MAKING THE MOST OF A GIG ECONOMY – ARE FREELANCE JOBS VIABLE?

The ability of human beings to adapt to different situations and come out winning on the other side is something that has stood us in good stead over ages.

Ever since one of the biggest bubble bursts of our time, the Great Recession of 2008, blindsided us with a huge 8 trillion dollar deficit, we have changed the way we look at work. During the recession, 8.4 million jobs were lost in the US labor market alone. This had a domino effect worldwide with a huge glut of finances and jobs.

The period of recovery after this recession was sluggish and even in October 2010, 16 months after it ended, there were 5.4% fewer jobs available than before the recession started.

Introducing: The Independent Contractor

The unstable nature of organizational life then catalyzed the rise of the independent contractor – people who worked for a brand under specific terms of engagement. These short-term engagements between various contractors and businesses were called gigs.

Experts say that the gig economy would have eventually come about as a natural evolution of people who chose to work for different companies over a period of time. But because of the great recession, things happened a lot quicker than most people anticipated.

We are right amidst in what is called the Gig Economy where people are opting for shorter contracts and are saying no to a more stable organizational structure.

Effects Of The Gig Economy

A lot of people thought that the gig economy was just another buzzword that would fade away once the effects of the recession wore off. It’s been more than a decade since the recession and gig workers have established a solid foothold in the job market.

A lot more companies are looking to hire freelancers because they have much better access to high-caliber talent and they are much easier to manage.

Adding to that, because of the generally volatile nature of the world economy, brands often have huge spikes in the demand for competent workers for which a gig offers the easiest solution.

All this coupled with the fact that organizations themselves are on short-term projects most of the time, hiring gig workers seems like a win for both parties.

While people might opt out of side hustling if they have a job, it is not a bad idea. Average side hustle incomes range from $686 per month, to sometimes up to $25k per year. This definitely isn’t anything to scoff at and are definitely easy ways to make money regardless.

While gigs are really popular now, experts strongly feel that the traditional models of work aren’t going anywhere. The key to high-quality deliverables for a brand is to adopt an amalgamated approach, one that includes both freelance works and traditional professionals in equal measure.

Pointers To Help With A Gig Economy

If you are opting for a side gig, you need to be a bit more mindful of several factors that you normally wouldn’t be used to working in a more traditional job. Also, because there is a huge influx of independent contractors all over the globe, you need to maximize your earnings and reduce overheads as much as you can to make it worth your while.

Let’s take a look at a few of them which can help you do just that.

The Human Connection

The one thing a lot of freelance professionals complain about (and one of the major causes for burn out) is the isolation involved with the gig. Everybody wants to connect to like-minded people, and this is a given when you head out to work. However, gigs can mean you don’t get to network with the same people consistency. The best thing you can do is set up your own network of gig workers who you can keep in touch with on a regular basis.

No freebies

Another area where a lot of freelancers lose their steam is when potential employers ask you to write something to see if you’re a good fit. Or, to check if you understand the nature of work. Or, for “exposure”. This, needless to say, should never ever be entertained. One way you can avoid this is when you have all your samples available and ready to submit when they ask for it. All said though, people who are going to take you for a ride will do so.

Sort out your tax

Working a gig means that you need to get your taxation out. Nothing can be worse than finding that you owe the government a small fortune at the end of the financial year. Don’t wait till the end of the financial year to run around with your papers – get professional tax advice as soon as you’ve started. You’ll save a lot of hassle later.

Schedule effectively

When you are working independently, it really easy to lose track of scheduling. Make sure that you sort out schedules beforehand and not once you get on the job. Another thing to keep in mind is that effective scheduling doesn’t mean that you work round the clock – assign yourself work keeping in mind that you need to switch off as well.

Keep working hours

One problem with working hours when you’re freelancing is that you’re the only one who thinks you actually get work done. Make it clear to friends and family that you will not be available during work hours. It can be really irritating not to mention affecting your deadlines when you’re trying to get work done, and people drop in on you unannounced. It is perfectly fine to leave phones and doorbells unanswered.

Select the right jobs

This might seem a no-brainer but a lot of times we tend to look at the payout and ignore the fine print. Netting $100 for a job that takes 4 days just isn’t feasible. If you don’t have work on hand that doesn’t pay well, then use that time to promote yourself on several other channels. It’s a much better investment of your time, and it can help you secure better gig offers in the future.

Find your workspace

If you are going to be working a lot of the time, then it stands to reason you need the right place to put your work gear. Why? Because you need to be at a distance away, physically and mentally, from your workspace or it can get overwhelming. So make sure you put some distance between where you work and live. The best solution, if you have the room, is to have a separate home office which you use on a regular basis.

