Not too long ago, people dreamed of having a job that combined a flexible schedule with income opportunity. Traditional careers usually require working at an office, where you are rewarded more for your attendance than productivity. Those who wanted to be their own boss were often met with the sobering reality of business startup expenses and the enormous risk of striking out on their own.
Then, over the past decade, a revolution swept over the way people find jobs and perform work. Technology and innovations in how people collaborate and connect also facilitated this change. The resulting gig economy allows people to work when and where they want in ways that were unthinkable just a short while ago. Now, over 34 percent of workers in the United States are part of this gig economy, which includes freelancers, remote contract workers, and others with relaxed work schedules. This number is poised to grow close to 50 percent over the next few years.
What does it take to earn money in the gig economy? Is it a viable career choice for everyone? Answering these questions requires an analysis of worker personalities and skill sets.
The Mind of a Freelancer
Success in the gig economy is much like success as an entrepreneur, only potentially easier depending on your field. To start your own business, you need startup capital, living expenses for a certain period of time, and a source of customers. The gig economy reduces or eliminates most of these barriers. While freelance positions lack the stability of a full-time job, some will say that employment stability is an illusion. People are laid off all the time, even from well-performing companies such as Amazon and General Electric. A successful freelancer recognizes the presence of risk in everyday life and views this uncertainty as opportunity.
Success in the gig economy requires embracing risk, but it also calls for high-level organizational and sales skills. You need to be able to manage your workflow on your own. And drumming up clients is, for the most part, completely on your plate. Apps and websites can reduce the pitching burden by providing streamlined opportunities for jobs, but sustained success requires stepping beyond these services.
Small Business Sense
In addition to managing assignments and projects, a freelancer has to run the administrative side of their business. Tracking expenses, handling small business tax matters, and cutting paychecks are all part of the freelancer’s job. So is marketing, ordering supplies, and handling countless other tasks that might be handled by bosses or coworkers in traditional employment.
Working in the gig economy also requires an ability to work productively from home, and not everyone is adept at doing so. Some tips to create a balance between work and non-work is to create a home office that is separate from the rest of your living area. While it might seem relaxed to work from your kitchen table, the fun ends when the inevitable interruptions begin. If you have a separate room in your house, make it an office. It’ll serve as a work sanctuary that you can walk away from, and you may be entitled to a tax write off if the room is separate.
Some freelancers fizzle out when they realize they miss having coworkers. The gig economy presents several replacements for office banter. From freelance discussion boards to meetup groups to traditional networking methods, you can enjoy camaraderie of other professionals.
Freelancing in the gig economy presents real opportunities to pave your own way on your terms. The extra work may not be right for everyone, but for those looking for a challenge, self-employment has never been easier.