The Rise of the Gig Economy
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Gig Economy” or “Gig Worker” but are unclear of exactly what this is. According to Investopedia (2018), a Gig Economy is where temporary and flexible jobs are commonplace and organizations lean towards hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. As technology rapidly becomes ubiquitous, companies (especially technology companies and startups) are constantly seeking ways to reduce their labor expenses by outsourcing work and utilizing Gig Workers.
Companies Using Gig Workers
Uber and Lyft are the largest Gig Economy firms in the U.S. according to The Heritage Foundation (2016) with more than 500,000+ Gig Workers. Additionally, established companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Microsoft, and Intel are extensively utilizing Gig Workers. Tech startups are particularly keen to using gig workers. These companies are fully aware of the excessive costs of having full-time workers on campus, which includes providing employee healthcare, disability, pensions, PTO, retirement plans, and building infrastructure costs.
Size of the Gig Economy
According to the Chicago Tribune (2018), experts differ on exactly how large the Gig Economy is but there is a consensus that it is growing faster than traditional employment and is here to stay. CNN Money (2017) reported that the Gig Economy is estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to rise to 43% by 2020. Gig Workers have been around for a long time as freelance contractors, writers, tutors, and musicians; however, today the Gig Economy is quickly infiltrating white-collar professions in technology, finance, law, and healthcare.
Benefits of Gig Work
Being a Gig Worker has its benefits and drawbacks. The main benefit of being a Gig Worker is flexibility and autonomy. Unlike traditional full-time employment at a company where a person must drive to a physical location, show up at a certain time, and be physically present for 8-10 hours a day, a Gig Worker can work from anywhere in the world that has internet access, work any time they please, and do it without a manager looming over their shoulder. Additionally, Gig Workers can work with multiple companies and industries, which provides variety that full-time workers don’t have. Finally, essentially being an entrepreneur can provide a great sense of accomplishment where a person is truly utilized for their knowledge.
Drawbacks of Gig Work
The drawbacks of being a Gig Worker includes lack of a stable income, no benefits, and no set schedule. Having a stable income is why many Gig Workers will initially start doing it while working a full-time job. Relying on Gig work to financially support their lifestyle is very challenging and takes time to adapt. The lack of benefits for Gig Workers is a huge drawback, especially for a head of household with a family. It’s not just healthcare benefits that a Gig Worker won’t receive, but retirement/pension plans along with no paid time off are also not included. Finally, not having an established schedule can be challenging for a person who has worked for a company for many years where they have set hours and direction.
Getting Gig Work
The first thing when looking for Gig Work is to know your niche and what services you can offer. Do you have strong skills in web design, developing software, administrative support, accounting, etc.? Identifying your niche will make you more focused and make it easier to find work. There are now job boards that specialize in Gig Work. Some of the main telecommuting and legitimate job boards today (2018) include FlexJobs, WeWorkRemotely, WorkingNomads, and Remotive. Applying for Gig Work has many similarities with applying for traditional work, which includes submitting a resume, targeting decision makers, and interviewing (though usually far less involved). The Career Outlook (2016) published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a free guide for people looking to work in a Gig Economy.
The Gig Economy is here to stay and will grow in tandem with the proliferation of technology. Startup companies and established companies that realize the benefits of using Gig Workers will continue to fuel the expansion of the Gig Economy. The standards of applying for traditional jobs is also applicable for Gig Work, where a person needs to identify their niche, develop a concise and compelling resume, network with the right people, and be able to sell themselves in an interview.
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