As someone who worked from home for practical reasons — two kids and a workaholic spouse — I was unabashedly enthusiastic about the so-called “gig economy, an industry that sprung up to allow people to find flexible work. After all, my career as a consumer reporter was largely made possible by flexible employers, who didn’t care whether I worked in their office or my own. And, who didn’t care if I sat at my desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — or, as was sometimes the case, from 3 a.m. until school dismissal. 

But when I started reporting on the companies offering these gigs, which ranged from Uber and Lyft to Rover and AirBnb, I kept running across questions that were tough to answer. How many different sites offered these “gigs”? What was the range of job opportunities available? How much did they pay? Did anyone provide benefits? What were the risks?

Although I saw new sites launching on a weekly — if not daily — basis, I couldn’t find a comprehensive directory of what was available. The limited directories that I did find seemed hopelessly inaccurate or out of date. And the reviews of some of the job opportunities seemed a little too breathless. That was suspicious on its face, but more suspicious when I realized that many bloggers were getting paid to tout some of these sites.

So I decided to create my own directory — SideHusl.com.

Of course, for a directory to be useful, it had to answer all of the questions that I would ask about a money-making opportunity. Such as:  How much does it pay? What is required? Where is it offered? Are there costs/risks/reviews?

The directory also had to be organized so you could search by name of the side gig or by your passion, regardless of whether that was cooking or web design.

As I dug to answer those questions, I discovered that the breadth of the gig economy is enormous. We found job opportunities in 21 categories, not to mention dozens of different ways to rent your house or car, and a nearly infinite number of sites willing to sell everything from your wedding dress and jewelry to used books and movies.

But I also discovered the deep dark secret of the gig economy. While this burgeoning industry offers some extraordinary ways to make money, there are also some outrageously exploitative companies. Worse, the more exploitative the company, the more likely it is to hide all the key elements of the gig, so that workers won’t find out how poorly they might be paid or how much risk the gig entails until they have committed vast quantities of their own time and resources. Worker “churn” is apparently a cost of doing business for some of these platforms. I can only imagine that their executives believe that hiring and training newbies is less expensive than paying their workers fairly so that they’ll want to stay.

That makes me angry.

To explain: When I started researching these gigs, I thought this was the kind of thing my kids might do, either when they were still in school or as they were getting on their feet. These were jobs for stay-at-home parents, like my niece. For retirees, who had time but not quite enough income from savings, Social Security and pensions to make them comfortable. For people who didn’t have transportation to work, so might not fit well with the traditional 9-to-5 world. For those who needed to make ends meet, while (perhaps) caring for elderly parents or completing school. These were people I cared about. My reaction to seeing them innocently sucked into exploitative gigs was visceral: Not on my watch.

SideHusl moved from side-project to passion. And, while I know I can’t stop obnoxious people from trying to take advantage, I can shine a light into the dark corners of their “gigs” so that you will at least know what you’re getting into.

We’ve assigned a Husl$core to each opportunity on the site to give you a snapshot of how well it suits. Naturally, the criteria for jobs is different than it is for sites that allow you to sell or rent your possessions. But the intent is to give you our best evaluation of how well it suits the participant. (You can read more about our rating system here.)

As you wade through this site, you’ll find roughly 200 different money-making opportunities. What is here today is is just our starter set. We are researching new side hustles every day. If you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you a weekly blast where you can see what’s new and what’s worth highlighting.

However, in an economy that’s evolving as rapidly as this one, we know it’s going to be tough to keep up. That’s where you come in. We hope that you will embrace our mission and help us by telling us about the side hustles you’ve done and how they’ve worked for you. The more detailed your information about pay and risks and rewards, the better we can inform others.

And, certainly, if you have friends or relatives who participate — or want to participate — in the gig economy, we hope you’ll tell them about our site. Ideally, this site should be a resource that provides information, support and a forum for side hustlers to talk to us and to one another.

Here’s to the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Cheers–

Kathy M. Kristof, editor