As the pandemic ravages the economy, erasing tens of millions of jobs, Americans are turning to gig work to make ends meet. This flexible and often app-based form of employment allows people to work when and where they want — and get paid fast. Or, at least, faster than a typical job.
Shiftsmart, a smartphone app that pairs workers with local and remote gigs, checks all those boxes. You can sign up on the app and, in as little as a week, start accepting shifts in a variety of fields, both online and in-person.
In an interview with Codetic, the company’s president, Patrick Brandt, said he sees larger shifts in the gig economy playing out in Shiftsmart.
“People who were just using us for [side money] are now using us to stack shifts across multiple opportunities to fulfill their entire income,” he said.
Through Shiftsmart, you might start out doing outbound survey calls from home, pick up a shift at a local food bank, then spend a few hours answering customer service calls, Brandt explained.
It wasn’t always that way. The pandemic spurred a lot of rapid changes at the company, resulting in a host of new, flexible job opportunities.
How Smartshift Works
Shiftsmart functions essentially like an on-demand staffing agency, except it’s all app-based. You can sign up, set your schedule, accept gigs and get paid all on your smartphone.
The concept isn’t entirely new. Although the company was founded in 2015, rival platforms like Shiftgig predate it. Recently, Uber launched a similar gig-matching service called Uber Works in Chicago (also where Shiftgig is located), but that project was a dud. Uber Works halted operations in May, after the company laid off 6,700 employees.
The entire application and screening process is done through the Android and iOS versions of the Shiftsmart app.
Brandt referred to Shiftsmart as an “online marketplace” that pairs employers who need temporary help with shift workers. It could be a one-off shift or a lasting gig.
But unlike other online marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr that charge service fees and/or monthly subscriptions, Shiftsmart is free to use. Those types of websites also cater to niche freelance services. The jobs available through Shiftsmart are more service-industry oriented.
Other popular gig apps such as DoorDash and Uber aren’t fair comparisons, either. While those companies also handle schedules, payments and gig selection all through the app, they only allow you to complete specific tasks like delivering food, chauffeuring passengers, or both.
Shiftsmart fits somewhere in between Upwork and Uber.
Popular Work on the App
Broadly speaking, Shiftsmart provides access to service industry gig work. Not long ago, that included things like one-time shifts for staffing large events and mystery shopping at retail stores.
The pandemic changed things. But because of the company’s broad base of partners, it was able to maneuver and provide different types of work to its users.
“We were fortunate,” Brandt said. “We already had the platform and the operation to be able to quickly pivot people’s work.”
Lately, virtual call center work — especially through a new partner, the Small Business Administration — and in-person nonprofit shifts are common.
The nonprofit work is channeled through an initiative called Get Shift Done, co-founded by Brandt and Anurag Jain, a chairman of North Texas Food Bank. It started in northern Texas but quickly spread to 10 other regions in a matter of weeks.
Brandt and Jain raised millions of dollars to pay laid-off or furloughed hospitality and restaurant workers to work shifts at local food banks or food pantries. This type of work is typically volunteer-based, but through their new program, thousands of workers are getting paid to help nonprofits that have lost volunteers during the pandemic.
To be eligible for the Get Shift Done initiative, you’ll need to verify that you were laid off or furloughed from a restaurant or hospitality job during the registration process through the app.
“There are literally over 100 nonprofit locations where Get Shift Done workers, who were unemployed because of the pandemic, are now able to earn a living wage while also helping these food banks,” Brandt said, noting more than 16,000 workers have already joined the program.
Shiftsmart also provides virtual political polling gigs as well.
“When you see the polls on the nightly news, a lot of that is being conducted by our workforce,” Brandt said.
Where Shiftsmart Is Recruiting
Shiftsmart is growing fast. Currently, an estimated 250,000 workers use the app. Brandt would like to see that number reach 500,000 by next year. To reach that goal, the company is constantly onboarding new people.
Technically, you can sign up for Shiftsmart from anywhere in the U.S. The company has the tech infrastructure to support that. But the gigs themselves — even remote ones — may have location restrictions. Shiftsmart partners set their own staffing requirements and have their own preferences.
“The short answer is labor laws,” Brandt said.
The reason for the location requirements for the nonprofit work is apparent: it’s on-site work. Shiftsmart partners with nonprofits across 11 regions:
- Many locations in Texas: Austin, Angelina County, Houston, El Paso, North Texas, Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.
- Central and northwest Arkansas.
- New Orleans.
- Washington, D.C. metro area.
Brandt expects more locations to be added as the program continues to expand. He says many of the nonprofit organizations have already indicated they need help through the end of the year, possibly longer.
Suggested Brandt: “Is this the model for the future of how nonprofits operate?”
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.