Rise of the Gig Economy and Gig Work: Freelance Definitions and 4 Tips on Becoming a Freelancer

Rise of the Gig Economy

The gig economy is defining modern employment, reshaping the way we perceive employment. This shift from traditional employment models has sparked curiosity and apprehension alike.

Before we dig too deep, let’s establish a foundational understanding: The gig economy, often interchangeably called the self-employed, freelance, or on-demand economy, represents a workforce characterized by short-term engagements and independent contractors. Workers in this model, known as gig workers, take on projects or ‘gigs’ instead of committing as long-term full-time employees with a single employer.

The gig economy has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging the traditional nine-to-five paradigm. Central to the allure of the gig economy is the promise of freedom and autonomy. Individuals increasingly crave control over their work schedules, projects, and professional destinies.

Here, we’ll explore the liberating aspects of this unconventional approach, from the ability to choose clients and projects to the flexibility that allows one to strike a balance between work and personal life. We also explore the factors contributing to its popularity and how the gig economy has disrupted the conventional job space, with profound implications for both employers and workers.

Rise Of The Gig Economy And Gig Work: Freelance Definitions And 4 Tips On Becoming A Freelancer 1 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Why Become a Freelancer? The Toll of the Traditional Work Model on Wellbeing

In the traditional work model, where stability often comes at the cost of autonomy, individuals frequently find themselves grappling with the toll on their overall well-being. Some of the challenges and sacrifices inherent in the conventional work structure include: 

  1. Stressful Hours and Mental and Physical Health: The relentless demands of a traditional job, often characterized by long and rigid working hours, can take a substantial toll on an individual’s mental and physical health, including chronic stress and burnout.
  2. Someone Else’s Dream, The Lack of Personal Fulfillment: Many individuals find themselves caught up in fulfilling someone else’s vision while their aspirations remain on the back burner. 
  3. The Retirement Paradox, Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor: Traditional employment often leads individuals to a retirement age where they finally gain respite from the daily grind. However, for many, this period is too little too late. 

There are also many perks to businesses to hire independent contractors, but that is, perhaps, another post. 

Statistics on Job Dissatisfaction

Numbers often speak louder than words. And there are compelling statistics on job dissatisfaction, highlighting the prevalence of discontent in traditional workplaces:

  • According to the Conference Board’s annual job satisfaction survey in the United States, job satisfaction has been on a decline. In one of their reports, they mentioned that only about half of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs.
  • Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report indicated that globally, only 15% of employees were engaged and satisfied in their jobs. This lack of engagement often translates into reduced productivity and can contribute to overall dissatisfaction.

The implications of high job dissatisfaction are far-reaching and impact various aspects of individuals, organizations, and even society as a whole, including:

  1. Employee Wellbeing: High job dissatisfaction can contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and burnout among employees. Mental and physical health can be negatively affected, leading to a decline in overall well-being.
  2. Productivity and Performance: Dissatisfied employees are likely to be less engaged and motivated, which can result in decreased productivity and suboptimal job performance. This lack of enthusiasm may hinder innovation and creativity within the workplace.
  3. Employee Turnover: Job dissatisfaction is a significant factor in employee turnover. When individuals are unhappy with their work, they are more likely to seek alternative employment opportunities, leading to increased turnover rates for companies.
  4. Organizational Reputation: A high level of job dissatisfaction can tarnish an organization’s reputation. Disgruntled employees may share their negative experiences with others, impacting the company’s image and potentially making it difficult to attract top talent.
  5. Team Dynamics: Job dissatisfaction can create a negative atmosphere within teams. Discontentment may lead to conflicts, reduced collaboration, and communication breakdowns, undermining the overall effectiveness of the team.
  6. Talent Acquisition and Retention: Organizations with high job dissatisfaction may struggle to attract and retain top talent. In a competitive job space, potential candidates may be deterred by negative reviews or feedback from current or former employees.
  7. Economic Impact: A workforce with high job dissatisfaction may contribute to lower economic productivity on a broader scale. Disengaged employees may not be maximizing their potential contributions to the economy, potentially hindering overall economic growth.
  8. Innovation and Creativity: Job dissatisfaction can stifle innovation and creativity within an organization. Employees who are not satisfied with their roles may be less inclined to propose new ideas or solutions, limiting the organization’s ability to adapt and evolve.