Keep the end goal in sight

Just like a regular job, you can’t keep working forever here either. There will come a time when you’ll finally need to hang up the proverbial boots. An ideal amount to save would be 15% of your income. This can vary according to personal taste and habits. Also, it’s a good idea to apply for insurance when you’re freelancing. Life insurance costs are negligible compared to how much they can save you in times of need.

Popular Gigs That Can Start You Off

We’ve gathered a bunch of gigs that we think give you the best returns for your time invested. Some of these gigs can also double up as full-time jobs or if you already have a job, can earn you cash on the side. Side hustling can be an effective means to supplementing your income.

Online Tutoring

If you have a knack for passing on knowledge, you could get online and help students with a large number of subjects like math, foreign languages, content writing, coding, you name it. A tutor can make about $25,000 per year which is a good amount of supplemental income for a person already working a job. Once you’ve registered on a website like Tutor.com, you need to get networking to get the word out there about your new services.

Freelancer portals

Applying with a freelancer portal is definitely a really good option because there are a huge variety of jobs suitable for you. The jobs available include writing, graphic design, video editing, audio production, coding, consulting and many more. The most popular websites at the moment are Upwork and Fiverr both of which boast varied job types. Upwork has been around for a long time now, but since the number of people using the platform is high, you might not be able to register under job categories which are saturated. Fiverr started out as a gig portal selling opportunities for $5 (hence the name) but now has become a place where professionals and side hustlers congregate, and the payouts are much better as well.

Getting things done

TaskRabbit is like a service for people who are skilled at tasks like cleaning, errands, event planning, staffing, personal assistance, furniture assembly, yard maintenance, and home repairs among the many. People who use TaskRabbit are referred to as Taskers, and they can make good money based on their skillset. Some of them have reported earnings of up to $7,000 a month! You can set your own rates on TaskRabbit from $25 to $150+ per hour depending on what people are looking for. There are even tasks that involve waiting in lines!

Virtual assistant

If you can plan and strategize along with possessing the ability to write and speak well, then being a virtual assistant may be appealing to you. Online businesses who can get them done and virtual assistants are what they’re looking for. According to Payscale.com a VA can make $15.69 on an average and up to $25.03 at the top of the scale. It is quite easy to apply for a virtual assistant job online because there are so many openings on a variety of websites.

Deep learning

If you are a master coder, side jobs in deep learning can pay you and really well. With the constant improvement of AI, machine learning required development of neural networks that are quite similar to those of the human brain. Fit Small Business pegs deep learning at a really high $115.06 per hour. Of course, you also need to be adept at machine learning algorithms plus the ability to code in a variety of languages like C++, Matlab, Perl, Python, and Tensorflow just to name a few.

Social media manager

Social media managers have a knack for being creative, communicative and getting people interested about using the most popular social media platforms. If you think you fit the bill, then this is a very interesting gig to take up. Social media managers are in charge of the marketing materials, strategic plans and other types of promotion for brands. You can find social media manager jobs on job and freelance portals.

To Summarize

The advent of the gig economy is a blessing for people who are talented and do not want to be stuck behind the confines of a desk. This kind of working principle also allows people to fit their work around their life. There are also significant benefits for the people who hire gig workers as well. Companies don’t have to permanently take on the overhead costs of hiring employees. Instead, they can opt for free agents who they need to pay only till the project is completed. Forbes says 57% of businesses save costs by using a freelancer. Brands are saving up to 20% with labor costs. All these add up to significant numbers in the long run which shouldn’t be ignored by the companies.

There are cons as well – gig jobs mean that workers don’t get any benefits normally associated with a full-time job. Plus there is the issue of feeling isolated when working alone in their own home. Brands need to communicate their expectations of the freelancer right at the outset to avoid disappointments.

But problems aside, gig economy is the way to move forward. A lot of people and businesses have been embracing this lifestyle of working and adoption has been on the rise. Hopefully, this article has given you the means and the motivation to dip your toes into the gig economy, if you haven’t already!

Author: Chakraborty

Dr Chakrabarty is the Chief Innovation Officer of IntuiComp TeraScience. Earlier she was Assistant Professor of Delhi University, a QS ranked university in India. Before that she has held research positions in IITs and IISc. She holds 2 patents and over 20 publications in her name. Her area of research is in smart technologies, integrated devices and communications. She also has a penchant for blogging and is an editor of Business Fundas.