(waves lapping) - The water is definitely a lot colder than it is in Florida.
But we've made it from one side of the country to the other now, which is crazy.
I feel like I should say something inspirational right now, but... honestly, I just kind of want to get back to work.
(contemplative music) (engine starting) - Jake works in one of the fastest-growing market sectors in America, app-based food delivery.
- Typically on average, I'm probably working like 80 plus hours a week.
As soon as I wake up, I grab coffee and immediately get started because I've found that the morning orders are always pretty nice, all the way through lunch.
And then, so I'll do that, take like a couple of hours break before dinner rush comes in, and for a really long time, I would do that almost every single day.
(contemplative music) - Freelance work has been around for a long time, but over the last decade, technology has lowered the barrier for hundreds of thousands of workers, connecting them with short-term jobs at a pace and scope previously unheard of.
- At the same time, consumers are becoming more accustomed to paying for routine tasks and errands to save time.
The resulting explosion in the app-based gig economy is generating billions of dollars in revenue for a handful of tech companies, and transforming the relationship between workers and employers.
(uplifting music) - In my case, I work multiple different delivery jobs.
So, you know, one order might be coming in from this delivery app or from that delivery app.
Pretty much, I just choose the best orders that come in, you know, and if two different orders come in from two different companies, and they're close together, I'll take both of those.
Hey, I was wondering how I got into the complex.
- Many gig economy workers cite flexibility as the number one benefit of the career.
Since jobs are taken on a case-by-case basis, workers are empowered to only perform the tasks they deem worthy of their time.
Companies have to continually compete for labor, enticing them to work with perks, like bonus rates during peak hours.
And because many of these jobs are available day and night, seven days a week, gig workers are free to set their own schedules.
- I love being my own boss.
I could not deal with having a boss.
(knocking) I have to be able to do pretty much what I want when I want, or I feel like I'd kind of lose my mind.
(vibrant music) - [Radio Announcer] Why would we stay here?
Popular state Californians are heading to include- - I realize that car life isn't necessarily the normal thing people do.
(gentle music) People would be like, "Oh, let me get you help.
Let me find you somewhere else to stay."
I'm like, "I don't want help, like I actually enjoy doing this," and I'd get all these weird looks, and people would try to talk me out of it.
(gentle music) My first night, there was almost like a euphoric feeling.
I don't know, I loved it immediately.
- Although hard numbers are difficult to determine, most experts suspect that vehicle residency in the US has grown dramatically in recent years.
This coincides with a steep increase in the cost of housing.
In large cities like Los Angeles and New York, it's not unusual to spend more than 50% of one's income on rent.
And yet, for many people who choose this lifestyle, it's not just about money.
- I was in south Florida.
I was living in a halfway house with a whole bunch of other addicts, just trying to get our lives together and work a recovery program.
All of a sudden, the halfway house company shut down, and so all of the addicts got kicked out of the house and had nowhere to live.
You know, I had heard of people doing van life and car life and was fascinated by it.
One night, I was like, "Screw it.
I'm just going to go for it."
And I've been living in my car ever since.
That was by far the coldest shower that I've ever taken in my whole entire life.
But you know what?
I'm happy, I got to spend the morning at the beach, which was just freaking beautiful.
(phone rings) (chime) Hey!
- Hey, son.
- How's it going?
Everything going good with you?
- Yeah, yeah, just trying to stay busy, you know?
- Yeah, do you feel like you have, you're making plenty of money to sustain the lifestyle that you're custom to?
- This lifestyle, yeah.
- Do you have any future plans for getting a more rooted job?
- So rooted, a more rooted job, probably not anytime soon at all.
- So, my dad is actually a firefighter and a paramedic, and he also works at a hospital.
He's a workaholic.
He's always been super supportive, but I'm not really sure whether he actually, you know, believes in what I'm doing or not.
- Well, I don't understand it, Jacob.
Coming from a person, you know, and a generation, whose thoughts were about security, you know, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
I'm thinking in terms of retirement accounts, and health insurance and stuff.
I still need to work on that myself.
I need to get health insurance or something.
- It's not just health insurance that gig economy workers trade for flexibility.
Retirement plans, paid sick leave, overtime, workers' compensation.
The burden of weaving a safety net is shifted from the employers to each individual worker, if they can afford it at all.
Even something as fundamental as an hourly rate is no longer guaranteed.
- Estimated payout $12.92 for that order, 7 dollars and 8 cents, 16 dollars and 67 cents there, 14 dollars and 56 cents there.
So on average right now, I'm making anywhere from like $500 to $1,200 a week.
It takes me about 50 bucks to fill up my tank completely in my car.
And if we went through a quarter of gas.
That means we spent 12 dollars and 50 cents.
So we're going to subtract that from the total here in a little bit.
Also we have to take into consideration the wear and tear on the vehicle.
- You know, I've never understood how anybody can make money doing that.
Especially with the cost of wearing out a vehicle, I've never really understood that.
It's gotta be a scary lifestyle.
It just seems like to me, that he's one bad day away from catastrophe.
(birds chirping) - I guess the car held up yesterday, doing deliveries.
I don't know what this car is doing at this point.
I just fly by the seat of my pants.
The transmission fluid is kind of leaking.
The AC has kind of stopped working, and sometimes it has trouble shifting into second gear.
I try not to get attached to materialistic things.
Although the car does does mean a lot to me, I've been through a lot of things with this car.
You know, this is my home, this is what I work in.
And I honestly don't want to get rid of it.
I just want to drive it until the wheels fall off.
- Having to supply one's own equipment is another hidden cost of participating in the gig economy.
Workers are expected to use their own computers, vehicles, even their homes to meet their employer's needs.
And unlike specialty equipment purchased specifically for a career, these are often assets people rely on in their day-to-day lives.
- And yet, despite all these sacrifices, many workers still consider the trade-off worth it.
For people like Jake, the gig economy offers an unprecedented opportunity to make a living outside the constraints of schedule and geography.
- It's easier for me to deal with my mental in this doing delivery jobs, opposed to having a nine to five.
I think if I had a nine to five, I'd probably lose my mind and it'd be a lot tougher for me to get my crap together.
And so being able to have this opportunity, I think I feel like is a blessing.
(uplifting music) I definitely am living in a weird lifestyle where I'm pretty much living, like, on the edge continuously.
I'm just trying to get to a point where it doesn't really have to be that way anymore, and in order for me to get to that certain spot, I just have to keep working at it, you know.
- It seems pretty tough, and it seems pretty scary to me, but that's just me, you know, that's just the way my mind, and my generation worked.
And when it comes down to it son, you know it don't have to make sense to me.
Your life don't have to make sense to me, it has to make sense to you.
You seem to be making it work, so hats off to you son.
Hats off to you.
I thought for a long time that, his way of thinking just didn't make any sense, But you know, it's coming clear to me that he's got a plan and he's making it work.
Despite how scary I think it is, you know, he's making it work.
I'm going to be supportive of my son.
- It's hard to say where I think I'll be in ten years from now, just because I pretty much take every day, day by day.
I feel like as long as I keep pushing myself and continue to work as hard as I do, that things will work out.
(pensive music) (gentle music)