SAN ANTONIO — Being your own boss, creating your own hours and maybe even having a better work/life balance—it sounds like the pieces of a pretty sweet gig, but like most things, harmony comes with time.
Numbers from the U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics show that self-employment rates continue to rise. Included in that category are gig workers.
David MacPherson, an economics professor at Trinity University, said from February 2020 to February 2022, the number of self-employed unincorporated workers rose from 8.771 million to 9.002 million, amounting to a 2.63% rise.
Delivery drivers became an essential job during the pandemic, especially during stay-at-home orders. Many had to fight for their own safety precautions and protections, but there was an increased need for those people willing to make the grocery store trips.
Macpherson believes there's been movement towards more self-employed work as a result of the pandemic.
Hear from a San Antonio gig worker
In 2015, Brimo Morales was laid off from an hourly job at a gym that provided a stable source of income. She and her wife were getting ready to move to California from San Antonio, so she needed to find work that could follow her.
Her wife's full-time job also allowed Morales to take risks and try new things.
So she joined the gig economy as a Postmates delivery driver. Since then, she's done just about every side job available through third-party apps. She tried DoorDash for a while, but said she wasn't making as much. She had better luck using Rover and Wag, both dog-walking apps.
When she first joined the gig economy, she thought she would never want to try Uber or Lyft.
"I don’t want strangers in my car, I don’t want to deal with that. I don’t want drunk people in my car, all of that," Morales said.
Eventually, though, she signed up for Lyft, then Uber, and found that she was making a decent amount of money.
She once made $300 in a day of about 10 to12 trips.
"My goal was to make 100 bucks a day. I would try to work at least five days a week, so I would try to get about 500 bucks a week," she said adding that "the gig economy is great because you’re not tied down to an office, you’re not tied down to certain hours."
While she appreciates the flexibility, it comes at a cost.
'You really have to hustle'
If there are no rides or deliveries coming in, you're not making any money. There's always that concern, Morales said.
The freedom is nice, but the stability can come and go.
"There’s sometimes where I’m waiting around for 30 minutes and there’s no rides coming in, or there’s no food delivery or no dog walks," she said. "There's always that frustration and worry with the gig economy because nothing is ever guaranteed."
Gig workers typically do not receive health insurance, paid time off or retirement fund planning.
If you are trying to save for retirement, that means putting in more hours, which means the work/life balance starts to tip to work.
Gig workers who make $400 or more on side jobs must also file a tax return.
How much can I make?
KENS 5 reached out to Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub and Favor for average estimates on San Antonio wages, but did not get a response.
DoorDash, however, published their first ever Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report in April. They reported that 90% of dashers spent less than 10 hours per week on deliveries and 35% of dashers in the U.S. said their earnings help them avoid reliance on government benefits, despite lost income or reduced work hours.
Meanwhile, 95% of Lyft drivers are behind the wheel for fewer than 20 hours per week, according to their 2021 ESG report. Lyft advertises that San Antonio drivers can make up to $27 an hour, but earnings are based on five factors: base rate, distance rate, time rate, tips and bonuses.
KENS 5 turned to Glassdoor and Indeed to see what other San Antonio gig workers reported making. Everyone's pay is different based on how many hours they work. From the people who did provide feedback on Glassdoor and Indeed, we found a wide range of pay from $2 an hour to $26 an hour.
Here are the average wages we found for Lyft, Uber and Doordash drivers:
Side jobs fuel passion projects
While driving and dog-walking takes up much of her schedule, Morales is an entrepreneur and filmmaker at heart. And though side jobs don't always provide financial stability, she says she is happier because she has more time to work towards her true goal of telling stories on the big screen.
Having time to work on her passion projects has also helped improve her mental health. Morales is especially passionate about increasing LGBTQ+ visibility in film and media.
Making it big in Hollywood, though, can come with sacrifice and rejection, which Morales has experienced herself. But she's also had some pretty significant wins.
In 2020, she was the American Film Market runner-up at a pitch conference. Her short film "$500K" is currently streaming on two platforms (Lesflicks and Reel Womens Network). She was also able to launch a podcast, called Shutter & Slate. In 2020, she also self-published a guide to social media marketing.
Morales is currently working on a feature film called "Sacred Vision." In addition to writing, shooting and editing, she's had to invest time in researching crowdfunding methods to support the making of her film. You can read more about Sacred Vision here.
She doesn’t think a regular 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job would’ve made it possible to accomplish all that she has accomplished.
“If you’re an artist or a filmmaker or something creative and this is something you want to do to try to help you propel yourself forward before you publish your first book, before you make your first movie or anything like that, it’ll help," she said. "But I really don’t think that (the gig economy) is something someone can do for the rest of their life.”
For those wanting to move in a similar direction, she recommends easing into the lifestyle.
"Sign up for the app and then from there, on a weekend or a week night, go do a little bit of a round and see, 'Did I like it? Did I make enough money? Was this beneficial enough for me?'" she said.
You can follow Morales entrepreneur and filmmaking journey on her Facebook page.