The development of the gig economy has without a doubt intensified in the past few years since the advent of digital platforms including ride share applications such as Uber and Lyft and food delivery applications including GrubHub, Uber Eats, Foodora, and Just Eat. But what does the term, gig economy, actually mean?
The gig economy is a phenomenon which describes temporary positions wherein various organizations and companies hire local freelancers or remote workers for short- or long-term engagements.
A study by Intuit, a major financial company, stated that by 2020, as many as 40 percent of all American workers will be independent contractors. In addition, UpWork and Freelancer’s Union estimate that in 2018, more than 57 million Americans workers were freelancing in some capacity, and by 2027, at least 50% of the U.S. workforce will be a part of the gig economy!
This shift benefits corporations in that they can save significant and substantial resources in terms of office space, training, and benefits when they hire freelancers. On the other hand, the benefit to workers employed within the gig economy is that individuals who are employed in this manner enjoy incredible flexibility in terms of the hours that they work. Unlike traditional workers, a freelancer has the ability to work only when they choose to, thereby allowing them to supplement a full-time job with additional opportunities during their free time, such as by delivering food or by driving passengers with a company such as Uber. There are also freelancers who freelance full-time with either a single client or with multiple clients, which enables them to generate a competitive income and to structure their professional life around their personal life with unprecedented freedom. The gig economy allows them to not compromise on any aspect of their personal life, while still consistently meeting client expectations and making a solid income.
Freelancers employed in the gig economy also enjoy other benefits such as near-absolute independence. Specifically, freelance workers are generally not affected by unpleasantries such as mandatory and unnecessary meetings, office politics, redundant face time in the office, as well as many other such aspects that are common to many traditional jobs. In addition to this, the very nature of positions in the gig economy guarantees extraordinary variety in the day-to-day tasks and experiences that freelancers can expect.
Through the gig economy, freelancers also get a chance to build their portfolio of work with several clients, and to test out clients before they jump into full-time positions with a specific company, if they choose to pursue that route in the future. This is in stark contrast to a full-time position, where we find most workers being forced to work in a full-time job that they do not like and then cribbing about their boss, work culture, or just their work in general.
Types of Freelance Jobs
There are a variety of different types of freelance jobs from which potential freelancers can choose. The primary categories of work are transportation-related positions, household improvement tasks, real estate opportunities, and skilled freelancing projects. Each of these types of positions come with unique advantages and many freelancers are choosing to work in each of these job categories. In some cases, freelancers find employment opportunities by connecting with companies that are looking to hire freelancers and in others they work directly with interested individuals. Moreover, some freelancers choose to work remotely while others opt to become local freelancers, working with other individuals or companies located in their areas.
1. Transportation Positions
The defining characteristic of transportation positions in the gig economy is that workers employed in this field are compensated on a job-by-job basis for the specific ‘gigs’ that they perform. For example, an Uber driver is generally paid for each trip that they complete rather than being paid a flat amount per hour as is typical for regular hourly or full-time workers. This is something that is unique for these types of positions and is in contrast to how freelancers are compensated in some other types of freelance engagements.
Transportation positions include taxi-like services where individuals hire freelancers through platforms such as Uber or Lyft as well as food delivery positions such as Uber Eats, Just-Eat, and Foodora, amongst many others.
Another type of transportation position is the case where individuals are compensated for delivering other goods to people and companies, such as with the Postmates platform, where clients hire local freelancers, who are paid for completing deliveries of things such as dry cleaning or groceries.
2. Household Improvement
Another type of employment that workers employed in the gig economy can find is ‘handy’ work such as electrician or plumbing services through platforms such as TaskRabbit. On this platform, people who need services to be completed can hire freelancers to complete such tasks instead of hiring companies. Services such as TaskRabbit and its competitors also focus on enabling individuals to easily find local freelancers for many different kinds of projects.
