Gig Economy

You read that right. That’s billion with a “B.”

A lot of moolah is being spent on freelancers and contractors. And that’s just here in the United States!

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) recently published Measuring the Gig Economy: Inside the New Paradigm of Contingent Work*, a survey that polled more than 7,000 adults in the United States. From that, they estimated that 44 million people took on gig work, or 29% of the workforce did some gig work in 2015. Wow!  

As I think about who the members of our community are here at Business Unplugged (solo and very small business owners), it occurred to me that many of us might be on both ends of this as we pay freelancers to help us with our business AND try to get gig work ourselves. Fascinating.

And we may be trying to figure out how to best leverage freelancers to benefit our businesses. Virtual assistant? Copywriter or editor? Web developer? Accountant? Yes, please!

But former full-time workers who are having difficulty finding full-time employment often resent this trend.  

In my talks at job search networking groups, I ask people to be brutally honest with themselves about whether their former jobs will be hired back into corporate, or whether the positions are more likely to be outsourced going forward.

If a job seeker has a distinct preference about being full time or contract, then they can prioritize accordingly – but they shouldn’t rule out the other option, if necessary.

The truth is, I think that the current world of work is only getting more fluid every day. I have helped entrepreneurs become employees, and former corporate professionals grow consulting businesses.

Going forward, I think we will see many extremely talented professionals wading in and out of the corporate talent pool, depending on their life situation needs and project interests.

And, many professionals in career transition who know that they may have a longer transition because of an executive title, salary level, industry contraction, etc. are well served by trying to land project or contract work to bring in some money while they are in job search.

Others, like me, revel in this fluidity and openly embrace having a “job portfolio.” I have my own business, but I also have been the editor-in-chief of Business Unplugged for five years.

A job portfolio or working freelance is not for everyone – but it works for me. And lots of other professionals who enjoy project-based work, and flexibility and variety.

Rather than giving me concern, the SIA’s findings give me great hope for myself and for my clients. You can succeed in the new world of work once you understand the rules.

* View more findings and download the full version of Measuring the Gig Economy: Inside the New Paradigm of Contingent Work.