Can You Earn a Real Living From Gig Jobs?

Can people earn a real living off of "gig economy" jobs? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Marco Zappacosta, Co-founder & CEO, Thumbtack, on Quora.

People often conflate the "on-demand economy" and the "gig economy." Before answering this question, I think it's important to clarify the difference (at least from my vantage point). On-demand platforms are able to offer their customers a great experience in part because the labor on their platforms is undifferentiated, such that there is no need to "pick" the provider that's right for you. You simply tell them what you want -- be it a ride or a delivery -- and they dispatch the nearest available worker.

But not all "gig" jobs fall into this category. Many, like all of those found on Thumbtack, represent custom services where the customer has a strong interest in reviewing and choosing the right professional before hiring; think hiring the caterer for your wedding.

There's a very big difference between skilled trades like plumbing and catering, and taking on a side-job of running errands, which anyone can do without training. Both can be considered "gig" jobs because you're hopping from job to job, but the earning potential is going to be much higher for those who have a specialization and trained skill.

On average, the pros on Thumbtack earn about $70/hour and earn a yearly mean income of almost $75,000/year (and this sample is inclusive of workers in every county in the US, not just the coasts and major metros). To put that in perspective, the latest U.S. Census data puts the mean personal income at $44,510. So the short answer is yes, people can and are earning real livings from gig jobs every day, but not all gig jobs are created equal.

And for the most successful of these pros, this means not only a great wage for themselves, but also the opportunity to create jobs within their organizations. Take for example, Joaquin, who started his own cleaning company in the Bay Area, No-spot Cleaning, and has now been hired over 2,000 times on Thumbtack! With all those customers, he was able to grow his company from just his partner and he to now over 20 full-time employees.

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