The gig economy has been heralded as the freeing, efficiency-creating future of the American workforce. It’s a pleasing vision to many; laborers are sprung from the chains of their 9 to 5, free to craft their work schedules precisely as they’d wish—making potholders to sell on Etsy in the morning, doing a little TaskRabbiting in the afternoon; driving for Lyft, Uber and/or Via by night.
There’s just one problem with this footloose and fancy-free world of work: it’s hard to make ends meet.
Most sharing-economy workers make under $500 a month from such firms, according to data collected by consumer-lending startup Earnest. The sample, which included only gig workers who had applied for loans from the startup, has a selection bias, but the results are still stark.
While the paltry sum reflects how many people are just dabbling (as opposed to working full-time), it also highlights how tricky it can be to earn a living at companies that don’t actually “hire” workers. Lyft workers surveyed made, on average, just $377 a month, slightly edging out those who drove for Uber and earned an average of $364 on the platform. It’s perhaps telling that Airbnb paid out the most on average—$926—per month. Returns on capital (rather than labor) are pretty good these days.
A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline "Making Ends Meet in the Sharing Economy."