For the week ending 09/17/21, I worked zero (0) shifts for a total of 0.00 hours, and earned $0.00, resulting in an extra student loan payment of $0.00.
This has become a pretty common pattern for me: a good week followed by a goose egg. This past week(end) had little to do with my willingness to work and everything to do with the fact that I had to cover a last minute, 24-hour, week-long, on-call shift for a colleague and unable to accept gig shifts.
For the week ending 09/02/21, I worked zero (0) shifts for a total of 0.00 hours, and earned $0.00, resulting in an extra student loan payment of $0.00.
This should come as a surprise to no one as I waxed poetic about whether or not I was being a lazy heffa by not working over the weekend. With Squaddie and Pennyfolk support, I’ve decided I wasn’t and that the break was much needed. I am working Saturday and Sunday of the this weekend so my report next week should look better.
You may recall in my most recent Gig Income Report that I had no desire to work this weekend…and I didn’t. In fact, as we close in on noon in the Eastern Standard Timezone, I am still in bed. However, initially, this bout of laziness and rest came with a great deal of guilt. I don’t know if other folks in significant debt experience this or if this is an adverse effect of gig apps…
I celebrated a month of using gig apps a couple of days ago and I know this because Qwick sent me a celebratory email. For the most part, I have loved gig apps. They are as advertised and as long and you show up to your shift on time and work hard, all is well. However, one of the things that I didn’t mention in my initial review, Gig Tales: The Apps, is that in addition to seeing gig opportunities as they are posted, the apps will often send you notifications and text messages to let you know that gigs are available, especially if they get a “last minute shift” or have someone call out. Qwick calls them “hero” shifts and in addition to bonus points to your “Qwick Score” for accepting these shifts and no penalty for arriving late, they also offer a bonus percentage on top of the original hourly rate. The rates for these last minutes shifts can creep up quite a bit and I have been offered as much as $22.50/hour to polish silverware. I kid not. And obviously I accepted that gig.
At this point, you might be asking, “So AP, what is the problem? Good pay and you only work when you want to work. Where is the bad?” The bad is that it means that work is always available and that you are always being given the opportunity to work. Yesterday, between Qwick and Tend* I received more than ten text messages and numerous app notifications alerting me to available shifts. I think when you are paying off debt, especially a significant amount of debt, it feels like you don’t have the right to turn down work. I think being “unaware” of work or “unable” to work is a bit easier outside of the apps because it can take a great deal of luck, timing, and energy to arrange casual work. However, with the apps that is not the case. There is always work available, especially on the weekends, and if you aren’t working it’s because you are making a choice not to work.
Ultimately, I asked a male person I have been seeing (not Dude Avery…I know! Maybe more on that later…) if I was being a lazy heffa by not working this weekend and his response was fast and succinct: “No, you need a day off or you will burn out.” While I have known this person since I was 27, like most people, he has no idea how much student loan debt I have. However, for whatever reason, Squaddie (we’re referring to this male person as “Squaddie”) telling me that it was okay to take time off was what I needed to stop looking at my phone and feeling guilty every time I got a ping or a text and finally settle in to enjoying my weekend off. And I have.
*I turned the notifications for Instawork off two weeks ago because they are automated, repetitive, and happen at a very high frequency. ** I recognize that C has been warning of this moment for some time and like most things, she was eventually proven to be correct. Time off is important and I will prioritize it more in upcoming weeks as the start of the academic semester results in my primary job at University B becoming more demanding.
For the week ending 08/27/21, I worked three (3) shifts for a total of 16.22 hours, and earned $373.64, resulting in an extra student loan payment of $263.55.
This was my most lucrative gig week to date but I have been tired most of the week. The academic year at University B started this week and I have already had to work evenings. I’m just $237.50 shy of hitting my gross additional income target of $1000.00 for August but nothing in me wants to work this weekend. We will see…
For the week ending 08/13/21, I worked zero (0) shifts for a total of 0.00 hours, and earned $0.00, resulting in an extra student loan payment of $0.00.
Ugh, that was tough to write. But I caught a cold last weekend and wasn’t in a position to do much more than nap and try not to be too gross (apparently colds are easier to catch than COVID-19 even if you are masked up and social distancing because there are more of them and they are “hardier.” I know…creepy). Given that my gig work is primarily in the food service industry, it was in my best interest and those with whom I might come in contact that I sit on the bench. However, I am feeling much, much better now and will likely pick up some gig work this weekend.
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.
For some reason, my 2nd Blogiversary post lit a fire under me with regard to stepping up my efforts to earn additional income. Perhaps it was seeing that I was going to fall short of the goals I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year? Whatever the case may be, I sat down and did the math and realized that if I could make an extra $800.00 each month, I would stand a real chance of paying off Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) this year and making it below $90,000.00 in student loan debt.
Over the past two weeks, I have been incessantly investigating how I could make additional income in a manner that was not wholly stressful when balanced against the temporal oddities of my work at University B. Eventually, I landed in a place that I should have landed a lot sooner: gig apps. Gig apps have existed for just shy of a decade now but have only recently begun to get significant press coverage as many of them have moved out of regional markets to become fully developed national staffing platforms. What is a gig app? A gig app really isn’t that much different from a traditional staffing agency. The app has clients who are seeking independent contractors and laborers for short term (with some recurring) gigs in a swathe of industries. While most apps tend to specialize in one industry (food service, warehouse/light industrial, etc.), several have opportunities across industries.
I completed my first gig Thursday, July 22nd (and was offered a permanent part-time job by the manager) and will write more on that in another post. If you are someone who only reads my blog for the numbers, that post will be up later today. The remainder of this post will be a cursory overview of stuff I could only find out once I joined the apps that seems pertinent to an understanding of my use of the apps to increase my income. (You know, the nitty-gritty stuff I wanted to know prior to joining but couldn’t find a blog where someone had written about their experience).
