What is the Gig Economy?

If you’ve heard about a friend working from home with flexible hours then you may know someone who is working in the Gig Economy.

In Australia, about 7% of workers are finding employment through the gig economy. That number is much higher in the USA, estimated to be around one third of American workers.

What is the Gig Economy?

So what is the Gig Economy?

A gig is a temporary job. Generally speaking, technology is used to match people that need work done with people who want to do that work. The work may be full-time or part-time, so you can work multiple gigs at once. You may be employed as a freelancer or independent contractor. Your pay could be by project, hourly or on salary for a longer-term gig. You may know the end date for your gig, or it may be an indefinite one.

Sound pretty variable? That’s because it is. And that’s a big part of the appeal.

Benefits:

  • Working from anywhere (in many cases)
  • Flexible hours
  • Not locked in; open to new opportunities
  • Working with different people & projects

Challenges

  • No healthcare benefits, vacation leave, etc.
  • Requires discipline & self-motivation
  • May need multiple jobs to earn enough
  • Have to find/create opportunities/market yourself

The Victorian government launched an Inquiry into the growing Gig Economy. Their report to the Minister of Industrial Relations will be completed soon. In the meantime, they have released the results from their 2019 survey of more than 14,000 people across Australia. They found that the following platforms were used most commonly for finding gigs: Airtasker (34.8 per cent), Uber (22.7 per cent), Freelancer (11.8 per cent), Uber Eats (10.8 per cent) and Deliveroo (8.2 per cent).

Has all of this gig talk piqued your interest? Find out if you have the right skills to be a gigster.
  • Right Industry: This may seem obvious, but consider the industry in which you work. Are there many gig opportunities? If you work in Tech or Marketing & Communications, the answer is a big yes. 
  • Adaptable: Depending on where the gigs are, you may actually have to change roles and/or industries to get work. This can mean learning new skills and it certainly requires the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Learner: People who love to learn are well suited to gigs. As mentioned above, switching roles and industries will likely require new learning. Plus, if you’re working for different companies, you may need to quickly learn about their business, culture and operations. An openness and interest in learning is a must.
  • Marketing Know-How: Part of being a gigster is marketing yourself. You will probably want to have a great profile on a number of sites. This helps to keep the work opportunities flowing. Being skilled in communicating what you can offer will be one of the key differences between getting gigs or not.
  • Self-Motivated & Disciplined: Since gigs are deliverable focused, there may be few check-ins along the way. That means you need to be self-motivated and disciplined to stay on task. With flexible or at-home work there can be many distractions. Excellent time management skills are instrumental. 
  • Low Aversion to Risk: There may be times when the gigs are flowing and there may be times of drought – can you handle that? People who are averse to risk should not join the Gig Economy. The stress will not be worth the payoff. Having a certain level of comfort (or said differently – low aversion to risk) helps immensely. 
Ok, so those all feel good for you. Now, how to join the gig economy and be successful? We have outlined some key steps to consider.

1) Decide if you're All-In

One of the benefits of gigs is the flexibility. You may continue to work at your full-time job, and add a gig to your plate. This is more commonly known as a side hustle. But some realize they want to make that side hustle their focus. If you want to leave your full-time job behind to focus solely on gigs, then you might call that being “all-in.”

2) Consider your Runway

Startups look at their financial runway, which is how long they can survive if income and expenses stay constant. If you are making the switch to gigs, with only one part-time gig lined up, then see how long your runway is. You may realize it makes sense to juggle your old job with one gig, instead of going “all-in” right away. Or you may be willing to make the leap and hustle for more gigs while you still have some room on the runway.

3) Sharp Profile

If you are seeking work via online sites then a sharp, updated profile is a must. This is the first point of contact a potential employer will have with you. Clearly articulate what sets you apart. Include previous work, success stories and client testimonials where appropriate. You may like to look at some top profiles for inspiration.

4) Relationships Matter

Although you may have just one gig lined up with a company, there is the potential they will need more support down the road. Or, you may interact with someone who moves to another company, and thinks of you when a new opportunity arises. You never know what opportunities will come as a result of your network. Make it a priority to cultivate and maintain relationships. This will also help you secure great testimonials.

5) Be Excellent

You may see this advice in various articles on our site, and for good reason. There is nothing more important in a gig than delivering great output. That is why you’ve been hired: to deliver the goods. So make sure you meet expectations for timelines and content. Actively seek feedback, and always put your best foot forward.  

6) Know Your Worth

You may have started out charging a particular rate, but as each new gig comes along, you may like to consider the following questions before setting your rates (if a rate has not already been pre-determined via the posting):

  • What is the industry standard?
  • Who are you working for – can they afford what you want to charge?
  • How difficult is the work?
  • Are you uniquely positioned to deliver it?

7) Manage Communications

If your profile is live on a number of sites, then you will need to be active on those sites too. Even if you do not have the time or space for a new gig that you are contacted about, write back in a timely fashion. In the future your timing may align. But if you’ve not responded to a prior message then it will not look good when you reach out about the next gig.

Gigs are not as glamourous as they seem via social media. They are by nature unstable. But for some they are well aligned to personality and lifestyle. After reading this article, do you want to join the Gig Economy? Then check out our contract and part-time job postings.
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written by alison starratt