We are thrilled to get the chance to meet #FriendOfSolo, independent worker, and content creator Hannibal in his home city of Brooklyn, NY for a candid chat about the gig economy, the highs and lows of independent work, Solo, and more.

‍Solo: We're thrilled to be meeting you in your hometown, NYC! Can you tell us a little about growing up here and what it was like when you first started gig working?

I've been born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I'll be 39 this year, so it's been quite a long time. But, you know, I love New York City. I love Brooklyn. I love the excitement. Sometimes it can get a little hectic here, but I love the hustle. I love the style and the food and the variety of different things you can do and the kind of people you meet.

To segue into gig work. I started dog walking in 2018, so that was my main job, that was my main W2. Going back—at this point—probably 13 years, you know, still trying to figure out what to do with my life. And I realized, you know, at that point, I wasn't a people person, wasn't exactly the most confident around people. So I worked with animals, worked with dogs. Kind of went with that. I did dog boarding for another business at a brick-and-mortar boarding facility in Manhattan. I was in Soho taking care of dogs and then went to Queens to work at a no-kill shelter. And then I don't remember when I discovered the Rover app, but that was my introduction to independent contractor work where I was able to sign up and had some experience already. I really liked that. I like the fact that you establish an identity within yourself rather than the business. So Rover is just an app that connects dog walkers with dog owners. And you see your name and you see your profile and you write your profile sales page and you have reviews and you start to really gravitate towards that. Like, wow, this is actually my own thing. Yeah, and I was just doing that for a while. And then 2020, obviously things kind of locked up for the most part. So there were no dogs to walk and for some reason my mind went, well, I have a car, I'm going to sign up for UberEats. And then being bored at home, I learned how to make videos. Before 2020, I did not know anything about creating videos and stuff like that. But to kind of express my experience with UberEats, I started making YouTube videos.‍

So that's how it all kind of came currently. I really enjoyed podcasts. I remember working overnight, taking care of dogs, and listening to podcasts, YouTube, and stuff. So being locked down, I had nothing else to do so YouTube is just the best learning tool out there. I just watched videos and watched videos. I mean, anyone can just take a phone and record your experience. I think that's the kind of content that people are interested in.Many people jumped into gig work, not as a plan, it kind of just happened. You know, people got fired or laid off and then people started to do UberEats or DoorDash, and you start to realize, wow, there's so much about gig work that the companies don't necessarily tell you.

Also, we didn't have coworkers. Coworkers the kind of people you talk to, whether you're meeting up while you're at the same restaurant or in a parking lot. But when you go on the Internet and you go on a YouTube channel, there's a community there, and there are questions and there are experiences that we all exchange. So, I think also it's good timing for what a lot of us were doing at the current moment. ‍

Solo: What advice would you give someone just starting out doing gig work? What about someone who has been doing it for a while?

Definitely take it easy. You know, it's gonna be a while where you if you don't know the restaurants, you don't know the neighborhoods, you may not make a lot of money. What I would say is you definitely want to watch content in the area you're in. So if I, if I'm in Chicago, I will try to find someone in Chicago doing the same thing I'm doing. If it's a Facebook Group or Reddit Group or whatever community you're looking for, find that location first. Gig workers are a chatty bunch. They will tell you, so if you are out in a restaurant, just ask them, “hey, how's business?” And they'll let you know this time is the best, they'll exchange info. Which is interesting because, in other settings, particularly corporate settings, they're not going to tell you how much money they make. It's usually a touchy subject. Yeah. But oh, no gig workers, they'll show that phone and just be like “this is how much I made.” The first night doing it, a man showed me how much money he made in the week because he wanted to tell me how to do it. It's a very helpful bunch of people.

In terms of established gig workers, I would say still keep an open mind because I've also noticed this with gig work, especially in the community making content, there are people who are very set in their ways. There are people who are like, “this is how I've done it three years ago, and I'm going to keep doing it that way.” Even though algorithms change, markets change. So I definitely think that keeping an open mind and sometimes talking to someone that's new may remind you of certain things that you either forgot or even new things. Because again, the apps change. So I would say even for established people, keep an open mind, keep looking at more apps, and more opportunities to make money. You don't have to just stay in food delivery or necessarily rideshare. The gig economy is fast, right? There’s tutoring, video editing, and other creative stuff. It's a vast industry and if you have some talent that's beyond just doing gig work in terms of food delivery or rideshare, you can do very well. ‍

Solo: You talked a little bit about your YouTube channel and what spurred the creation of your YouTube channel, but how has balancing YouTube and the marriage of YouTube and your gig work been?