Rise Of The Gig Economy And Gig Work: Freelance Definitions And 4 Tips On Becoming A Freelancer 2 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Independent Workers Working in the Gig Economy

In the face of the challenges posed by traditional employment, a paradigm shift is underway. Workers are increasingly embracing alternative models that promise greater autonomy and flexibility. Many of these models fall under terms you’ve probably heard before: 

  • Remote
  • Work from home
  • Freelance work
  • Temporary work
  • Contract work
  • Self-employed workers
  • Workers for short-term commitments

The Changing Ideas of the Modern Workforce: Benefits of Freelancing and Benefits of the Gig Economy

As gig work redefines the employment landscape, the dynamics of the modern workforce are undergoing a profound transformation. This shift is reshaping the employer-employee relationship, with a spotlight on the growing importance of flexibility, adaptability, and a results-oriented approach.

The journey continues as we explore the considerations and steps involved in deciding your business model within the gig economy. 

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Your Freelance Job: Deciding Your Business Model and Finding Your Niche

As the gig economy opens doors to possibilities, a crucial step is to decide on a business model that aligns with your skills, passions, and professional aspirations. Think of it like this: the gig economy is a labor market. Where traditional workers tap into existing business structures and models, independent jobs are often significantly different. 

Assessing Your Skills and Passions

Embarking on a solo career requires a keen understanding of your unique skill set and passions. Of significant importance is self-assessment, recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of expertise. There are some basic and key tools you can use to begin, like: 

If you have access to a local state or community college, various placement tests can also be useful in determining industries that might be of interest to you. 

Identifying Market Needs and Trends

Success in the gig economy is often intertwined with identifying industry needs and staying abreast of trends. By understanding the pulse of your chosen field, you can position yourself strategically to meet the needs of clients and employers. Here are just some ideas to get you going: 

  1. Remote Work Solutions
  2. Digital Marketing and Social Media Management
  3. E-commerce Support Services
  4. Health and Wellness Services
  5. Tech and Software Development
  6. Virtual Education and Training
  7. Environmental and Sustainable Services
  8. Content Creation for Niche Industries
  9. Virtual Events and Experiences
  10. Cybersecurity Services
  11. Elderly Care Services
  12. Personal Branding and Image Consulting

Choosing a Business Model that Aligns with Your Goals and Values

With a clear understanding of your skills and the competitive landscape, the next step is to choose a business model that resonates with your goals and values. Here are a few models you might consider:

  1. Services: Providers can offer specific services, such as website and graphic design, bookkeeping, writing, programming, or consulting. They often work on a project basis, providing expertise to clients for a fee.
  2. Subscription-Based Model: Some providers opt for a subscription-based model where clients pay a recurring fee for ongoing services. This is common in areas such as content creation, social media management, or virtual assistance.
  3. Platform-Based Gig Work: Many gig workers find opportunities on platforms like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, or Fiverr. These systems connect workers with clients seeking specific services, like delivery service, facilitating transactions, and often handling aspects like payment and communication.
  4. Product Sales and E-commerce: Creators can create and sell products, either physical or digital, through e-commerce platforms. This includes selling artwork, handmade goods, digital products, or even dropshipping.
  5. Consulting and Coaching: Experts with specialized knowledge can offer consulting or coaching services. This model involves providing guidance and advice to clients based on the freelancer’s experience.
  6. Affiliate Marketing: Some people engage in affiliate advertising, promoting products or services and earning a commission for each sale or lead generated through their referral.
  7. Online Courses and Workshops: Educators can create and sell online courses or workshops, sharing their expertise in a structured format. This model allows them to monetize their knowledge and skills.
  8. Event-Based Services: Suppliers can offer services tied to specific events, such as event planning, photography, or catering. This business model capitalizes on the demand for services related to occasions and gatherings.
  9. Software Development and Licensing: Servicers in software development may create and license their software products, like an app or website, app-based services, or digital programs. They can earn revenue through one-time sales, subscription models, or licensing agreements.
  10. Membership-Based Model: Providers can establish membership-based models where clients pay a recurring fee to access exclusive content, resources, or ongoing services. This is common in areas like coaching, content creation, or professional communities.

