The gig economy is booming. Across the country, many people have decided to free themselves from the nine-to-five grind and work when they want, how they want, for what they want, without answering to a boss or a corporate schedule. A regular workweek offers stability and reliable income, but being your own boss offers limitless potential and a better way of life. It will also enable more people to be part of the workforce.
The Freedom to Do What You Love
Creative types often experience stress under standard corporate project loads. Taking small freelance projects can allow you to fill out your resume and really show your worth and the diversity of your talents. It permits you to pick and choose what you want to put your effort into and not waste time on a project you wouldn’t want to be associated with. With the downturn of traditional media, many professional writers and journalists are contracting their work from home instead, enjoying greater autonomy in their creative choices. People who have particular skills can command a premium for their abilities, and their client base may be worldwide.
Selecting Work Hours
Since working contract allows you to make your own schedule, you have the option to choose only to work when it is most lucrative to do so. Some people who drive for Lyft and Uber decide to work only during peak hours, when the money is the best, which permits them to reach their desired income with a shorter work week. The ability to work less for more money is helpful to people who have difficulty maintaining a 40-hour work week due to health issues or family obligations. It makes a part-time position able to provide full-time income.
Potential Problems and Benefits
Contingency work has long been associated with decreased health outcomes for piece workers and part-timers, but nonstandard work arrangements are being normalized within many sectors of the economy. There are still some kinks to work out, such as getting healthcare, insurance, and retirement, but this new on-demand economy is so young that it’s hard to track the effects on a large scale. Certainly, the ability to control your own work schedule may result in decreased stress because you can work when you need or want to. For those who find face-to-face encounters anxiety-producing, the appeal of anonymous internet work is obvious, providing a needed employment opportunity for many people who struggle with the condition. People with chronic illnesses or disabilities may find it easier to work part-time jobs in the privacy of their own home, rather than traveling to a workplace. The opportunity to telecommute decreases the need for childcare and cuts down transportation costs, reducing economic burdens for families and cutting down on the need for a car or access to public transportation.
Types of Work
The gig economy offers many ways for workers to earn a living. From driving for Lyft or Uber to retailing art and handicrafts on Etsy, the only limit is your imagination. There are apps for hiring professional dog walkers and dog sitters or renting out your spare room on AirBNB. People find places to board their dog on Craigslist or experts to tutor their child over the internet from any one of a hundred websites. It’s entirely possible that this is the new face of employment, as people wear multiple hats and have multiple job identities: babysitter, driver, freelance architect, and custom knitter. The advantage is that no one really has to consider themselves unemployed because work is always just a click away. Those whom our society has always considered marginally employable (the disabled and the mentally ill) can now find work in many new opportunities, building their self-esteem and nurturing their autonomy in the process. The greater independence such work offers may help to decrease job anxiety and reduce fears about leaving a bad position or a bad employer.
Forty percent of the U.S. economy may be involved in on-demand employment by 2020. The upside of this situation is that it will decrease unnecessary employer overhead, cutting costs for consumers. The downside is that it makes regular old-fashioned employment, with salaries, vacation day, and benefits, a thing of the past. But even that frightening picture has a silver lining. Most of these workers will rely on multiple revenue streams for income generation, making them less dependent on any one position. With many strings in their bows, each individual job has less of a fiscal impact on their financial stability. With many job apps being almost completely anonymous, the importance of who your family is and where you went to school should lessen. Those who do the best work will see the most benefit. People who lack particular social skills may actually find it easier to find work in this manner. The brilliant coder who can’t manage a face-to-face interview no longer has to do so; he can log on, win a job with his bulletproof code, and reap the financial rewards. The future will be about what you know, not who you know. And it may be taking place entirely in virtual space, incorporating people from all over the globe into an individual project.
As more and more workers move from traditional employment arrangements to differential income streams from multiple part-time positions and more jobs move out of the office space into the virtual realm, the way we earn our living will be permanently changed. However, it does not have to be a bad thing. A hundred years ago, buggy whip manufacturers were probably very worried about what the automobile would do to their industry. Yet, we don’t have buggy whip manufacturers on the dole today, languishing for employment. Change is as certain as death and taxes in this world, and the unknown is always frightening. But we’ve weathered changes to how we live for many thousands of years, and our society will manage this one as well. The advantages to the gig economy are myriad and may make many beneficial alterations in the world of work. History suggests that these changes will bring improvements to economy, efficiency, and the lives of everyone involved, including the workforce.