The transition to a mostly gig-based economy has begun. Sociologists predict that over 40 percent of Americans will work full-time as independent contractors doing short-term or freelance work by 2020, and the percentage will only increase as time passes.
Want to get started early on? Here’s some background on the gig economy and tips on how you can get started.
Benefits of the gig economy
The gig economy was made possible by the rise of the Internet and globalization. It is now easier than ever to contact people across the street on the other side of the country, or on the opposite side of the world. This flexibility and openness of communication is what makes the gig economy so appealing – it is ideal for single parents in need of an open schedule, seniors finding difficulty in the current job market, people interested in an alternative lifestyle, or the large number of people with negative feelings toward their current jobs and bosses.
Building a business in the gig economy
Due to the nature of the work, it can be difficult to predict your monthly income. Start off by creating a budget – detail all your regular expenses (payments on your house, car, and utilities; taxes; food; etc.), total them, and then add about 20 percent to account for savings and emergencies. This will help you gauge how much work you need to do each month.
As you gather clients, you’ll want to keep all their information, including contact details, payments and the nature of the work in an organized, easily accessed place. Experts also recommend creating boundaries for yourself – since most of the communication with clients will be done through your email or cell phone, setting limits such as “I will not answer client’s calls after 10 p.m.”, can help you manage your workflow.
As part of your routine, you should look for new clients and opportunities about once a week, since open jobs (and the status of your current gigs) can change rapidly. To prevent burnout, since you probably will be spending a good portion of time alone, make a point to involve yourself with other people as much (or as little) as you like. Scheduling social time may seem pedantic, but will help to keep your life balanced. Most importantly, you might have to do some free, pro-bono work to ‘build exposure’ and your reputation. From there people will start to become aware of your great gigs (services) and expertise and spread the word.
Finding freelance gigs and getting started
The first thing to ask yourself when you decide to become an independent contractor/freelancer is whether you’ll focus on acquiring jobs similar to your previous career, or if you’ll look for jobs based around something you love (they could also be one and the same). Your experience can be a major boon to prospective clients. However, it can also be a great time for you to try something new. Even if you have no experience, freelancing can become a viable opportunity for you, particularly as you build your portfolio. There are plenty of opportunities online and hiring apps for freelance writers, designers, and technicians.
Many gigs are available for testing, marketing and editing. However, while much of your business will come from Internet contacts, the type of gig you choose doesn’t necessarily have to be centered on the Internet itself.
Use your strengths
Dog walking and pet sitting, for example like my son does here, are surprisingly lucrative additional forms of income. As with many other gigs, pet care, dog walking, etc. are services most defined by its flexibility – you are free to set your schedule and choose how many dogs/pets you’ll care for or walk, as well as the size and age of the dogs you’ll accept as furry clients.
Dog sitting, additionally, can allow you to multitask by watching the dog while concurrently working on another online gig. Other gigs that won’t keep you on the computer all day include driving for ride sharing apps, delivering meals and running errands.
The core thing to remember when starting your freelancing business is that, at its core, the gig economy is a numbers game. The more clients you contact for gigs, the more jobs you’ll eventually get. Stay motivated and positive, particularly as you’re starting out – there will always be people in need of services.