There’s an Online Role for You…No Matter What Your Background
If you’ve worked as a bus driver all your life and at age 55, let’s say, a global pandemic vaporizes your job because, well, public transit demand collapses…are you employable online?
This question popped into my mind while reading this in a Motley Fool story:
Older workers whose jobs aren’t conducive to telecommuting may not be in a position to simply shift gears and take up skills that allow for remote employment. For example, an older bus driver can’t just pivot to accounting because it’s work that can be done anywhere.
But is that really true?
Sure, maybe an older bus driver cannot pivot to accounting, but accounting was just a straw man the writer set up to knock down. I don’t suspect a lot of older bus drivers are jonesing to become a work-from-home accountant. The broader point, however, remains: Is an older, former bus driver (or pick any old-school, offline job) simply out of luck when it comes to earning a living in an internet age if their job expires?
I’ll argue the answer is 100% no.
Now maybe I am being Pollyannaish here, but I think the internet age is the most egalitarian age of employment humankind has seen since our hunter-gatherer ancestors were all either hunting or gathering. And it seems to me that statements like the one from the Motley Fool writer presume that all online jobs are tech-centric or require mad computer skills or are limited to skills such as accounting or law or whatever. But that’s a myopic presentation of how tech has changed the modern job landscape.
Sure, there are beaucoup freelance jobs online that absolutely require substantial technical wizardry or a particular set of corporate skills. But while technology certainly powers the gig economy, it does so in pursuit of efficiency for all jobs, not just tech jobs per se.
Several weeks ago in a conversation with my colleague and online freelancing expert Winton Churchill, we were talking about this subject and he passed along to me a couple of charts showing all the various non-tech job opportunities that exist online through websites and smartphone apps (salary range is from Glassdoor, a website where workers anonymously post their salaries):
Grocery delivery through Instacart, Peapod, and others. Salary: about $13 to $14 per hour.
Ride-sharing through Uber and Lyft. Salary: about $16 per hour.
Food delivery via Grubhub and DoorDash: about $11 to $12 per hour.
Freelance labor (cleaning, moving, handyman) through sites such as TaskRabbit, Handy, Bellhops, and others. Salary: about $25 per hour on average, though the range is $14 to $77, depending on the task.
I realize that most of those do not represent huge incomes and they won’t replace lost salaries for lots of people. Nevertheless, I point them out to make the case that options do exist to earn some level of income.
But bigger opportunities exist, as well.
Companies increasingly need customer service associates, for instance. Many of those workers take calls at their kitchen table or a home office. Not a lot of barriers to entry for these jobs other than a pleasant personality and access to a phone and computer. Salaries for such jobs, according to FlexJobs.com, regularly range from $30,000 to $50,000 annually.
Or maybe our hypothetical bus driver has mad baking skills and maybe has been running a baking side-hustle long before “side-hustle” was a thing. Well, there are apps like 6ya in which people with an expert level of knowledge in various everyday topics earn money by simply answering phone calls from people who have questions. Topics include arts and crafts, beauty and fashion, repair and do-it-yourself, cooking and baking, and several others.
And then there are untold numbers of creative jobs. Just because a bus driver drove a bus for decades doesn’t mean that they’re without other skills. They have interests and hobbies such as art and music and such. And all over the internet you’ll find websites and apps catering to those who want to sell their art or teach the skills they know. And in that world potentially substantial earnings await.
Consider a site such as Udemy.com, where people design and post courses on everything from currency trading to java software programming. One instructor who designed the “Ultimate Drawing Course” has earned somewhere between $500,000 and $2 million, according to online estimates. Now, certainly most instructors are not going to earn that. Most will earn a few thousand dollars a month, if they put effort into it. Still, that big payday goes to show the demand that exists for online courses.
Over on Preply.com, users are offering as much as $40 per hour to have someone teach them art.
So I come back to my original question: If you’ve worked as a bus driver all your life and at age 55 a global pandemic vaporizes your job, are you employable online?
The answer is certainly yes.
Which means on a much broader scale that there’s an online, work-from-home/work-from-wherever job out there for just about anyone with a skill or a talent who goes looking for it.
By Jeff D. Opdyke