Life in the Gig Economy tells the stories of workers in an industry millions of people rely upon. If you’d like to share your story, email staff writer Jessica Bursztynsky at [email protected].
Pedro Santiago is a 41-year-old gig worker in St. Louis who drives for Uber, Instacart, and DoorDash. He also runs a YouTube channel offering insights and advice about rideshare and delivery jobs. Having worked in the gig economy for almost three years, this is what the experience has been like, in Pedro’s own words.
I came into gig work about four or five months pre-COVID. I did it just after work. I had a vacation coming up and I wanted to save. I started doing rideshare because I was a rideshare passenger. I thought I could do this and just pay for this trip, work for a few months, and then not have anything to worry about, like dipping into savings or doing anything else. I did that and I kind of got hooked. That’s when I got furloughed from my job. I was a food and beverage director at a casino. I did gig work in the meantime until I went back to the casino, and then I left the casino and started doing it full-time. Now I’m back to part time.
I do Uber Eats and a little bit of Instacart and DoorDash. I do a few things on the side, some freelance stuff, and I have a YouTube channel that’s monetized. It chronicles my journey in the gig economy.
I think most people who do this, based on analytics, do it very part time. It’s a good way to either just pay off debt, pay for something, make ends meet while you’re in between jobs, because it’s a really easy thing to do. It’s very easy to get on the app. So I think in that regard, it can be really positive for most people.
It’s not something that I would look at long term and be like, “Hey, I think I’ll go back full time for an extended period of time.” I just don’t see that being sustainable for the long term, but I think it’s really great in the interim or short term. I wouldn’t want to do it full time. There might be some weeks here and there when something came up, that I might do it, and there are times that I’ll work a decent amount of hours to make some content for the YouTube channel.
When you first start doing this kind of work, you see a lot of the negative. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up into like, “Oh man, it’s tough to make money. I’m having a bad day.” You’re in your car alone.
But I ultimately think this can be a good thing to do, more so on a part-time basis. These gig apps get a lot of flack, especially on, like, Reddit forums, a lot of people like to talk negative. But overall, I think these apps have actually served a really big positive for the general person, the public, people who need things delivered. I think overall, they’re really good. I think that’s actually not a common way of looking at it, right?
So I’ve been trying to be more positive lately with the apps. A lot of people don’t get that, but for me it’s really changed my life in a lot of ways in a positive way. And I think that if you look at the apps as an opportunity versus a job, you’ve got to look at it as a true gig. A gig is very different than a job, so if you look at it like that, you have a good experience overall.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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