Nicolas Rapp

It’s not much.

By Erika Fry and Nicolas Rapp
June 27, 2017

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.

Charts show breakdown of shared economy workers' income
Nicolas Rapp

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.”

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