Other types of related services could be furniture delivery and assembly. In these instances, local freelancers can be paid either on a gig-by-gig basis or hourly, or in some instances, on both an hourly and a project basis. These types of services allow freelancers to directly disrupt the established household improvement service industry by avoiding having to work for established and often inflexible household improvement organizations such as plumbing companies. Moreover, freelancers of this type benefit by keeping a larger proportion of the money that they make as they only need to pay a small fee to the platforms that connect them with their clients.
Finally, some other freelancers in this category avoid such platforms entirely and consequently keep the entire amount that they make. In these cases, freelancers opt to directly and independently connect with their clients through using their personal networks in addition to social networking platforms or services such as Craigslist or Kijiji. With the use of these platforms, independent individuals, rather than companies, can directly hire freelancers.
3. Real Estate Opportunities
Yet another way that individuals can earn a freelancing income is through posting their homes on short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway which allows them to earn money through renting out their residences to temporary guests. These opportunities are unique in that they allow individuals to make an income without needing to find a company that is looking to hire freelancers.
However, this income stream also comes with certain issues in that it requires fairly significant investments of time and money in terms of maintenance and upkeep tasks and also comes with the inconvenience of having to share one’s home with others. In addition, issues sometimes occur with unruly or problematic guests.
Notably, the regulations of many buildings are now adding stipulations that restrict or prohibit renters from posting their units on platforms such as Airbnb. In some cases, entire cities have passed regulations prohibiting renters from subletting their homes to potential guests. Therefore, it is important to familiarize oneself with the applicable local laws and rental regulations prior to proceeding with promoting one’s residence on these types of platforms.
4. Professional Skilled Freelancing
The fourth way that individuals can participate in the gig economy as freelancers is through professional skilled freelancing which is a term that refers to individuals using their previously acquired work experience to find and complete projects for clients across a variety of skill types including coding, design, sales, marketing, data analyses, admin, finance, and accounting. For example, an individual with marketing experience can choose to independently consult for companies seeking to complete marketing projects without committing to hiring an individual as a full-time employee. Skilled freelancing therefore encompasses many different types of freelancer positions including graphic design, web development, and social media management, amongst many others.
In this instance, individuals can independently connect with companies looking to hire freelancers through their professional networks by using services such as LinkedIn. However, this can be rather difficult to do for most individuals who do not have established and extensive business connections due to the significant challenge of consistently finding relevant companies and projects. Therefore, many individuals choose to instead make use of a variety of freelancing platforms such as UpWork or SkillSoniq in order to connect with appropriate companies and projects. In those cases, the platforms facilitate connections between companies seeking to find freelancers and the independent workers in exchange for a fee. The different freelancing platforms tend to have unique advantages and disadvantages which is something that prospective freelancers need to consider. The differences between the leading freelancing platforms is described in detail here.
The different freelancing platforms also tend to use different approaches in order for companies to effectively find freelancers. For example, the SkillSoniq marketplace uses advanced matching algorithms to ensure that companies connect with the most relevant talent and hire freelancers that are the best fit for them. At the same time, SkillSoniq works to ensure that freelancers using the platform receive the volume of work that they desire. In regard to compensation and pricing, workers on SkillSoniq are paid hourly according to the hours that they submit each week in return for a 10% commission that they pay SkillSoniq.
A notable thing about skilled freelancing is that many platforms connect companies with freelancers from all across the world. However, many companies actually prefer to hire local freelancers in their city and therefore SkillSoniq focuses on matching companies with local freelancers. This is mainly to allow companies to effectively try out workers prior to hiring them full-time, something that would of course be challenging to do with remote freelancers. SkillSoniq also believes that no matter how much a company interviews someone, they will not be able to definitively know how good or bad the worker is until they begin working together. Individuals are typically on their absolute best behavior during the interview process, which companies may find hard to read through. Thus, SkillSoniq provides a great way for companies to find local freelancers in their city as part of a ‘trial’, after which they can choose to make them full-time employees. Since freelancers are local, communication between companies and freelancers is made significantly less cumbersome. By choosing to hire local freelancers, a company can avoid these difficulties. You can learn more about the advantages of hiring local freelancers here.
