Gig work and freelancing is the new norm

There is no denying that freelancing is on the rise and that gig work is reshaping the workplace. Some people take on side hustles to pursue a passion project. Others quit their traditional 9-to-5 all together to start their own small business or become a solopreneur. And of course, there are individuals who are merely ready to SkipTheDrive and no longer commute to an office!

The ‘Gig Economy’ typically refers to digital and online platforms that allow freelancers to connect with individuals or businesses for short-term services. In 2019, freelancing’s direct impact on the U.S. economy was close to $1 trillion and 35% of working adults participated in freelancing in some way during the year. Those are big numbers! 

Even though gig work is becoming more commonplace and the new norm, you might still be unclear of what type of jobs fall under that category.

What is gig work?

If you think gig work only describes on-demand tasks like ride-sharing or grocery deliveries, you would be wrong! Yes, those are gig jobs, but there are so many more jobs that are included in this new economy. The gig economy is a broad concept and includes freelancers, independent contractors, and temporary workers. 

Put simply, gig work is short-term or non-permanent work. The job assignments can be a one-and-done task, or it can be project-based. Some traditional gig workers include plumbers, photographers, and writers. These individuals work from job to job and get to work within a wide range of career areas. 

Gig work isn’t new and has been around forever. What is new are technology-enabled platforms and remote options. Technology has increased the demand and access to the number of on-demand workers and knowledge-based workers. Wondering what the difference is between on-demand gig work and knowledge-based gig work? Keep reading…

Why are people choosing gig work?

For some individuals, gig work is a side hustle or supplement income to their day job. The extra income from a side hustle can help pay down debt, save more for retirement or a vacation, or fund many other financial goals. Also, a side hustle is an excellent way to build skills if you want to make a career transition. You could build up new skills and try out a new field or industry before making a huge career move. Your side hustle could help you secure a new position at a business in a different sector, or you could turn your side hustle into your full-time career as a freelancer.

For a growing number of people, almost 50 million individuals, gig work is their primary source of income. What may be even more surprising is that the majority of freelancers are choosing non-permanent work arrangements over a full-time salaried position or a traditional work arrangement.

It is true that gig work helps those who are temporarily unemployed and individuals who need whatever work they can get to pay their bills. However, many freelancers are taking on short-term projects by choice as their primary source of income because they are looking for more balance in their personal and professional lives.

Also, technology allows workers to be mobile and work from anywhere. A cultural shift toward truly embracing a flexible work-life balance is altering the working population’s expectations of a typical 9-to-5 workday. Some gig assignments require workers to be onsite, but many opportunities are partially remote or 100% remote. Remote jobs and freelancing has become an inspirational lifestyle, made evident by Instagram influencers. Just take a look at trending Instagram hashtags like #workfromhome and #workfromanywhere. But gig work is not just for influencers. People from all age groups and walks of life are benefiting from alternative work environments.

Who is benefiting from gig work?

  • Caregivers. Freelancing offers much-needed flexibility to parents of small children or adults taking care of elderly or sick family members.
  • Retirees. Another group benefiting from contract work are semiretired individuals who aren’t quite ready to fully retire and want to keep a foot in the workplace on a part-time basis.
  • Individuals with health challenges. Freelancing and gig work are opening up opportunities for inclusion in the workforce. 1 out of 5 freelancers face health challenges that would prevent them from working if it weren’t for freelancing. 

Types of gig work 

You may think gig work is just low wage and low skilled opportunities, but this is not the case. The two significant categories in the new economy are knowledge-based gigs and service-based gigs. Knowledge-based jobs includes tasks like computer programming, writing, design, IT, marketing, business consulting, and other skilled tasks. Service-based work includes tasks like dog walking, cleaning, ride-sharing, and personal tasks. 

According to the Freelancing in America 2019 report, 45% of freelancers are knowledge-based and 30% are service-based. Selling goods on digital and online platforms like consignment shops, eBay, or Airbnb count as extra income and is included in the report. This accounts for 25% of the gig economy. 

Gig workers help businesses with short-term project needs or sometimes on an ongoing basis. Rather than spending time and resources to developing expertise for a one-off project, companies are now choosing to bring in temporary staff who are experts in their field. So it is no surprise that large corporations and small businesses are outsourcing short-term tasks and non-central functions to freelancers or short-term contractors instead of full-time employees.

Gigs run a broad spectrum in pay, with knowledge-based work typically bringing in higher wages. Knowledge-based workers provide support to businesses as contractors or on a freelance basis. Many times these workers are highly skilled and work with businesses in a variety of industries, on part-time or full-time projects. Most commonly, freelancers are sought out by companies looking to fill gaps in tech, finance, and management consulting. Knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the gig economy.

Hiring managers and recruiters are embracing an agile and flexible staffing model to keep pace in a fast moving market. Businesses can bring on workers with specialized skills or expertise to a specific project or task, as opposed to spending time and resources getting employees up-to-speed on skills needed for a one-off project. Hiring managers say freelancers and temporary talent have become an integral part of their company’s success. The use of external talent allows companies to pivot swiftly and have more flexibility to meet the needs of their market

Potential Downsides

Human Resources leaders say in five to 10 years, full-time permanent employees will account for only half their workforce. Even with the increase in popularity of freelancing and other forms of work arrangements, there are some benefits to traditional employment that independent workers do not receive. For example, they do not receive benefits, such as health care, workers’ compensation, or retirement benefits. Also, they have no worker protections, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, and discrimination. They are also sometimes expected to pay their own expenses.

Independent workers may also worry about unpredictable schedules and finances. Despite these concerns, gig workers say they are leading richer lives than their corporate counterparts. These workers say that their independence was a choice and that they would not give up the benefits that came with it. Many workers are now prioritizing lifestyle over the benefits of traditional employment. Striking the right work-life balance appears to be easier for freelancers than it is for traditional employees.

Even with new legislation in California that could challenge how businesses leverage the gig economy, it’s hard to imagine it slowing or weakening significantly. Since most independent employees have chosen freelancing so they can customize their schedules and get to work when and where they choose. The gig economy is changing the way we think about employment whether it be a side hustle, temporary work, or building a career from freelancing

How to find gig work

Gig economy statistics point to a steady move towards freelance and remote work. Mainly because of the freedoms it provides workers. Independent contractors can choose what tasks or projects they want to take on. Another benefit is that many times freelancers can choose the hours they want to work. Millennials are the most interested in gig work, with 74% of those in that age group saying they would consider freelancing or non-permanent projects, compared to 57% Generation X and 43% of Baby Boomers.

There are platforms specifically meant to help you find short term projects and gigs, like Upwork and Freelancer, as well as social media platforms for professionals like LinkedIn. You can also search through our updated and extensive list of jobs. SkipTheDrive lists roles for freelancers and independent contractors. Gig work consists mainly of one-off projects and short-term assignments, although some companies are looking for ongoing support. If gig work isn’t for you or if you are still undecided, we’ve got you covered. SkipTheDrive has permanent placement listings too!