to gig or not to gig

In order to make more, some students are turning to independent jobs and gigs on the side.

2020 is a uniquely difficult year for students to afford college – both unemployment rates and tuition prices are at all-time highs according to federal reports, the landscape for the remote workforce is changing and the return to school for the fall semester continues to raise COVID-19 positive test rates.

In lieu of regular full-time work, many students have found unique and creative alternatives for a side income. While the pay may not be as high or as reliable, many gig jobs offer flexibility, self-management and an expedited hiring process. 

Commissioned art

Emi Juchems, junior design and illustration major, creates artwork for an extra income.

Juchems said she’s been creating and selling commissioned paintings for two years and started making custom face masks during quarantine earlier this year. Juchems operates her personal business through her Instagram profile, @abeautifulpictureco

“The beautiful thing about becoming a freelancer is that you get to decide what to charge,” Juchems said. “However, this can be more challenging because you also have to monetarily define the worth of your work and product and your time, while considering factors like demand and material cost. 

“The profit I make definitely isn’t enough to sustain myself, but that’s expected. The work I am able to do is still worth it because I am able to build an audience of customers and produce work for my portfolio.”

Independent journalism

Lillian Durr, freshman english education major, uses freelance writing to earn a side income.

Durr said she writes for Ozark Farm and Neighbor, an agricultural magazine that publishes both in print and online. Durr said she receives $50-100 per article.

“If you're looking to really support yourself as a part-time job, giving it the kind of time and attention that most part-time jobs have will definitely allow you to get more out of the experience and profit from it,” Durr said. “But, it could also be done with a side gig type of mentality if you're just looking to make a little bit of extra money.”

Durr began writing for Ozark Farm and Neighbor when she was in high school in 2018. 

The freelance journalism business has been affected by COVID-19, resulting in fewer opportunities for Durr to interview farmers for content to write articles.

Freelance driving

Freelance driving is another common way individuals can make money on their own flexible schedule.

Since Uber launched in 2011, the rideshare service has been joined by companies such as Lyft, Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, carGO and Instacart, all with the premise of independent drivers setting their own schedules and being paid per drive and/or delivery. Some companies use bonuses during periods of high traffic in order to close the gap between supply and demand.

Lauren McCracken, senior marketing major, has been driving for Uber since January of this year. She said she used to make over $200 each weekend but now barely makes $50 since quarantine began.

“I wouldn’t say it is worth getting into now,” McCracken said. “There’s just not a huge market for it, honestly. It’s good if you just want to make a few extra bucks on the weekend, but it will be more worth it when there’s more people actually needing to use it.”

Bradley Balsters, 2019 MSU alumnus, was temporarily laid off for three months from his job as an accounting specialist for the Office of Study Away Programs. He filled this gap by driving for Postmates and Instacart, work which averaged $8-10 per hour for him in Springfield.

“This may be a regional issue though,” Balsters said. “I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a couple days and delivered Instacart to pass the time, and it paid much better there, around $20 an hour.”

Although 2020 continues to take its toll on the job market, the lack of conventional work has opened the possibility for freelance and independent work as well as pursuing creative work and passion projects.  

Disclosure: Lillian Durr is a current staff member of The Standard.