Succeeding as a Freelancer
While working as either a remote or local freelancer certainly has its advantages, there are definitely certain unique challenges associated with freelancing. A recent study conducted by Petriglieri, Ashford, and Wrzesniewski (2019) focused on the ways that freelancers overcome the challenges of participating in the gig economy. This study found that successful freelancers tend to employ a common host of strategies in developing connections of four types: to places, routines, purposes, and people. These ‘connections’ enable freelancers to find success in their careers and to avoid burn-out, and are described in detail below:
1. Place Connections
Specifically, the place connections that individuals participating in the gig economy form are important because of the fact that freelancers often do not have a formal corporate environment in which they carry out their work, even when they are employed as a local freelancer. According to the researchers, alternative workspaces can be highly variant and include cafes, rental working spaces, or home offices, but all share a common purpose of providing easy access to the tools needed to complete work and denying access to any distractions. In addition to this, freelancers who achieve success tend to leave these spaces as soon as work is completed, thereby dedicating these places exclusively to complete work tasks.
In addition, rental working spaces allow local freelancers to connect with one another and even other companies. For example, some coworking spaces allow companies that are seeking to find local freelancers to connect with local talent through putting on networking events which can be highly advantageous to their members.
2. Routine Connections
In terms of routines, workers in the gig economy develop specific patterns in order to maintain stability and performance over time. Whereas in traditional office positions, routines are forcefully imposed upon workers, workers in the gig economy have the freedom to develop their own set of effective procedures and are also able to eliminate the patterns that they find ineffective. These routines are highly variable, and can include keeping a schedule, incorporating personal care steps such as ensuring one sets aside time for physical exercise, socializing, and sleep, or can include activities that freelancers perform in order to feel stable in their day-to-day routine such as visiting a coffee shop at a particular time each morning.
3. Purpose Connections
Next, the connection to purpose is an important common aspect reported by effective freelancers and can be described simply as a consistency in terms of why one does the work that they do which goes further and deeper than the simple need to generate an income. The specific purposes that are selected by individuals working in the gig economy are naturally highly individual, but some examples include the desire to empower others, to expose harmful marketing practices, or to generally make the world a better place. Distilled to their essence, these purposes connect an individual’s personal values with a perceived gap in the modern world. This aspect also encompasses the fact that freelancers have the freedom to choose which companies they would like to work with, given the large number of companies that are seeking to hire freelancers.
4. People Connections
Finally, gig economy workers prioritize connections to others. The study carried out by Petriglieri et al. (2019) found that the workers who were able to find balance in their freelance positions maintained a variety of social connections of various types, including to family, friends, and other local freelancers working in similar fields. In general, these individuals took careful and determined steps to avoid social isolation and were able to sustain their success through this.
In sum, the gig economy is a rapidly developing, exciting phenomenon which is transforming the way that work is carried out and is providing workers with unparalleled freedom and flexibility in building up their careers and performing meaningful work. On the other hand, companies that choose to hire freelancers also benefit from being able to try out talent before hiring them full-time. There are a variety of opportunities that exist in this space ranging from handyman tasks to food delivery to higher skilled projects. Moreover, individuals who choose to work in the space and effectively become independent entrepreneurs have the choice to start working part-time and earn a supplementary income in addition to their full-time positions instead of needing to commit to a full-time engagement right away. They can of course choose to freelance full-time as well, working with single or multiple clients through platforms like SkillSoniq. In addition, an individual also has the ability to choose between working remotely or as a local freelancer, according to their personal preferences and the opportunities that exist in their respective area.
Due to the diversity of positions that exist in the gig economy, one can truly choose to specialize in whatever field one chooses, either by developing new skills or by choosing to hone existing ones. It is easy to get started and the best part is that by embracing the gig economy and its opportunities, one can choose to chart their own path to success, independently and with great flexibility, without compromising on their personal life.