Real-World Examples of Successful Gig Workers and Entrepreneurs

To illustrate the diversity and potential of the gig economy, here are some real-world examples of individuals who have successfully navigated this landscape. From contractors thriving on popular virtual systems to entrepreneurs who have carved out their niche, these stories serve as inspiration and provide practical insights into the various paths one can take within the gig economy:

  1. Elance (now Upwork): Elance, which later merged with oDesk to become Upwork, is a prominent hub. Many individuals have built successful careers by offering services in areas like graphic design, programming, and writing on Upwork.
  2. Fiverr: Fiverr is an interface that allows contractors to offer services starting at $5. Successful gig workers on Fiverr span various fields, including graphic design, video editing, voiceover work, and digital design.
  3. Uber: Uber revolutionized the transportation industry with its gig-based model. Thousands of individuals worldwide have become successful gig workers by providing transportation services through Uber.
  4. Airbnb: Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry by allowing individuals to rent out their properties or spare rooms. Many hosts have built successful businesses by offering unique and personalized accommodations.
  5. Freelancer.com: Freelancer.com is another popular site to find a variety of projects. Successful gig workers here include software developers, content creators, and digital marketers.
  6. TaskRabbit: TaskRabbit connects people with local gig workers for various tasks. Successful TaskRabbit workers include handymen, movers, personal assistants, and other skilled individuals offering services on a task-by-task basis.
  7. Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income): Pat Flynn is an entrepreneur and podcaster who shares his journey of building passive income streams online. He generates revenue through affiliate links, web courses, and podcasting, demonstrating the potential for success in the digital space.
  8. Emily Weiss (Glossier): Emily Weiss founded Glossier, a beauty and skincare brand, which began as a blog. Through leveraging the power of social media and community engagement, she turned Glossier into a multi-million dollar company, showcasing the potential for success in e-commerce.
  9. Chris Guillebeau (The $100 Startup): Chris Guillebeau is an author and entrepreneur who wrote “The $100 Startup,” highlighting stories of individuals who built successful businesses with minimal investment. The book features various gig economy success stories.
  10. Matthew Williams (The Valet Spot): Matthew Williams founded The Valet Spot, a company that sells equipment for valet services. He founded the business to meet a specific need within the hospitality industry and turned it into a successful venture.

These gig economy companies and people demonstrate the diversity of opportunities, showcasing how individuals from various backgrounds and skills can find success by embracing the gig-based model.

Rise Of The Gig Economy And Gig Work: Freelance Definitions And 4 Tips On Becoming A Freelancer 4 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Finding Community Resources, Online Platforms, and Perks to Launch Your Solo Career

Embarking on a solo career in the gig economy doesn’t mean you’re alone. This section emphasizes the importance of community resources—both local and virtual—that can provide invaluable support, guidance, and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

  1. Local and Virtual Communities for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs: Building a network is essential in any professional journey.
  2. Networking Events, Workshops, and Support Groups: Beyond virtual connections, in-person networking events, workshops, and support groups offer opportunities to enhance your skills, make meaningful connections, and gain insights from seasoned professionals.
  3. Utilizing Remote Interfaces and Forums for Skill Development and Collaboration: The digital age has brought forth an abundance of web-based stages and forums dedicated to skill development and collaboration.
  4. Mentorship Opportunities and the Importance of Learning from Others: Mentorship can provide guidance, insights, and a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities inherent in solo careers.

Now, let’s check out some of the incredible benefits that come with the status of gig workers. 

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Benefits of Gig Work

Venturing into the world of gig work isn’t just a departure from the traditional work model; it’s an embrace of a lifestyle that offers a myriad of benefits. In this section, we illuminate the advantages that come with working for yourself within the gig economy.

  1. Flexibility and Autonomy in Work Schedules: One of the foremost perks of working for yourself is the unparalleled flexibility to set your work hours. This autonomy allows you to tailor your schedule to suit your personal preferences, optimize productivity, and strike a balance between professional and personal life.
  2. Unlimited Earning Potential and Financial Independence: Unlike traditional employment structures, individuals who work independently often enjoy unlimited earning potential.
  3. Pursuing Passion Projects and Personal Fulfillment: The gig economy provides an opportunity to pursue projects that resonate with your interests, fostering a sense of personal fulfillment and purpose in your professional endeavors.
  4. Diversifying Income Streams and Reducing Dependency on a Single Employer: Dependence on a single employer is a common characteristic of traditional employment. Many independent contractors, especially younger workers, diversify their income streams by engaging with multiple clients or systems. 

