✔ Continued unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic may require a career pivot
✔ The gig economy is a great way to make money quickly and on your own terms
✔ Both entrepreneurial and contractor roles are reasonable options
After a quick and unexpected economic shutdown back in March, most of the country is in an ongoing state of reopening that began over the summer. Shops and restaurants are operating again, public attractions are making a comeback and in some areas, it’s close to business as usual (with masks on, of course). Many individuals who faced layoffs in the spring are back at work, and families are enjoying a slow but steady return to financial stability.
While there’s plenty of good news for Canadians, not everyone has been able to return to their former job. If your industry remains shut down, it may be time to consider entering the gig economy. Whether your previous role is expected to resume at some point or the future is uncertain, it doesn’t hurt to try something new while creating a source of income during the pandemic. Here are some tips for getting started.
Assess your skills and create a list of opportunities
Getting started in the gig economy doesn’t necessarily mean staying in the same industry you were previously working in— particularly if that industry continues to face challenges. Instead, assess your strengths and make a list of marketable, transferable skills that can be applied elsewhere. Decide what type of work you want to pursue, update your resume, and reach out to friends and family members for interesting leads. Look for contract and other gig opportunities online or approach companies directly to see if they’re using freelancers.
If you’ve been collecting CERB payments, it’s important to understand how earning some income will impact your ability to access funds from the benefit in future. Keep an eye on our COVID-19 resource page or contract CRA directly with your questions.
Start-ups, contractor roles and more
The gig economy operates in several different ways, including self-employed individuals marketing their creative services to businesses and more structured gigs with food delivery services or rideshare companies. Depending on your skill set, resources and personal situation, you may decide to go either route. Do your research on any company you’re considering signing on with as a contractor and read all freelance contracts thoroughly and in full. If you’ll be using your own vehicle or operating out of your home, be sure to look into all liabilities and the impact your new gig could have on your home and automobile insurance. If you’re marketing yourself as a freelancer in a service or creative field, it may be beneficial to speak with others in the same field about rates, industry standards, common challenges and other pertinent information. This advice applies whether you’re working in graphic design, project management, childcare, recruiting or house cleaning— knowledge is strength, so do the research before diving into something new.
Informed, organized and ready for success
If you’re new to the gig economy, the administrative side of things can seem overwhelming. Start by understanding taxation in your region— you will have to set aside a percentage of your earnings as you’re now taking home gross income versus net. While tax rates vary by location and income level, it’s good to set aside a minimum of 20% of each dollar earned. That said, it’s best to speak to a professional to get personalized advice.
You may also be obligated to charge your clients tax (HST is one example) and remit these funds back to the government on a regular basis. Be sure to look into specific requirements in your region as the details can vary. In some cases, you will only need to charge if you exceed a certain income level within a twelve month period.
You likely won’t need to incorporate, but registering your new business is a good idea for most self-employed individuals. If you’re working for yourself (as opposed to a delivery service or rideshare company), consider using a free online program like Wave or Freshbooks to invoice clients, record cash flow and keep track of any outstanding payments. You can even set up online payment options for your clients and These programs are also a big help at tax time!
Get started - and good luck!
Once you’ve prepared yourself to get into the gig economy, it’s time to hit the ground running. If you’re working with a company (or several) as a contractor, you may not have to seek out specific gigs as these will be assigned to you. However, freelancers in professional or creative fields will need to think about marketing and seek out those first clients. There are many effective forms of advertising, but these cost money and don’t come with any guarantees. When you’re starting out, personal recommendations can be the key to your initial success. Make some calls, put the word out on social media, network by email and reach out to potential clients to introduce yourself. This part may be daunting, but it’s how many successful gig workers get started. Now, get out there and good luck - we’re rooting for you!