The Apps: Qwick, Instawork, and Tend
Enrollment/Profile: For all three of the apps I am using (Qwick, Instawork, and Tend), you have to complete a standard application with information about your schedule, gig interests, and experience. You are generally required to upload a photo of your state issued ID and a professional profile photo. The approval process for new profiles can be as long as seven (7) business days, however, across all three apps mine was approved in less than four (4).
Orientation: Qwick and Tend require you to attend a 5-minute Zoom based orientation prior to your first gig. With Qwick this can be incredibly frustrating as after your profile is approved, the app will begin sending you “matches” (gig opportunities based on your experience, interest, and availability) but you will not be able to accept gigs until after you attend the orientation. Because orientations are 1:1 and with Qwick employees, there are only so many offered each day and it can be several days before you are scheduled for an orientation. The orientation was essentially just a way to make sure you are the person you purport to be in your photo. The Qwick employee with whom I met asked me one question, asked me if I had any questions, and then told me I could begin accepting gigs as soon as the next day. In reality, I booked my first gig for the same day as my orientation. I have not attended my Tend orientation yet. It too will be with a live person, however, it does seem as though I can accept some gigs prior to attending. Instawork does not require an orientation with a live person but instead has you watch a two-minute long video (I cannot explain how badly produced this video is).
Certifications: Qwick requires you to have a food handler’s certification and an on-premises alcohol certification. You can complete both of these online, each training taking about two (2) hours. If you don’t have these certificates when you sign-up with Qwick, they will encourage you to enroll with Learn2Serve (360 Training) via their app. I would encourage you to do your own online search. I ended up enrolling in the certificate course with Learn2Serve after an online search of other training platforms, and enrolling directly through the Learn2Serve website earned me a 15% discount on both course (making them less than $7.00 each). I joined Instawork and Tend after joining Qwick and both seemed to accept the Learn2Serve certifications.
Expected Pay and Hours: Prior to signing up for a shift, the apps will show you an hourly rate, any bonus on the hourly rate for accepting the shift, the projected shift length, and the projected shift pay. I used the word “projected” because shift length can vary significantly if the work is completed faster than expected or if the event becomes overstaffed for any reason. Qwick has a shift minimum of four hours if the event is scheduled for four hours or longer. This means that even if you are sent home early, you will be paid for at least four hours. You also get paid for four hours if the client cancels the staff request less than 24-hours prior to the start of the event. This is obviously a double edged sword for all those involved. For my part, I generally decided whether or not a gig is worth accepting, even if the expected income was to drop to the four hour minimum, prior to accepting. This is an important consideration as some events are further away and require drive time (my time and wear-and-tear on my car) and once you have accepted a gig, you are no longer in a position to accept more lucrative gigs that may pop-up at the last minute.
Uniforms: Uniform request vary widely based on the client. The most common uniforms are bistro white and bistro black. Other requests have included polo shirts, jeans, brown dress shoes, etc. Generally, I do not accept a gig if I have to buy more than one item to meet the uniform standards. And even then, I give some consideration as to how difficult it will be to track down that piece. I cannot begin to explain how much more difficult it was to find a black short-sleeved polo than I was expecting… Custom uniforms can be be costly so if am unlikely to wear the requested clothing at other gigs or during my off time, I do not accept the gig.
Getting Paid: Like most things, this varies slightly across the apps. Qwick’s embedded payment platform is Stripe. You have the option of being paid “instantly” (30 minutes after the end of your shift) via a linked debit card for a 3-4% fee of your earnings. Or, you can be paid via a linked bank account in 1-2 days for free. As this money is strictly used for debt repayment, I obviously elect for free transfer and don’t have a linked debit card. Instawork pays every Thursday through a direct deposit. I have not yet been asked to enter payment of banking information by Tend and can update this post once I know more.
Ratings: Most apps require you to check-in upon arrival with the specified gig manager; some gigs will have a check-in approval code that the manger will have to give you prior to you being able to clock-in. At the end of your shift, you also checkout with them. At that time, they have the ability to rate you, and you have the ability to rate them, on a five-star scale. With Qwick, a QwickScore is generated once you work ten (10) gigs. The QwickScore is a reliability and professionalism metric and it is important because it factors into the apps algorithm for the order in which workers receive gigs. The better your QwickScore, the higher up you are in the ranking to be offered the best paying gigs. While the ranking and feedback workers give businesses also matters, Qwick is less explicit as to what scoring would result in a business being removed from the app. Instawork takes it a step further and and in addition to giving businesses a ranking, they also allow workers to post “feedback” or “advice” about the gig that can be seen by other workers. As you can imagine, this advice oscillates between being useful for gig evaluation to petty grievances often tied to worker (under) performance.
Gig Snipping: I know, snipping isn’t just for eBay. As explained above, the higher your rating, the earlier you get to see premium paying gigs before other workers. Unfortunately, most of the apps require you to work a certain number of gigs before your rating begins to affect the gig availability algorithm (although negative behaviors affect it immediately). This means you don’t see gigs until after well rated workers have already gotten to see them which means by the time they get to you, you have to be VERY quick as to whether or not you want a gig. Unfortunately, there have been times where before I could even scroll to the bottom of the post to see where the gig was located it would already have been accepted by another worker.
My impression thus far: At some point, some long time from now, I will do a brief update post about the peculiarities of each app and its utility (for me) in generating additional income. For now, I will say that they seem to be as much as advertised. Like any other job, if you show up, and work hard, then the apps work well and it seems like a convenient way to earn additional income.