The gig economy is not your mama’s 9-5 job. People working in the gig economy are found under any number of names – they are contractors, entrepreneurs, and artists. They also have traditional job titles – editor, writer, developer, coder – but still operate as freelancers, outside the corporate structure.
The gig economy is about saying “Hey, I have this skill or service that I can offer for a fee.” And then offering it to a range of different clients instead of producing work only for one company. There’s not a lot of emphasis on consistency. In the gig economy you’re looking for the next client, the next contract, the next “gig”. It is that constant seeking that defines and propels your career.
This is how I’m working. Have I reached massive success? Am I a gig-made millionaire? Nope. But I do make a living that at the end of the day, pays my bills and affords me a good life.
If you’re struggling to make the 9-5 grind work for you, but not really sure where to begin with the gig economy, here’s some thoughts from me.
You need more than one thing you can offer, at least in the beginning.
Down the road, you might have one thing that you are absolutely exceptional at, can charge a substantial fee for and can find a build a large clientele with. Until you reliably have a consistent flow of clients willing to pay your bills for that exceptions skill focus on diversity.
I work with an online company teaching English as a Second Language. They provide the virtual classroom and connect me to clients who pay for their service, and they pay me based on the number of classes I teach in a month. This is my most reliable income because I have around 350 clients who subscribe to my schedule and consistently take classes with me.
But I also type very quickly, so I do some transcribing work to pad out my bank account on weeks when holidays or other things lower the number of classes I am booked for.
I even have a small direct sales business. You can call it a pyramid scheme or “multi level marketing” – either way – it’s where hobby meets the potential for income. I’m not climbing to the top of this pyramid but I am able to share the product with friends and see a little bit of income. It is the least reliable of my income streams and so I don’t depend on it, I just enjoy it for what it is.
And I am still always keeping my eye out for opportunities that match what I like in my work and fit my schedule.
Maybe someday I will be a super star something and not need to teach or transcribe but right now, I enjoy the variety of work from day to day. Also, more importantly, having multiple streams of income makes up for the fact that a big issue with most gigs is that there’s no security. If that teaching company or transcription company I work with goes out of business there’s no severance for me. I’m just an independent contractor for them, they don’t owe me anything. Ever. So to protect myself from their potential loss of business becoming my loss of income, I stay diverse.
2. You don’t like the 9-5 grind, but you’re gonna have to work sometime.
My teaching clients are in a different timezone so I am often awake well before and long after my partners, working away in my home office. Yes, I can book a day off whenever I want and don’t need approval from a boss. True, I work from the comfort of my home, sometimes in my pjs (shhh), and I do choose when I work – to an extent. I have the power to open or not open a class time, but I am limited by the times my students actually want to take class. Hint: it’s not at a convenient afternoon hour for me. So while I don’t work 9-5, sometimes I work 4am-9am and laugh at all the people who think the gig economy or working from home means sleeping in.
Where’s my tea?
3. You have to believe that you’re worth hiring.
It’s easy with a lot of mainstream jobs. Look at the job descriptions, see the requirements as a check list. Does it match your resume? If so – great. You can submit an application and walk in to an interview knowing you deserve this.
But when you’re under the title independent contractor you have to know what it is you offer, and feel confident that a) people do need your service, and b) you’re damn good at what you do.
There’s no check list most of the time. There’s no roadmap that you can compare to yourself and take confidence from.
So be prepared to market yourself, continually network and make yourself available to new clients, and move on without taking it personally when a client relationship doesn’t blossom the way you would have liked.
These are my top 3 pieces of advice right now. Stay tuned for more thoughts on the work from home life.