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Marketplace
Anxiety Index®

Women and the gig economy: “Every job you have is essentially the last one”

Peter Balonon-Rosen and Kimberly Adams Mar 23, 2018
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A dog walker awaits dogs to go on a crosswalk in New York, April 8, 2013.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

The “gig economy” is far more than just Uber and Lyft drivers. Those two words can include musicians and graphic designers working one-off jobs, people getting cleaning or delivery work via apps, or people selling goods on sites like Etsy or eBay.

A recent Marketplace-Edison Research Poll found that only 39 percent of gig workers are women. While there are more men than women in the overall workforce, the disparity worsens in the gig economy. So we gathered a group of women with different gig economy experiences to chat with us about the gig economy.

On whether they consider themselves gig workers

“Absolutely. Every job you have is essentially the last one. I work from job to job to job. I basically do anything from four to seven voice-over sessions a day. When they’re done, you’re working on trying to market yourself so that you have more sessions the next day.” — Kelley Buttrick, of Athens, Georgia, a voice-over actor for over 15 years

On maintaining consistent work

“I’ve always thought I’m so lucky every time I leave a job, it’s luck, luck, luck. I don’t think it’s so much luck as the effort you put in, the drive you have to make something happen. When you don’t have a job or you’ve just left your job, you have this kind of drive inside of you to find something else. You need to pay the bills, you need to do something with your life.” — Melissa Ramirez, of Queens, New York, a pet service provider for three years

“It’s best to outsource those things that I’m not good at. For example, bookkeeping — I am awful with numbers. So I hired someone to take care of that for me, so I could focus on the things that I am good at, which is relationship building and voicing.” — Buttrick

On finding work-life balance in the gig economy 

“My home life actually kind of dictates how I work and when I work. I have three growing, very busy girls aged 9, 11 and 13, and I’m a single parent. So I think that’s what drew me to the gig economy is having the flexibility to be there for my children while still making enough money to pay the bills and support our lifestyle.” — Kristine McCormick, of Roanoke, Virginia, a digital marketing consultant for a year and a half

On health care, retirement and saving

“I’m OK with not having that insurance through my job, because I feel like the flexibility and the fact that I can control my schedule, my pay, that’s all a reason for me to feel OK about that.” — Ramirez

“I’m acutely aware that the old system of working for an employer and having benefits and then retiring and having a pension — that’s gone away. I have insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.” — McCormick

“As far as retirement, we really have to think about that. I have different pockets, different buckets, where we’re putting retirement funds. I also have daughters, and I’m trying to figure out how to put them through college. We’re finding ways to save anywhere we can.” — Buttrick

On anxiety

I understand like, yes, you never know when your next job is coming, in a sense. But also there’s anxiety when you’re working at a different job. And you have deadlines, and people are telling you what to do, and you know that it’s not right. I personally think that I have less anxiety now. I feel a lot more in control and comfortable.” — Ramirez

“I think in all sectors you have anxiety, because job security is a thing of the past. No matter who you are and what you do. We are more in control, I think, lessens the anxiety. I definitely feel it’s less than somebody else looming over you and handing you a pink slip.” — McCormick

On remaining in the gig economy

“You’re going to have to drag me out.” — Buttrick

“I could never go back to a cubicle farm. I could never go back to someone controlling my schedule. This will be the way I work until I’m done working.” — McCormick

“I definitely see myself being more of a boss in the future. I would love to be a little higher up, where I can let my money work for itself in a sense. Definitely, we want to have people working for me.” — Ramirez

On whether the economy is set up for gig workers

“[It is] not. This goes back to trying to navigate health care and trying to navigate benefits and trying to navigate retirement. Or negotiating contracts, as far as what your rights as a freelancer are. I don’t think our economy is there. I don’t think it’s structured to protect gig workers.” — McCormick

On advice for women in the gig economy

“All I can tell other women in the gig economy is to make friends with others, especially women. We all get it. Being able to call upon a sister in the gig economy when you have questions about outsourcing or about insurance that you’re getting or investing, or if you want to grow your business and have employees, then it’s so nice to have mentors. And as you grow in your business, also look behind you. Look for those people new to the gig economy. Look for those women who are just entering and have the deer-in-the-headlights look, and reach out and help them as your sisters ahead of you have helped you along the way.” — Buttrick

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