Since the age of 13, Robin Linton has worked several jobs. She worked at a grocery store and a shoe store. She sat in an office of a landscaping company all day where she made cold calls. She toiled at a greasy diner where she did everything from hosting, bartending, serving and cooking.
Today, in between studying early childhood education and nannying, she works for herself, offering on-demand childcare through DateNight, an Uber-like app for babysitting services. In the past year, the 24-year-old Toronto student has made almost $2,000 while accepting only 31 of the 93 babysitting jobs she's been offered in the evenings and on weekends.
“You're like an independent contractor,” she says. “I like that I can do it as much or as little as I want. It's a really easy way to make some extra money.”
The increasing “uberfication” of, well, just about everything, is changing the labour landscape for young workers. The startups that pop up in this on-demand, or gig, economy often rely on the manpower of high school and post-secondary students, offering them a cornucopia of new ways to earn money from dog-walking to laundry pick-up to food delivery. And more opportunities are especially welcome in a market where the unemployment rate for 15- to 24-year-olds has hovered around 13 per cent for years.
“These on-demand services allow students to make an income while balancing what could be a full course-load,” Sheryl Boswell, director of marketing with Monster Canada, says. “Renting out time, skills and belongings has opened up a whole new world of opportunities. It's now allowing Canadians to be micropreneurs.”
Linton moved out of her family home when she was 16 and supports herself through grants and work. When she's not in school three days a week, she works as a nanny. The $15 an hour that she makes through DateNight is “extra” and goes into a savings account.
Ninety-five per cent of the 300 babysitters listed on Toronto-based DateNight are students, says Elize Shirdel who launched the online platform a year and a half ago. She visits job fairs and reaches out to students through Facebook and Instagram.
“I don't want to take people out of the careers they want to do, especially young women,” she says. “But I want to help them find flexible, part-time work.”
The flexibility works both ways — young workers value flexibility and startups appreciate flexible workers.
“Students are easier to hire,” says David Lee, CEO and founder of Vaesto, a Calgary-based on-demand delivery/shipment service. “For you or me, we're looking for a stable job. We're looking for a paycheque every month, but students are doing their studies, they're available anytime and they usually stay up late.”
Vaesto has 360 part-time workers, 30 per cent of whom are university and college students.
Workers earn about $10 a run and a delivery may take about 10 to 15 minutes to do. Vaesto employs full-time drivers who make between $400 and $600 a day for up to eight hours of work.
“You have the freedom to choose (work),” Lee says. “The disadvantage is that you don't know when the next job will come around.”
That said, if you worked somewhere part-time, you might not get the shifts that work best for you. At least as an independent contractor, you can hustle to make more money, and fit work into whatever gaps your schedule allows. While this kind of work can add up to a reasonable income, it can be easy to lose track of how much you're making when you're not being paid in the regular lump sums of a steady paycheque.
“Make sure that you have a plan for the funds,” says Tony Tintinalli, regional vice-president for Toronto at Bank of Montreal.
In other words, to determine how much hustle you'll need to put in, start with a budget.
Figure out how much you'll need to cover your expenses for the following year — rent, food, tuition, fees, fun, etc. — and then work with that number in mind. For example, you could work through the year with the goal of covering your groceries, or work during the summer with a goal of covering tuition. On average, undergraduate students paid $5,959 in tuition fees in 2014/2015, according to Statistics Canada.“Median tuition in Ontario is $7,500,” Sandi Martin, a fee-only financial planner, says.
A post-secondary student who works a 40-hour work-week from May to early September earning minimum wage in Ontario ($11.25) will make more than $8,000 before taxes. (The average hourly wage for 15- to 24-year-olds was $14.73 in April, according to StatsCan.)
Equally as important as crunching some numbers is researching the gig and service before diving in.
“A lot of these (services) are still in their infancy, just be sure that you've got the appropriate protection should anything go wrong,” Boswell says.
For example, what if you're shuttling strangers around in your own car and you get into an accident The Insurance Bureau of Canada says you need commercial insurance if you're using your vehicle as a cab. Also, what if you are injured on the job Most services do not have worker protections, such as workers' compensation, or insurance for independent contractors.
In addition to fewer benefits and protections, research has shown that workers with several part-time jobs or non-standard jobs have fewer opportunities for growth.
“If you can get something that is in your field, that's better,” says executive and leadership coach Eileen Chadnick, who runs Big Cheese Coaching. “But if, for whatever reason, you don't have the option, (on-demand work) can still matter on your resumé.”
Any job or assignment can build transferable skills, she says. You just have to be able to communicate that on your CV.
“A smart employer will look beyond the obvious, and it will say a lot if someone took a role where he had to manage his time and be responsible.”