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 who you work for. 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.
It can be a lot more interesting and a lot more rewarding than waking up every day to go do the same thing for the same company. that said, you give up the security and consistency that comes with “a real job”.
Oh, and you start dealing with people referring to your work as something other than “a real job”.
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 what you need to know.
1. 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, then build a large clientele with. Until you have a reliable and consistent flow of clients willing to pay your bills for that exceptional skill focus on diversity along with quality.
I’m gonna note here, it wouldn’t hurt to know which of the multiple skills you offer isyour end goal. I have a few different services I offer but if I could turn 1 in to my full time job and stop doing the other things I know which one I’d pick. It isn’t that I don’t like the other things – I love them. It’s about keeping a note of which thing you love the most.
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 had 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 wasn’t climbing to the top of this pyramid but I was able to share the product with friends and see a little bit of income. It was the least reliable of my income streams and so I didn’t depend on it, I just enjoyed it for what it was.
*I decided I really didn’t have time for it after the company made some big changes.
I work with an Etsy business as their social media and customer service guru.
I work with a Toronto based accessory brand as their social media extraordinaire.
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 superstar something (I am slowly building in this direction but the biggest truth of all: nothing happens overnight!) 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. Ask for Opportunity
So you know you’d be great at x, y and z. And you really think people would probably pay you to do that for them. Awesome! What now?
Well depending on what you want to get paid to do a website is a good start. Most people who hire people like to have websites and social feeds they can browse that will give them more information about what they’re paying for, and instill their confidence in your ability to meet their expectations.
After that, you’ve gotta tell them you’re available for hire.
Fun fact: I once messaged a company on Instagram to say I loved their product but noticed they weren’t posting much. I offered my services as a social media manager and one phone call later we agreed to work together.
It was a risk, it was a random observation and message, and it paid off to tell that company I was available and could do something they needed.
Now, I don’t make a habit of messaging people suggesting they need me. I don’t recommend it as your only strategy for getting clients. But do start talking about your work being available, do be visible in your industry and do advertise your skills as if you’ve never had a moment of self-doubt.
3. You don’t like the 9-5 grind, but you’re gonna have to work sometime.
My teaching clients are in many different time zones 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 a class. Hint: it’s not always at a convenient afternoon hour for me. So while I don’t work 9-5, sometimes I work 4am-10pm and laugh at all the people who think the gig economy or working from home means sleeping in.
Where’s my tea?
4. 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 into an interview knowing you deserve this. You’re qualified for this. There’s no good reason not to hire you.
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.
Sometimes, like when I messaged that company on instagram, you actually have to sell the client on the need before you can sell them on your service to meet that need.
There’s no checklist 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.
5. Competition is INSANE. Ignore it.
I’m sorry if you figured there were really only a small number of people chasing this entrepreneurial dream. We all have different ways, different services, different methods… but there’s a lot of us in this game. As soon as you start you’ll see, it will find you.
As soon as I started just casually mentioning social media management online I got flooded with paid ads from other social media marketers. It sort of makes you pause and wonder if you can really do this. I hadn’t even thought about running paid ads yet!
But those moments of doubt or moments when I felt like I was surrounded by competition didn’t stop me from getting hired to start and they won’t stop me from getting hired in the future.
I said earlier you’ve gotta believe in yourself. So when it comes to the competition, focus on your own hustle and ignore the rest.
These are my top 5 pieces of advice from right here in the comfort of my home office. Subscribe to stay in touch and catch more of my work from home musings and advice.