine whether or not it was worth it to accept a gig.

It took me exactly four gigs to figure out that long term this level of tracking would become both tedious and discouraging. However, that realization did not give me the right to not account for these costs (reread spiel up above about me evaluating my gig work like a business). Instead, I have decided to withhold a flat 30% of my gig earnings to account for these costs. While this is perhaps an overestimation on the tax side of things (I always receive a tax refund and it is likely that my refund would cover any taxes owed), I still want to play it safe. Further, the wear-and-tear on my car is a real cost and this money will help build a sinking fund for things like oil changes and tires.

Moving forward, I plan to do a Gig Work Income Report each Friday that accounts for money earned from the previous Friday through the immediately preceding Thursday. You can check out my Gig Work Income Report for the week ending 7/23 here. This explanation should help make it a bit more clear as to why I reported earning $113.26 at my first gig but only making an extra student loan payment of $79.28.

3 thoughts on “Gig Tales: The Math

  1. When I heard gig apps I definitely thought uber. This is interesting as an option. And I’m glad you’re doing the math 🙂 But see how you feel in a month. Are you getting takeout more because you’re tired from all the work? Are you seeing cutbacks in your time for studying? I know you said you had a med school post coming…I just worry about you trying to do too much. On the other hand, with gig apps you can just kinda stop if you want to without having to worry about quitting! So there’s that.


  2. Your series of three posts have been so interesting. I hadn’t heard of those gig apps, and when you first mentioned them, I assumed you were doing online work, but now I see it’s in person. I think your tracker will help you so much in deciding, as you go along, whether you continue to think the jobs are worth it. And when you eventually stop doing them, you’ll have proof that it was, in fact, helpful in that it gave you X amount of money to put towards loans. Great idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ellen. I’m glad you have found the posts interesting! For the moment, the gig work, works for me. If at any point it doesn’t, I will stop. Or if it doesn’t work at certain moments but works at others, the apps make it easy to start and stop. I the thing I have liked about my favorite personal finance blogs is that they just don’t tell me what they did (i.e. I paid off $XX,XXX.XX amount of debt), they also tell me how they did it. Obviously, it is not possible to replicate what someone else does entirely, but it does help with idea generation as you tackle whatever your own debt obstacle may be. I realize my current readership is rather small (but growing…hello new subscribers) so I generally just do my best to capture what I am doing for anyone else who might read my blog months or years down the road.


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