I know, I know, I just wrote a headline that ended in a preposition. Yes, it’s bothering me, but this is an important question all us freelancers should ask, especially those considering making making a permanent shift from full-time work. It may not be the best way to word the question on paper, but in your head, that internal voice needs to consider whether or not being a gig worker is right for you.
Why it’s right for me
Formally speaking, the gig economy is an entire labor market dominated by short-term contract workers and freelancers. These are people who aren’t looking for permanent jobs, but juggle multiple clients, or work many jobs, to completion over the course of a year.
When I started freelancing a few years ago, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe the term didn’t exist yet, but I would have felt a lot more secure in my choice if I’d known there was an entire workforce behind me.
It also wouldn’t have impacted my decision to know I was joining an “economy.” I decided to give freelancing a try for personal reasons. For me, it was all about balance. I got lucky, and have been able to sustain it. As a gig worker, I can contribute financially to my family while also being available to shuttle my kids to afternoon activities, volunteer a little more, and make myself easily available for school visits, or random calls from the nurse to come get a kid and bring them home (that happens more often than I thought it would.)
Freelancing is right for me because it works with my schedule, but being a part of the gig economy also brings unpredictability into my life. We can’t depend on my income since it’s never the same from month-to-month. There’s also the possibility, though slim, that I could just stop getting work.
The gig economy is volatile at times, a struggle at others, but a sweet situation when you hit it just right.
Why it may be right for you
More than a quarter of the workforce engages in the gig economy in some way, and I’m sure that number will continue to rise as we feel the long-term effects of COVID-19 on employment. Some approach it as a temporary fix between long-term jobs, some manage a side hustle as a gig worker, and others use it as their full-time source of income.
Only about half of those who do gig work fit into this third category. You don’t have to call yourself a freelancer to fit into this special group. Contract workers, on-call employees, and those who use temp agencies count too.
If you want a little flexibility in your professional life, gig work might be for you. If you like working with different companies and trying new things on a regular basis, contract work might afford you those opportunities. Regardless of what pulls you in the direction of gig work, it’s best to consider all the pros and cons, noting that it can take a while to establish yourself and income isn’t always reliable.
How the older crowd wins out
Defining the older crowd in this scenario is impossible to do with an age range. I’m in the older crowd, technically, and I’m still in my early 40’s. What counts here is experience. The older you are, the longer you’ve worked in a specific industry, the more you know. This helps improve your odds of finding success as a gig worker because you bring the big-time qualification of a full-time employee without the price tag of an annual salary.
Most older gig workers also spent time in a professional setting at one point in their career meaning they have a deeper understanding of office politics and processes. This can lead to a more seamless integration into any work environment, even if it’s temporary. For me, my years in corporate America helps every time I get on the phone to connect with a new client. It allows me a level of professionalism and intuition that might not be there with someone who never spent time in a cubicle.
Seasoned professionals also bring to their work a more developed level of quality. This is a result of their experience. We’ve more time to develop a strong work ethic. We’ve figured out (in theory) how to function at the most efficient level. All of this stems from experience. I’ve noticed a difference between age groups as a writer when it comes to gig work. I learned about journalism before social media existed. Fact collection and source citing were done differently as I learned, and we were never limited to less than 200 characters to convey an idea. For that reason, I handle long-form assignments differently than my younger counterparts.
On the flip side, my younger gig workers know social media much better than I do. I’m not a dinosaur, but I’ve honestly never logged onto Instagram. Even though I feel the older crowd will win out more often than not, a variety of experience levels are necessary to keep the gig economy going.
I guess I’m a gig worker
Now that I understand what the gig economy is, how it works, and why businesses need it, I feel more valuable, professionally, than ever before. Companies are shifting to more gig work to lessen costs and find individuals who are highly specialized in certain areas.
I see even more potential for myself now, with a few years behind me as a freelancer and a solid career in marketing before that. It’s an exciting time to work part time.