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Work in the time of the Gig economy

, June 22, 2017, 0 Comments

gig-economy-marketexpress-inPriya (37 yo) holds a Project Management job in an IT services company. She worked 12 hour days. Her husband’s job required frequent travel, so she had no support looking after her two kids and her work life included a ‘not-so-nice’ boss. Priya was burning out. She had often considered moving jobs, but other jobs didn’t offer her the salary she was drawing. She had even considered changing her career altogether and teach art, a dream that she was sure would remain just that..A DREAM!!

Then one day, she met her cousin’s friend Roy(25 yo) at a party. He was networking at the party with several guests and handing out business cards. Priya assumed that with his long hair, the boy was announcing the days when his rock band would be playing. When she took the card from him, it announced him as a “Freelance Creative Writer – (Freelancer.com & Upwork’) on one side and “Drummer”on the other. While Priya was pleased that her assumption of the ponytailed stereotype had been correct, she wondered what the other side of the card communicated. She was visibly confused.

Roy is part of what is known as the freelancer management system in the ‘gig economy’. He is a member of the “human cloud”. The human cloud is what drives the gig economy and consists of contractors, consultants, freelancers and subject matter experts who are seeking new models of employment.[1]

Technology plays a huge role and has made it easier to participate in the gig economy.There are many digital platforms available like Toptal , UpworkUpcounsel

Employers tap into the human cloud to do mainstream work on projects or supplement their workforce by outsourcing certain projects to the human cloud. Freelancers or members of the human cloud work on multiple projects and earn from the comfort of their couch.

In the gig economy, the lines between personal and professional lives become increasingly blurred.” [2]. For instance, Roy could do a creative writing job, do data entry for an online start-up, run some personal errands and end his day as an Uber driver. Depending on the time on hand, interest levels and ensuring there’s no conflict of interest many are using the opportunity to sell jewellery or teach in their spare time. According to a report by Staffing Industry Analysts (SA), this market segment generated between $25.6 billion and $28.6 billion globally over the past year [3].

While this sounds, wonderful, there are some downsides like not having the same income every month. I list a few pros and cons of work in the gig economy. In my opinion

Pros

  1. Be your own boss and call the shots
  2. Work life balance-Decide your own hours thereby being able to work around family and personal life
  3. Decide the location to work from
  4. Mental space for innovative ideas and to launch them i.e. Ability to follow your passion
  5. Ability to work on a variety of projects thereby allowing you to build a portfolio of your capabilities and experience. And this will help you obtain further gigs!
  6. Choose your clients and enjoy work related choice
  7. Potential to earn is limitless. You can even bolster your current income by participating in a few ‘gigs’ in your spare time
  8. No toxic colleagues or office politics to worry about
  9. No work-related travel – interstate or international
  10. No costs of buying external food or expenses related to commuting to a workplace
  11. Managing all aspects of freelancing from service promotion to billing which may be invigorating
  12. Can work in pyjamas!

Cons

  1. No regular hours making planning your days and weeks difficult
  2. No definite income flow like your monthly salary at a full-time job. While there are dangers of being made redundant due to company decisions in a full-time job, I think, we can agree in general, there is a greater guarantee, of one’s job-related salary that arrives month on month than our potential to earn through ‘gigs’. Relying on earnings through ‘gigs’ also makes it difficult to plan a steady monetary obligation like a house or car loan. If we don’t know our monthly regular income how can we decide our monthly expenses?!
  3. By leaving a full-time job you may (depending on the type of organisation) miss out on getting a retirement pension
  4. As a freelancer, you can’t be part of an office labour union if you do want the support or other company benefits like expenses paid for education, training or health and wellbeing initiatives offered in a full-time role
  5. No office colleagues to banter around with – a solopreneur could mean isolation
  6. Self- discipline around work management needs to be high. It’s not for everyone!
  7. No boss or colleagues to say ‘Well Done’
  8. In some freelance gigs, you must bid and wait
  9. No continuous work since sometimes jobs related to your interests and expertise may not be available
  10. You may be answerable to several clients at the same time
  11. No “paid” time off work like annual leave
  12. Need to manage everything from technical troubleshooting to taxes
  13. Can’t work in your pyjamas!

I am sure you can list more. Leave your ideas in the comments section. 

My personal take

I like the projects offered by the gig economy but what I like more are short fixed term contracts. A fixed contract offers me a guaranteed earning for a time period, the joy of camaraderie with office colleagues and contracting allows me the choice of projects! Importantly, it leaves me spare time to accommodate ‘Upwork’!

Now back to Priya and Roy

Priya thought about her conversation with Roy who explained his joys of being part of the gig economy and for a split second, she wanted to quit her current job to participate and then… a picture of her kids, house, car, parents… all flashed in front of her eyes. “It’s not for me” Priya assured herself, she knew her responsibilities. Today, Priya continues her 9 to 5 and pays her bills and Roy continues bidding for projects.

What are your thoughts on the ‘gig’ economy?