Broadway Utica

Gig work: Behaviors to avoid

Driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering for Instacart or DoorDash, tutoring or teaching ESL online, and similar work is often declared “on the way out” by content creators on YouTube and other platforms, but it remains a necessity for many people. 

Gig work, also called your “side gig” or “side hustle” can be a great way to supplement your income. Some people even build their side gig into a full-time business. And like all forms of conducting business, there are practices that may be legal, but are not honest or a decent way to treat other people. Here are just a few practices to avoid. 

Re-selling free items from “helping hands” or other need focused groups

Flipping a free item you found on a general “buy, sell, or trade” group is perfectly acceptable. If someone has posted a general classified ad that reads, “Free couch, just need to clear space so we can bring in our new one,” and you take that couch, use a three dollar stain remover to get rid of a slight coffee stain, add two six dollar throw pillows, and sell it for a hundred dollars, you made a nice…and perfectly ethical…profit. 

The ethical issue arises when someone is posting in a group intended to help those in need get the items they lack. If you join “Helping Hands Here,” find someone who is offering a couch to a household that cannot afford to pay for basic furniture, take the couch, and sell it as your side hustle, that is dishonest. You misrepresented yourself and lied about your situation  in order to get that couch. 

The same applies to items received from a food pantry or soup kitchen or other organization that has given you something to meet a need. If you receive food you can’t eat or a toy your child won’t play with or some clothing that does not fit, give it to someone who can use it, free…just as it was given to you. 

Asking people to give you a five star rating

The constant rating on those gig work platforms is obnoxious for both the worker and the customer. There just isn’t an average, below average, great, or absolutely dazzling way for somebody to drive someone else to the store to pick up office supplies or drop off takeout. 

As silly as they can be, asking for a five star rating can make the customer a bit uncomfortable. It’s just awkward. Your best practice is to provide the best service you can provide, and let the customer choose their own way to handle the rating system. 

Trying to make your customers into something other than customers

Relationships have formed during gig work. People have met future romantic partners, good friends, and people who would later be important professional contacts outside the gig work through their gig work. But the platform you use to do your gig work is not designed for you to create these relationships. 

If you’re single, your Uber or Lyft driver account is not a dating app. A customer you find attractive may be unavailable, not interested in dating for another reason, or just not interested in being hit on at that moment, and might report you for asking them out on a date or flirting. If you’re happily coupled, the people who get in your car for a ride or chat with you while you bring their takeout or groceries into their building are not there to provide you with a pool of potential babysitters so you and your man or woman can go out this weekend. The person on your tutoring app asking for help writing a paper for their class on interior design did not log on so you could turn on your webcam, swing your computer around, and ask them which chair would go best with the couch you just bought. Friendly, polite chat to help the person feel at ease is fine, but keep the focus on the service you are providing for them. 

Taking the “side” in “side hustle” or “side gig” a bit TOO far

Your side gig/side hustle should absolutely come last in your work priorities.  Your career, the work you are called to do is going to be your first professional priority. Steady employment that pays your bills is either also first or second, depending on what that work may be. Side hustles come last. They’re supplemental income. 

This means you can schedule your side gig work after all other work has been done. It means you can refuse to give up anything, and only work your side hustle when you have absolutely nothing else to do if you want to. It doesn’t mean it’s okay to do the work in a way that wastes other peoples’ time, energy, or money or puts them in an unsafe situation. 

Talking on the phone when you have customers in your ride share car, tutoring online while watching television, or showing up late to meet someone coming to buy something from you are not okay just because it’s “your side hustle.” 


Letting people take unfair advantage of you or make you uneasy


Behaviors that are unethical or bad form for you as a side gig worker are equally unacceptable when you are on the receiving end. You are not obligated to keep dealing with someone who lies about an emergency to get you to give them something free or at a reduced cost. Customers should not threaten you with a lower rating, or make you feel uneasy with overly personal requests. You don’t have to put up with people who make you wait an overly long time, or refuse to pay attention and allow you to do your job. 


This is not to suggest that you start fighting anyone. If anything out of line happens, terminate the transaction as fast as you can, report the situation if you need to, and avoid working with the person again, if at all possible. 


Like any work, managing a side gig takes some practice. Nobody is going to do a perfect job all the time. But there are some behaviors that, while they may not get you fired or reprimanded, are not ethical. They’re not the way anyone, including your customers…or you… deserve to be treated. 


Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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