If you’re new to the concept of a gig economy, you won’t be for much longer.
Freelance and independent workers are becoming more common throughout North America and the rest of the world. Statistics show that approximately 57 million Americans, or about 36 per cent of U.S. workers, would consider themselves to be gig workers. And this number is only expected to increase in the coming months as both workers and businesses recognize the advantages of a gig economy.
But just what is the gig economy and what does it mean to you if you’re considering making the transition from traditional employee to freelancer?
Defining A Gig Economy
The definition of the gig economy is a simple one: instead of hiring full-time employees, businesses are opting to hire freelancers, otherwise known as gig workers, for short-term tasks and projects. Hiring gig workers are beneficial for both the freelancer and the business, allowing for more flexibility in the hiring structure.
In the past, freelancers have consisted mostly of independent contractors and part-time employees hired temporarily. But now, with advanced technology, the role of the freelancer has expanded considerably.
Using unlimited and affordable data plans along with smartphones, gig workers can work from wherever they want simply by being online and connecting with wifi. Whether they’re working from home, from the local café, or in a shared workspace with other freelancers, gig workers have access to technology in ways that, until recently, were not available.
What does all this do with the way we’ve traditionally hired employees? It’s provided with the unique opportunity for workers to have the flexibility to work the way they want and find the perfect balance between needing to work and enjoying working.
The Different Types of Gig Workers
As you get ready to move from working for a company to working for yourself, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the different types of freelancers. There are two main categories of gig workers: independent and contingent workers.
Independent workers work entirely for themselves, being responsible for their billing and invoicing to the individuals and businesses that hire them. Contingent workers are hired by businesses much the same as regular employees are hired. The difference is that they have no job security and fewer benefits than traditional employees.
Under the umbrella of gig workers, there are even further distinctions when it comes to breaking down the definition of independent workers:
- Freelancers – This common term has been around for years and typically includes creative jobs such as web designers, writers, or developers.
- Gig market platforms – The gig marketplace includes those platforms that cater to on-demand services that users hire such as Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb. Gig workers who work in this sector often do so to supplement their income, working full or part-time jobs at the same time.
- Self-employed workers – The gig economy also includes self-employed workers, who enjoy all the advantages of working for themselves. This includes small business owners and tradesmen who have their own company.
- Other gig incomes – Still other gig workers fall into an area where they generate income from a variety of specific jobs, such as selling on eBay or Etsy, blogging, and affiliate marketing.
Why Workers Quit Their Traditional Jobs
The dream of becoming your boss isn’t a new one. Many people have thought about quitting their traditional full-time job and working for themselves.
Even though being a gig worker comes with less job security than working for a business or organization, it offers the opportunity for higher pay and the freedom to work when and where you want to. And the results of a survey of 1000 people show that more than 30 per cent of Americans would quit their current job if they were able to make as much income as they currently do.
The reasons for being willing to quit cover a range of complaints about job satisfaction when working for an employer:
- 9% dislike their current boss or manager.
- 12% feel burnt out from working 9 to 5.
- 14% feel they’re working in a toxic environment.
- 14% are transitioning to a new job.
- 19% feel they’re not paid enough.
- 33% want more job flexibility.
Demographics of Traditional Workers Ready to Embrace the Gig Economy
Even more, studies have been done to determine the demographics of workers who are ready to leave behind traditional employment to become a gig worker – and surprisingly it’s not millennials who are leading the numbers.
Older demographics are also indicating dissatisfaction with their jobs and prepared to make changes to the way they work:
- People aged 45 to 54 are burnt out from working 9 to 5 and just as likely as millennials to move into the gig economy.
- Employees aged 35 to 44 are ready to become gig workers because they feel they work in a toxic workplace that’s unhealthy.
- Men are more open to a freelance job when they need to supplement their income as they transition to a different career.
The Benefits of a Gig Economy
There are numerous benefits to consider as you think about quitting your job and making your move to becoming an independent worker. Whether you’re ready to go full-time as a gig worker or just want to work as a freelancer to supplement your income, the following benefits and opportunities are the main reasons more people are opting to choose to work in a gig economy:
1. Build an Impressive Portfolio
It doesn’t matter where you are in the steps of becoming a gig worker – having an established portfolio that shows you’ve worked with several clients is going to pull in even more steady and reliable clients in the future.
2. Make Your Schedule
Perhaps the biggest benefit of working for yourself is that you have the flexibility to make your schedule and work when and how much you want. This means taking time off for personal days, family events, and vacations, according to your schedule and not that of an employer.
3. Enjoy Working on a Variety of Different Projects
Being able to choose your projects gives you the opportunity for variety, taking away the grind of working in a repetitive job that can weigh you down emotionally.
4. Personal Satisfaction
Freelance work lets you choose jobs that you’re interested in, leading to more personal and professional fulfilment.
Ready to Get Started as a Freelancer?
With all the facts behind you, are you ready to get started as a freelancer? Here are some key points to focus on as you market your skills and services so you can find your first clients:
- What skills and services do you have to offer to your clients?
- Will you specialize in one skill, such as web development, or will you offer more generalized services, such as being a marketing strategist?
- What’s your target market?
- What types of clients will be interested in your skills? Come up with a unique selling position that’s aimed towards clients in your skill sector, such as writing or photography.
- Establish your rates. Check to see what your competition is charging. Then set your rates, making sure that you’re competitive.
- Market and promote your services. Create an online portfolio and post it on your website. And don’t forget the power of social media, word of mouth, and marketing emails.
Best Practices for Gig Workers
Once you’ve set yourself up as a freelancer, some best practices can help you succeed in the gig economy as you work in a non-traditional environment:
1. Establish Schedules and Routines
It’s easier to stay focused and on track when you’ve created a schedule and routine for yourself. To ensure that your freelance job doesn’t become your entire life, make sure your routine includes downtime for personal activities.
2. Focus on Your Purpose
Don’t forget why you’ve become a gig worker. Whether it’s to supplement your income or to become your boss, stay in touch with the bigger picture.
3. Network With Other Freelancers
It’s easy to become isolated as you work alone from home. Network with other gig workers for both support and to establish important career connections.
4. Find the Right Office Space
Designate office space in your own home as the area where work gets done away from distractions. Or consider looking for co-working space close to where you live if you work better in an office environment. Coworking space also has the benefit of giving you access to meeting rooms and an office area you may not have at home.
Are You Ready to Thrive as a Gig Worker?
The advantages of the gig economy will continue to grow in the coming years, as freelancers and businesses develop new ways of working together. For more detailed information about becoming a freelancer, check out this guide on everything you need to know about the gig economy.
Understanding how to navigate and compete as a gig worker can set you up for success, giving you the tools you need to thrive in today’s new workforce.