It’s not all roses, though. There are some unfortunate challenges faced as a result of a gig economy job. 

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The Downsides of Gig Economy Jobs

While the gig economy offers plenty of benefits, it’s not without its challenges. This section candidly examines the downsides, or cons, associated with being your boss.

  1. Uncertain Income and Financial Instability: The flexibility of gig work can come with the trade-off of income uncertainty. This might come in the form of job security, inconsistent sources of income, specific projects, or even gig capacity. 
  2. Sole Responsibility for Business Management and Decision-Making: Gig workers wear multiple hats, taking on roles beyond their core expertise. Gig workers are typically solely responsible for business management, decision-making, and the need to hone entrepreneurial skills.
  3. Lack of Traditional Employment Benefits: Traditional employment often comes with employee benefits such as health insurance or other benefits like retirement plans, sick leave, tax filing amenities, and customized work arrangements. The lack of benefits for gig workers is a significant trade-off. 
  4. Balancing Work and Personal Life Challenges: The blurred boundaries between work and personal life can be a significant challenge. Working remotely means you can work from anywhere, but sometimes that makes it easy to take on work when you need a break. 

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Tips for Being Part of the Gig Economy

While the gig economy presents its share of challenges, success is not only possible but achievable with the right strategies. Here are some practical tips to navigate challenges in a solo career.

Build a Strong Support System

Creating a robust support system is vital for freelancers. Cultivating relationships with peers, mentors, and fellow solopreneurs who can provide guidance, share experiences, and offer valuable insights take any of these forms:

  • Networking Groups
  • Mentorship Programs
  • Professional Associations
  • Virtual Forums
  • Workshops and Webinars
  • Coworking Spaces
  • Accountability Partners
  • Professional Development Courses
  • Freelancer Associations
  • Social Media Groups
  • Local Meetups and Events
  • Financial Advisors
  • Health and Wellness Resources
  • Legal Support
  • Peer Review Groups
  • Community Events
  • Skill-Sharing Partnerships

Developing Resilience and Adaptability

The gig economy is dynamic, requiring those in the space to adapt to changing trends and client expectations. Resilience—bouncing back from setbacks—and adaptability—navigating shifts in the professional landscape—can empower evolution in the face of challenges.

Continuous Learning and Skill Enhancement

The gig landscape is ever-evolving, demanding a commitment to continuous learning. The importance of staying updated on industry trends, acquiring new skills, and investing in professional development means a commitment to lifelong learning to maintain relevance and competitiveness. Here are a few tips to stay in the loop:

  • Online Courses and Sites: Enroll in courses like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or Udemy to gain new skills and stay updated on industry trends.
  • Industry Webinars and Conferences: Attend webinars and conferences related to your industry to hear from experts, network, and gain insights into emerging trends.
  • Podcasts: Listen to industry-specific podcasts to stay informed about the latest developments and gain knowledge from thought leaders.
  • Professional Associations: Join industry-specific professional associations that often provide resources, publications, and events to keep members updated.
  • Networking Events: Attend networking events, both virtually and in person, to connect with professionals in your field and exchange knowledge.
  • Subscription to Industry Journals: Subscribe to industry journals, magazines, or newsletters to receive regular updates on trends, research, and best practices.
  • Social Media Monitoring: Follow industry leaders, organizations, and hashtags on social media to stay informed about real-time developments.
  • Web Forums and Communities: Participate in web forums and communities where professionals discuss industry trends, share insights, and ask questions.
  • Continuous Learning: Explore continuous learning through modes like Skillshare or Pluralsight for on-demand courses and tutorials in various skills.
  • Cross-Functional Training: Pursue cross-functional training to broaden your skill set and adapt to the evolving needs of the industry.
  • Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Collaborate with peers on projects to exchange knowledge, learn from each other, and stay updated collectively.
  • Networking with Mentors: Build relationships with mentors in your industry who can provide guidance, share experiences, and recommend relevant resources.
  • Company Training Programs: Take advantage of training programs offered by your current or potential future employers to enhance your skills.
  • Industry News Subscriptions: Subscribe to reputable industry news sources to receive regular updates on industry trends, innovations, and key players.
  • Book Reading: Read books by industry experts to gain in-depth knowledge and insights that go beyond the surface-level trends.
  • Challenges and Competitions: Participate in challenges or competitions related to your field to apply and test your skills in real-world scenarios.
  • Industry Blogs: Follow blogs of industry influencers and thought leaders to access valuable content and stay informed about industry discussions.
  • Skill Development Courses: Explore programs like Codecademy or Khan Academy for skill development in coding, data analysis, or design.
  • Feedback and Peer Review: Seek feedback on your work from peers or mentors, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Embracing Failure as a Stepping Stone to Success

Failure is an inevitable part of any journey, including freelancing. Reframing failure as a learning opportunity and embracing failure with resilience and a growth mindset can lead to valuable lessons and pave the way for future achievements.

