5 things to know to navigate the on-demand economy

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Call your own hours. Work only on jobs you want. Make home your company base.

Sounds great. But, traditionally, it’s only those in professions like editing or bookkeeping who’ve been able to work “gigs” of their own choosing.

Not anymore. Recently — about as long as the term “app” has made its way into everyday vocabulary — skills we think of as ordinary, like packing boxes or watching pets, are in demand.

In fact, those who use a smartphone app to find local employers who’ll pay for their skills are called “on-demand” workers. On-demand “platforms,” or websites, which vet potential workers and then allow them to use their app, are quickly multiplying.

“There are at least 200 right now,” says Mitch Ratcliffe, senior analyst with BIA/Kelsey, a local advertising research firm.

Currently, many of these apps are available to residents of major cities, but expect the app-enabled workforce to spread quickly. “We are at the beginning stages, figuring out how we can make this technology work socially and economically,” says Andrew Karpie, analyst for The Research Platform.

If you’re interested in what’s available now to turn your skills into cash, here’s some collected wisdom on earning money in the on-demand economy.