The on-demand economy is continuing to gain popularity as a flexible work option. A new study prepared by my company, Intuit, in partnership with Emergent Research projects that 9.2 million people will be working on-demand jobs by 2021. The study paints a complex and dynamic picture of the on-demand workforce, one that challenges many of the assumptions about what on-demand jobs are all about. Let's review a few common myths, and see what the data actually shows.

1. On-demand jobs are for Millennials

Working in the on-demand economy is typically viewed as something that appeals to the younger members of the workforce. However, our study found that Baby Boomers (age 53-70) make up 24 percent of the on-demand workforce, while GenX's (age 35-52) actually make up a greater percentage (41 percent) than Millennials aged 18-34 (35 percent). It turns out the perks of on-demand work - flexible hours, low barrier to entry, and easy access to supplemental cash flow-appeal to a broad range of people, whether it's a stay-at-home mom turning to on-demand work for flexibility while caring for her children, or a retiree who's looking to make some extra income and stay busy.

2. On-demand jobs are for men

In recent years, we're seeing a steady rise in the number of female on-demand workers. Our study found that female participation in the on-demand economy has grown from 37 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016. We also found that certain on-demand platforms, such as Upwork, are skewing female. With the flexibility to choose when and how you work, on-demand work can be a godsend, especially for professional women looking to balance a career (or launch one) with raising a family.

3. On-demand jobs are for less-educated workers

Education levels among on-demand workers are actually much higher than the general American population. In our study, we found that the majority of on-demand workers (89 percent) had at least a two-year college degree. On-demand work--accessed and managed entirely on tech platforms--requires a certain level of computer savvy, and in many cases, physical assets (like a car for driving or a house to rent)--both of which are typically acquired through an education or education-fueled life achievements.

4. On-demand workers have platform loyalty

We constantly see on-demand platforms pitted against each other in the press (think Uber versus Lyft), inciting a notion that on-demand workers approach their work the same way--choose one platform, and stay loyal to it. To the contrary, our study found that only 5 percent of on-demand workers surveyed work for a single platform. Why? Simply put, working on multiple platforms is a key strategy for success. The more platforms you're on, the more easily you can fill your schedule and therefore optimize your earnings.

5. On-demand jobs are precarious

On-demand work has a reputation for being financially insecure and unreliable. But for many, working in the on-demand economy is actually the solution to an otherwise precarious situation, providing an easy way to shore up their finances. In fact, 41 percent of the on-demand workers we surveyed had faced a personal financial hardship in the past year (such as a job loss, health emergency or unexpected major expense). By comparison, just 18 percent of all Americans in a recent U.S. Federal Reserve survey reported encountering a financial emergency. For people facing a precarious situation in the traditional job market, the additional income generated through on-demand work helped them to achieve some financial stability in the face of unexpected financial hardship.

6. On-demand workers are just trying to earn some extra cash to supplement their day jobs

There's no doubt that the ability to earn supplemental cash is a dominant motivation for on-demand workers, but what's often overlooked is the very prevalent entrepreneurial spirit taking shape in the on-demand economy. Many people are leaning on on-demand work to either develop a new business, or to supplement and expand an existing business. In fact, 37 percent already own a business, and 21 percent want to build a business.

7. On-demand workers are less satisfied with their work because they lack benefits and retirement savings from a traditional job

Overall, there is general satisfaction with on-demand work. Of the on-demand workers we surveyed, the majority (67 percent) report being highly satisfied or satisfied with their work in the on-demand economy. Furthermore, 81 percent plan on continuing to work in the on-demand economy for at least the next 12 months. For these people, the control, flexibility and the ability to make quick, additional income are perks which outweigh the potential negatives.

No matter who you are or what motivations drive you, on-demand work can be an excellent way to get your feet wet as an entrepreneur. A few practical reminders to keep in mind: 1. Lend your skills on multiple platforms instead of just one. You'll get more experience faster, not to mention more business. 2. Don't forget that the on-demand economy isn't all about driving or delivery. There are a plethora of online talent platforms out there to which you can lend your unique skills for access to huge customer bases (also an exceptional way to build and grow your business). And finally, 3. Stay connected. With a community as active and growing as the on-demand economy, there are plenty of opportunities to network, share tips and even make friend.

Published on: Mar 9, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.