That's a really good question because I think we have a very interesting dynamic with many people, especially people who are doing like, let's say, for instance, creating content about DoorDash. Well, to do it properly, or at least you're recording yourself making money, and then you got to go home to edit the content about what you've just done. And there’s also a quality factor because usually YouTubers, you spend a lot of time planning and mapping out and then spending hours editing. But a lot of content creators from the gig work space, they're doing everything and they're outside and they're recording as they work. I mean, that's impressive. Like, I don't do ride-a-longs. I'm in New York City. I can't—I need to pay attention to what’s going on. I used to do it more than full time or at least over 30 hours, I worked at night because of traffic, and I can't record myself at night. It's a safety issue. I think that's a sacrifice, right? So me trying to make content creation a full-time thing, I am potentially losing money because I'm not able to go outside to deliver or make money doing gig work. So that's the balance there. But I know what I want to do later on in life, so that's a sacrifice I would make.

But you have people like Pedro, which at this point is one of my best friends. He's a maniac. He is making videos every single day. And he still works the apps, he's still doing probably 5 hours of that. He's a machine. But not everyone could do that. But that's definitely a really inspirational thing that I would look at. Doing a video once a week and doing gig work, it's a good balance. You do that if you want to go the extra route. It just depends on your hustle and how much time you have to do all that stuff.‍

Solo: Being from the biggest city in the country, New York, we know you have some great insights—what are the busiest places/ times to work, and the slowest?‍

Traffic is the biggest problem. I mean, that is the biggest, biggest issue. I was in LA a couple of days ago, and I saw that, and all the people that I talked to over there say, downtown, don't bother unless you have a bike. So it's kind of similar to here in New York City. If you notice, we have thousands of people on e-bikes and e-scooters because of the traffic, so they are able to work all day. Well, if you have a car, it's going to be a drag. So I know very early on that I knew I was going to work at night.

That was my chamber, I work for dinner. I avoid a lot of the traffic and you make good money because dinner does pretty well here. I've stayed in Brooklyn for the most part, the city is a whole different animal. Brooklyn is a big borough, there are a lot of wealthy people here. So if you go to neighborhoods like Park Slope, Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn, you can make really good money because people tip here. I would say that people do tip here. Yeah, there's a lot of no-tippers, but in certain areas, people are making six figures. I remember just going on Google and looking at average income, so I know where to make the most money because that's where I'm going to hang out at. So, dinner always worked well for me. And Saturday and Sundays, when traffic is a little bit lighter, we could do pretty well. Just find a neighborhood where people are making six figures or more, and you're going to do pretty well. Know which restaurants will do well. I avoid fast-food restaurants. I don't know if I'm just bougie, but usually, the wait times are long, and the people who are working there are exhausted dealing with either rude customers or sometimes rude gig workers. So I love the mom-and-pop restaurants, these swanky joints. They're helpful, and the tips are bigger because the orders are more expensive. Sometimes pizza joints just do very well. Vegan joints do very well. Sushi spots. Those are spots where if I just hang around this area, you get good orders and you're delivering to really nice people that tip. That's my strategy.‍‍

Solo: If you could go back in time, what advice would you have given yourself when you first started gig working?‍

For me, avoid fast food restaurants. But again, that's just a very market-dependent situation. I do get jealous when I talk to someone about how much I'm not a big fan of delivering from McDonald's and someone says, oh, my McDonald's is amazing. You walk in and they take care of it. I'm like, that's great—It's great for you. But I think I would say probably, in the beginning, to sign up for more apps. I think when you first start and again be a little slower, but I didn't realize the more apps you have the more opportunities you can have to make money. I think also there are times I waited way too long for order. And I remember times when I was just standing around with everyone else waiting for orders to come on my phone. I didn't realize that that wasn't a good investment of my time. You got to keep it moving or just realize it's not going to work or go home. There are certain times when you kind of just waiting around for something to come. I think that's probably my biggest, I guess, regret a lot of time just waiting for an order when I probably should have canceled it and moved on to another opportunity. ‍

