Gig Workers, Contingent Workers, Freelancers? What’s the Difference?

At first glance, gig workers, contingent workers and freelancers might seem basically the same—a bunch of buzzwords used to describe temporary workers in the gig economy. At its core, gig workers, contingent workers, and freelancers may seem to be one and the same; after all each is in complete control of their own work environment, including when and where they work.

But there is a difference. One main distinction is based on the arrangement or relationship between the worker and the person or company who pays them. In a traditional work arrangement, an employee is hired by the company and paid by the company, earning an agreed-upon wage or salary. For gig workers, they are hired to complete a certain task or project. When that task is completed, the arrangement ends and they move on to their next gig.

Following is a description of each term and their subtle differences:

Gig worker:
A gig worker is a broad term used to describe any independent worker, including contingent and freelance workers. Gig workers are not hired as employees by the company they’ve been contracted to do work for. Instead, they are working in a non-permanent, temporary capacity, either as a contingent worker or a freelance worker.

Contingent worker:
A contingent worker is employed by a company (usually a staffing agency or recruiter) and not the company that they’ll be working for. The staffing agency or recruiter acts as the intermediary between the worker and the company. The staffing agency finds the jobs, posts them, bills the clients, and pays the contingent workers. Contingent workers are W-2 employees paid directly by the staffing agency. At Gigworx, our gig workers are considered contingent workers. That’s because we work directly with local companies to provide contingent workers with a huge selection of gigs, deposit paychecks directly into your bank account weekly, and handle tax reporting and insurance coverage.

On the flip side, are freelancers, also known as independent contractors (ICs). Freelancers act as their own manager and are responsible for securing the job and billing the client for any time worked. They submit invoices, collect and deposit payment, and are responsible for paying their taxes. Typically, they are paid by the client or company on a 1099. Freelancers must learn to juggle finding their next assignment while working their current one. Typically, 3-4 weeks before their current assignment ends, they begin networking with old co-workers, colleagues, and former bosses in hopes of finding their next assignment before their current one ends.


Gigworx can help you make the switch from traditional employee to gig worker. GigWorx has a variety of jobs that will match your skills, interests, and availability with great local companies. New opportunities are sent right to your phone, helping you take control of your work life!

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