Tracing back to the 2008 recession when many found themselves unemployed or underemployed, workers began turning to alternative working arrangements, and the trend continues today. In 2018, 56.7 million Americans freelanced—up from 53 million in 2014. It’s safe to say the “gig economy” is alive, well, and becoming further integrated into our working culture.
The 9-to-5 landscape is changing
A term once owned by musicians, today’s “gig” refers to any type of non-traditional work arrangement. Read: not a 9-to-5. While oft-cited examples like moonlighting for Uber might immediately come to mind, in reality, today’s gigs include a wide array of temp, contract, freelance, and on-call work. The gig economy has also expanded to unexpected industries and most skill levels. Gig economy arrangements can benefit both employers and workers: employers can save by not investing in onboarding and full benefit offers, and workers looking for flexibility can find improved work-life balance.
Solopreneurship is on the rise
In the past, working for yourself typically meant entrepreneurship: using a traditional business model to build a team and work toward an eventual buyout. Today, solopreneurship is gaining popularity. A solopreneur is a one-person shop with no intention of bringing on other workers. Many choose not to incorporate their business at all. A solopreneur could have multiple, otherwise unrelated gigs going at once, or work full-time in a temporary position. Because solopreneurs don’t have the managerial duties of an entrepreneur, the option to fly solo means that more personality types and work styles can enter the independent workspace.
Freelancing doesn’t have to mean working from home
Working from home every day is not for everyone, and historically may have deterred those who could otherwise benefit from the freelance life. Today, many contract and freelance workers work full-time on-site for a company. A service gig like food delivery, ride-hailing, or trade work might have you on the go all around town. Even if you don’t find yourself in one of these arrangements, the gig economy has prompted an entire industry of co-working spaces dedicated to those in alternative work setups.
Technology fuels the gig economy
Today’s tech is paramount to independent work culture. Collaboration tools, messaging apps, and video conferencing have streamlined remote working arrangements, offering more opportunities for freelancers and businesses alike. Service apps like Uber, Task Rabbit, and Postmates make it easy for anyone to clock in whenever they have time. Being part of the gig economy means keeping up with the latest apps and tools.
You have to be your own office manager
Working for yourself means that in addition to doing the work itself, you’re shouldering the administrative duties previously handled by a traditional employer. With a 9-to-5 job, you have a regular salary expected on a precise schedule. Freelancers don’t have that consistency and must plan ahead and manage their cash flow, which can take time and cause stress. Additionally, independent workers must manage their healthcare, 401k savings, and taxes.
Try a side hustle
Historically, deciding to work for yourself implied a significant leap and financial risk: quitting your job and diving head first into a big idea. Today, it’s easier than ever to dip your toes into the gig economy. With the range of possibilities available in multiple industries, most workers can find a side hustle to earn extra cash in their free time. Just make sure you have the time; a side hustle can erode work-life balance, or even impact performance at your full-time job. If you enjoy the freelance work, though, see if going part-time at your day job is an option as a way to take on more freelance work while maintaining stability. This approach can offer clarity around whether the solopreneur life is right for you.
It’s projected that by 2023, more than half the workforce will have spent time as an independent worker at some point in their lives. While the traditional workplace isn’t going anywhere, independent work has shifted the work landscape to offer more options for both employers and workers. Thinking about becoming a freelancer? Check out our freelancer resources for helpful advice on getting started.