Solo: What’s the most frustrating thing about driving or gig work in NYC?‍

It's. Traffic. Yeah, yeah. Traffic, probably. I'm not the most patient person. We have a lot of very, I wouldn't say aggressive, but assertive drivers out here. You also have to compete with the bikers, they're going 100 miles an hour too because they're trying to hustle. So the hustle, you have to kind of take that and drive very defensively. I've never been in an accident before. I just really try to take my time. I don't want to hurt anyone, don’t want anyone to hurt me. Also just kind of dealing with the apps. Sometimes they're not the most transparent about what's going on. So those are some of the little frustrating issues, but that's work in general—right?

You're going to have some good days and some bad days. Sometimes our expectations are a little bit unrealistic. Sometimes you have an amazing day, and you make a really good amount of money. Then the next day you're like, “what happened?” You go for one moment of “I could just do DoorDash the rest of my life. Wow, this is amazing.” and the next day, you're questioning every decision you made. Like, “I can't believe I decided to do this. I'm going to have to find another job.” Being self-employed—I mean, at this point, I've been a self-employed person for three years—you learn to ride those waves. You learn to manage your money. You start to understand and calculate. You kind of look at it from more of a broad picture rather than every day living with the ups and downs of every day, I think you have a better, experience. ‍

Solo: Do you have a favorite memory of when you’re out working?‍

At least for me, it's important to really be nice and courteous. So when the cashier or waitress had a really stressful day and if you come in with the “Good afternoon. Good morning, how's your day?” They'll tell you—I mean, this happened multiple times to me—they will say, “You're the first person that said good morning to me. You're the first person to say good afternoon.” Sometimes they'll give you like, a free milkshake. Sometimes you can tell when they had a long day. That smile, those interactions, always makes everyone feel a little better. Sometimes when you go a little bit above and beyond for a customer, they'll take care of you, even leave us an extra tip, but just even an “ I appreciate you doing this.” Those keep me going. Especially in New York City—we're a little rough around the edges—but everyone still appreciates being a kind, good person.‍

Solo: How has Solo helped you as an independent worker, and what features are you excited for next?‍

To do really well as an independent contractor or, you know, running your own business, you really need to keep your information as organized as possible and catalog everything. I think a lot of people, when they jump into this,  they're not tracking their miles, they're not tracking expenses, you’re going to have a lot of problems when it comes to taxes. You are going to be overwhelmed. There are certain things you could have deducted. There's a lot of information, and that's something that we don't get enough information about when we join. It's kind of like “be your own boss, make this money,” but being your own boss comes with so much baggage.

I think with the solo app is amazing because it has an expense and a mileage tracker—they may not have to be the sexiest features, but they're important. Because a lot of running your own business is the boring stuff of tracking information, and tracking numbers so you can see how well you're doing. So those things are important, but obviously, with the smart schedule and seeing how much money per hour certain apps are having at certain times of the day, that information is extremely amazing. I think, talking about the Solo App—and that's why I talk about it anywhere I go, to anyone who's willing to listen—if you are new to this, I think the Solo app should be the first investment because it does help you understand your market. Market research is, I think, the foundation for any business that you want to start. What is working and at what time is it working? Like DoorDash. Is DoorDash doing well in your market or not? It may take some time to discover that, but if you're able to download an app and they let you know, it cuts probably a month, probably three months of research right off the bat. So I think for people to have that in their arsenal, I think that's extremely important that someone is already mapping out this information for you so you can save your time, your energy, and your sanity. So the more apps you link, the more information you can have so I think those are the best features of Solo—save you time for market research. 

Thank you Hannibal for sharing your experience and tips with the Solo community—we can’t wait to bring our Smart Schedule and Pay Guarantee to NYC this year! You can see more of Hannibal on his YouTube Channel, his instagram, his personal podcast, and you can listen to Pedro and Hannibal talk about sports and hip hop on their podcast.