Work done to supplement your main income or raise funds for specific goals, known as “gig work,” or “side gigs” today, can lead a worker to discover new skills and callings, meet new business contacts, or at the very least, meet a financial goal or put some money aside.
But like any work environment, working in the gig economy can bring its own dangers. Whether you flip items, drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver for GrubHub or DoorDash, tutor offline or online, give in-person lessons in something you do as a hobby, or offer your services as a virtual assistant, there are some safety reminders it is often much too easy to forget or dismiss.
The risk of walking into strangers’ homes outweighs any increased tip or rating you may earn.
Delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, and those who flip items often see carrying the groceries or meal into someone’s kitchen, bringing the flipped item into the home and placing it for the customer, or carrying heavy shopping bags into the house for the rider after dropping them off as extra service provided. And it is. Your decent, safe customers will likely appreciate the extra effort and reward you with a big tip and/or a five star rating.
But that tip or rating is not worth the risk that your next client isn’t someone safe to be alone with in a private home. Those same decent and safe people will understand why you want to hand them their groceries through the doorway or leave them on the porch, meet them in public to sell a flipped item, or allow them to carry their own bags into the house. They may even be uncomfortable having you walk into their house, as they have only just met you too.
Some of the things you do to make the work more pleasant can be safety hazards if taken too far.
Riders using Uber or Lyft often appreciate listening to music on the way to their destination, and most enjoy a pleasant, casual conversation with the driver. Of course, blaring music, private phone conversations, and excessive personal questions or chatter are typically not appreciated. You will likely earn a low rating, possibly even a customer complaint. But these things can also cause safety issues. While you are in constant contact with the rideshare company through your app, never forget that you are in a car with someone you just met a second ago. Keep aware of the person and what they are saying and doing at all times.
Moving quickly to get on to the next order often makes for a better day for anyone who does deliveries, but don’t be in such a hurry that you are not aware of your surroundings as you walk up to the drop off place and back to your vehicle.
Anyone who does online tutoring or virtual assistant work via webcam probably likes having family pictures, mugs, and other comfort items around. Check over anything left in your workspace that may be picked up by the camera, and anything visible on the wall behind you when you’re on camera, to make sure you are not inadvertently showing your last name, the name of your child’s school, or your address to strangers.
Opening up to clients may feel like making a connection or helping them understand something, but you could be sharing with the wrong person.
It may be tempting to tell the visibly upset rider the story of your last horrible day, tell the delivery client all about your problems as an excuse for being late or arriving with an incorrect or badly packed order, or share your story of depression or anxiety with a tutoring student who is struggling to write their psychology paper. And it may work out the way you hope.
But oversharing in any situation can open you up to manipulation by psychopaths and narcissists, and gig work is no exception. Assuring yourself that you’re smarter than that, or brushing it off by thinking it doesn’t matter because you’ll never see this person again is naive. Manipulative people do not play on your intellect, they play on your emotions, and if you gave them too much information, you just taught them which ones can be most easily worked to their advantage. As for never seeing them again…you might not. Or you might have them as a client again, run into them in town, or even get a friend request from them on social media. Facebook’s “people you may know” feature often suggests people simply because you both had your phones open and were in the same place at the same time.
That bad rating, or even a complaint, is worth it if you ended a situation that seemed unsafe.
Gig work is great, but be sure to keep it in perspective. You’re flipping items, driving, delivering, tutoring, or doing whatever it is you do on the side to earn some extra money. You’re providing a service to others. Both of these things are important, but neither money nor being known for providing good service or even being liked in general, are more important than your safety.
Stop the car and end the ride if a passenger becomes belligerent or threatening in any way. Drop a delivery and run back to your car if you arrive to find people fighting, or see or hear anything else disturbing. Even if you are online, you have every right to immediately close your camera and end the tutoring lesson or office work session if a student or client of your virtual assistant gig work says or does something inappropriate. There will be other work opportunities.
Side gig work is growing in popularity. It can supplement, or even replace traditional income for some people. But it can also expose people to new dangers. Keep safe out there.
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com