Basics for students and employees new to freelancing.

Whether Taskrabbit, Upwork, Handy, Postmates, Uber, Lyft, or other freelancing, success in the gig economy has a few basics, as seen from the lens of Organizational Psychology. Even if you’re just looking for temporary work, these principles can help you succeed when working in a variety of gig venues.

Focus & Say Yes

Be Personable

Gig economy positions are all service positions, so serve. Practice being polite, acting agreeably, and making others like you. Every gig is a first impression. Say little but keep them talking about themselves. We like people who are interested in us.

A Can-Do Attitude

is a necessity – remember, this is a service gig. Unless the thing they’re asking you to do is ridiculous, significantly outside the agreed scope, dangerous, or illegal, say yes.  If you have to place it on another day, offer to do that.

Have a Reason for Freelancing

This will make them more supportive (taking care of family, in school, trying to get into tech, goals, love of travel, etc.). If you don’t have a reason, get one. Employing someone who doesn’t care about their future and is just “paying the bills” devalues you and your work.


Stay off your phone unless it’s another request. If it is another request, tell them. They won’t rehire if they think, even for a moment, that you’re slacking, but people also want to be able to reach you, so they will let others do the same. Music or podcasts are okay too.

Act Like Every Client is a Business Shark.

Communicate Clearly

Use your app – often, efficiently, and in writing Incase you need records. You’re a freelancer, so get clear instructions. If they call through the app, write back to get clarity.


Repeat requests to ensure understanding. Errors or confusion will be blamed on you, so practice confirmation and repeating instructions. Some clients explain poorly so take notes and put them in the chat. Clients will appreciate the effort. They can fire you will quickly. Don’t slack.

Expect Haters & Monsters

A few clients want you intuit their needs and work after their rigid time span. Watch out for these – they’ll rate you down if you fail to think of the thing they didn’t ask or if you bill them for extra time. Set a timer with a buffer and check in before the time limit.

A few clients will bail or fail to give clear instructions and will get angry if you spend time doing things incorrectly. Get clarity and check in repeatedly until you have it. If they don’t take ownership or reply, contact support and walk away after the minimum task time. Familiarize yourself with the ratings dispute process and act accordingly.

Know Your Commitments

In addition to understanding the dispute process, familiarize yourself with your contracts and legal commitments. This is important if you’re a driver who needs insurance or a freelancer who is taking certain personal risks on sets or working excessively long hours.

Choose Wisely

Assuming you’re minimally responsible, monsters and haters will be the only ones who will rate you down, and they will do so to offset their own incompetent behavior, so avoid questionable hires or poor communicators when possible. If you’re being asked to do someone’s schoolwork, make a questionable delivery, or bend the rules of the hiring organization, get clarity, reject the request, and move on quickly.

When Billing

Use names, ask for a good reviews, and remind them reviews affect your ability to work. People like hearing their name and will give when asked but have a hard time realizing how reviews affect you. Reminding them they affect your survival will create empathy and pay dividends for you both and others.

If you work in 15 minute increments, round down up to five minutes over, then round up. This is a standard everyone will respect. It will so help you recoup drive time too. Don’t round down if you’re 10 minutes over, it will hurt you in the long run. Don’t round up if you’re only four minutes over – that will anger the client and hurt you in the long run.

Manage Rest & Energy

Income Ups and Downs

are part of freelance life. Learn the off-season/on season of various tasks, cities, and industries and diversify to serve both businesses and individuals. There’s not many corporate gigs in August or December. People are vacationing, moving, or home doing projects in the summer, and throwing parties in December. Use this to keep income flowing.

Take a Vacation

when work is slow and recharge, assuming you’re working hard when it’s busy. You will need the cash for the slow times. Also take breaks and days off. Getting your energy back is part of optimal performance. Few employees have to perform at the level of freelancer, so manage your energy intentionally and time-off effectively.

Block One Day a Week.

If you’re working or on call every single day, your body is in a constant state of preparation. Stop working so you’re not on call. Call it a mental health day or a sabbath. Your body will enter a state of rest and digest, and the following work days will be excellent.

Respect Yourself

Choose a Rate You Respect

– when you can – then work like you deserve it. Choose a rate a little bit better than what you think you deserve, then buy better work clothes or tools and show up five minutes early to every job. Your work will improve and you will level up faster.

Avoid Demeaning Work

which makes you feel badly. Choose job categories you like or tolerate, and can perform well. If a type of job makes you feel down, used, useless, or badly in some other intolerable way, don’t do it. If all service work makes you feel this way, see a psychologist or leave the city – most jobs are service in the city and industrial jobs are elsewhere.

Fire Clients

who aren’t worth it. If a client drains your energy, undercuts your self-worth, abuses your labor, or makes you feel badly, move on. A bad client damages your emotional state and thus your ability to get and perform work. The monetary loss from retaining such a client is never worth the gain they provide.

Think About the Future

Worker Rights

The gig economy has set workers rights back 100 years. There are few to no benefits available to freelancers which employees are often given, including stock, medical benefits, 401(k)s, paid time off, workers comp, or others, and many gigs are permanently freelance now. Consider lobbying your legislators to provide protections for freelancers.

Freelance Definitions

Some business clients may exploit the freelancer categories, demanding behaviors which may only legally be required of employees. Be aware of the differences between an employee and a freelancer so you can protect yourself or assert your rights as needed. Eg. a repetitive job with defined work hours on location without the ability to delegate to subcontractors.

You’re a Contractor

Don’t expect Uber, Lift, Taskrabbit, Upwork, Handy, whoever is sending you work to protect you. Expect them to protect their business interests. Think ahead and avoid circumstances which require their help, unless of course they’re always available whenever you need it. You’re a contractor. You are the one who must take care of things.


~ Dave S Wallace, MS PSY

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