Working a side hustle in the gig economy?

Don’t make these two money mistakes.

As a personal finance coach, I often have clients who need to create some extra income, at least on a temporary basis. Working in the “gig economy” has become a popular side hustle to make extra money.

The gig economy refers to work where you are an independent contractor (as opposed to an employee), who accepts assignments when you are available to complete them.

An example is WeGoLook, where you go take photos for insurance claims using their phone app. They notify you of the availability of a “look” as they call it, in the app. You can claim the job (if someone else doesn’t beat you to it) or ignore it, based on the location and other requirements. You take the photos, submit them in their app, and get paid for doing so.

Another well-known example is Uber. After being approved as an Uber driver, you decide when you are available to work and indicate that in the Uber phone app. Then you accept individual assignments (driving people places), complete them, and Uber then pays you.

You have to understand that when you become an Uber driver, or a “looker” for WeGoLook, or whatever it is, you own a business. You are now self-employed and there are certain requirements you have to meet.

While the extra income from the gig economy can be very useful, many people make a couple of key mistakes.

1. The first big mistake: Not understanding your gig economy expenses or calculating your profit

As discussed below, you are taxed on your profits, not your gross revenue (the amount Uber pays you). So what is your profit? It’s your revenue minus your expenses.

What are your expenses?

Well it depends on the type of work, but for most of these gig deals, your biggest expense is mileage on your personal vehicle.

You MUST MUST MUST track the miles you drive for these gigs. It’s quite simple to keep a clipboard in your car to record the date, destination, starting mileage, ending mileage and total and cumulative mileage.

Depending on the company you use, the app itself might track the miles for you, or there are other independent apps out there to help with that, like MileIQ. But a simple clipboard and pen is really all you need.

You can deduct 58 cents per mile (and that’s roundtrip miles) as an expense. That is the rate set by the IRS (for 2019) to cover your gasoline and all your other vehicle expenses such as wear and tear, oil changes, etc.

You cannot take the mileage deduction AND count your gasoline, oil, repairs, etc. as a separate expense. It doesn’t work that way. Take the mileage’s less work, and it’s a good deal.

Another related mistake I see people make all the time is accepting gigs where they are actually LOSING money by performing the job.

You might think that, because your car gets great mileage, that 58 cents/mile is really high and your actual costs are much lower. That may or may not be true because you can’t accurately predict your costs like car repairs and the like as easily as you can your mpg.

So you may be tempted to take a gig that will pay you $25, but you will end up driving 50 miles round trip to complet