Staying Healthy in the Gig Economy

Staying Healthy in the Gig Economy

1000 665 Bana Jobe

The “1099 life” — that is, working as a self-employed freelancer — seems like a pretty ideal gig. You can earn income wherever and whenever you please without feeling like a cog in the wheel of corporate America.

That liberating approach to bringing home the bacon has caught fire: According to the Brookings Institution, gig economy workers are growing in number faster than conventional payroll recipients. By 2020, 4 in 10 workers will be freelancers, contractors or part-time workers, according to an Intuit report.

What About Insurance for Freelancers?

That number might be even higher, but one thing in particular tends to turn some off of freelancing: Affordable insurance for freelancers can be tough to come by. When you work for yourself, you miss out on group benefits afforded to employees. So, you get to work in your pajamas, but you may not be able to afford health care. It’s a well-known price of self-employment.

But that “price” is understandably worrying, and it could be stopping people from chasing their dreams. All told, a recent survey from freelance marketplace Fiverr showed that 40 percent of full-time freelancers consider health insurance their biggest concern, with 41 percent of side hustlers saying it’s why they stay at their full-time job.

It’s not just protection from catastrophes that should concern them. A lack of affordable, stable health insurance has been linked with a laundry list of health issues ranging from exacerbated chronic issues to early death.

OK, that sounds scary. However, it doesn’t call for an exit strategy from the gig economy (if you’re already part of it), or a delayed entry into it (if you’re not). You have options, and you should consider taking advantage of them — from COBRA and short-term plans to supplemental insurance.

You’re also eligible to enroll in your own Marketplace plan on healthcare.gov during open enrollment, and even outside of it if you have a qualifying event such as having a child or losing your insurance.

How to Put Your Health First

Beyond getting insurance, as a freelancer you also have to be a little more cautious about your overall health and wellness. That includes considering how your specific occupation — whatever it is — could affect your well-being.

By keeping your health in good shape, you can help avoid preventable issues (and the stress and medical bills that follow them). Consider these ways to stay healthy in different industries.

  • Ride-sharing driver. You probably sit a lot. That’s not a statement about your work ethic; it’s just a fact of the trade, since ride-sharing drivers are vehicle-bound while on the clock. If that sounds like you, you may want to step up your physical activity and keep healthy snacks in the car, along with plenty of water. You probably also interact with lots of people during the day, some of whom may be sick, so consider keeping hand sanitizer in the car. Finally, think about investing in a supplemental accident policy in the event of a car wreck. Better safe than sorry.
  • Multilevel marketer. If you’re a seller of Mary Kay, Tupperware or another multilevel marketing product, you’re most likely a woman, according to AARP, which means it might make sense to factor in maternity coverage, if that’s important to you. Even if that doesn’t apply to you, you’ll want to take care of your mental health: Given the reported difficulties of this line of work, it can be a stressful job.
  • Freelance writer/designer/assistant. Whether at home or in a local coffee shop, you’re likely planted in front of a computer, staring at a screen at all hours of the day — and for night owls and working parents, many hours after dark. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and consider a discount vision plan to support your eye health. A standing desk can also help you move a little while working what can otherwise be a pretty sedentary job.

Even if your trade isn’t on that list — here’s looking at you, photographers, fitness coaches and Etsy crafters — there’s likely some part of your profession that impacts your health in a specific way. By keeping your health in mind no matter what you do, you can keep costs down and make the 1099 life more feasible for you and your family.

Bana Jobe

Bana Jobe is an award-winning medical writer with over 10 years of experience

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