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Navigating the gig economy often raises many questions. This section addresses some of the most common FAQs, providing clarity and insights for those exploring or currently engaged in the world of freelancing.

  1. What is the gig economy, and how does it differ from traditional employment?
    • What defines the gig economy is short-term, flexible jobs facilitated by digital systems, which differ from traditional employment by offering gig workers independence, diverse opportunities, and flexibility, but lack the job security, benefits, and structured stability associated with traditional employment.
  2. How do I become a freelancer, and what steps should I take to start my solo career?
    • To become a freelancer and start your solo career, identify your skills, build a strong presence showcasing your work, create a portfolio, set competitive rates, network with potential clients, and leverage freelancing platforms to find opportunities.
  3. What are some examples of gig economy jobs, and how do they operate?
    • Examples of gig economy jobs include ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft), freelance writing (Upwork, Fiverr), and task-based services (TaskRabbit), where individuals work on a project basis facilitated by digital platforms connecting them with clients or customers.
  4. What are the benefits of freelancing, and how can I make the most of working for myself?
    • The benefits of freelancing include flexibility, autonomy, and unlimited earning potential, and to make the most of working for yourself, focus on building a diverse skill set, creating a strong personal brand, networking, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  5. Are there downsides to being a freelancer, and how can I mitigate the challenges?
    • Downsides to freelancing include uncertain income with uncertainty that you’ll have enough work, lack of traditional employment benefits, and sole responsibility for business management; mitigate these challenges by budgeting, diversifying income streams, and seeking professional advice for tax purposes and financial planning.
  6. How can I build a strong support system as a freelancer?
    • Build a strong support system as a freelancer by joining industry-specific communities, networking with peers, seeking mentorship, and participating in local or virtual events.
  7. What strategies can freelancers use to balance work and personal life effectively?
    • Freelancers can balance work and personal life effectively by setting clear boundaries, establishing a dedicated workspace, managing time efficiently, and incorporating regular breaks and self-care routines into their schedules.
  8. How do I handle uncertain income and financial instability as a freelancer?
    • To handle uncertain income and financial instability as a freelancer, create a detailed budget, establish an emergency fund, diversify income sources, and consider setting aside a percentage of earnings for periods of lower income.
  9. What resources are available for skill development and collaboration in the gig economy?
    • Resources for skill development and collaboration in the gig economy include learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare, as well as collaboration tools and forums on freelancing venues such as Upwork and Fiverr.
  10. How can I overcome challenges and achieve success as a freelancer in the gig economy?
  • To overcome challenges and achieve success as a freelancer in the gig economy, continuously enhance your skills, maintain a strong support network, embrace adaptability, and view failures as opportunities for growth.

Your Gig Worker Life Starts Here

To those contemplating the leap into independent work, here is some encouragement: Embrace the freedom to define your path, leverage your unique skills and passions, and forge a career that aligns with your values. The freelance economy is not just a career choice; it’s a lifestyle that empowers individuals to take control of their professional destinies. There are endless jobs available for people to work. Why not earn income by providing on-demand work that you enjoy?

The gig economy is not a trend; it’s a paradigm shift. 

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Want to learn more about the gig economy? Check out 10 Ways to Make Money on the Internet When You Work from Home!



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Lacey Peek
Lacey Peekhttps://www.thewrittenwayllc.com/
Lacey is a born and raised Floridian and is outside as often as she can be, but she also enjoys a good book paired with delicious snacks. She grew up outside and loves to garden, explore new trails, travel, and slip in and out of tide pools on long beach walks. She adores Danish mid-century furniture, her three cats, houseplants, a clean home, and fresh homemade food. A former high school teacher turned professional marketing copywriter, you can find her work on her site, The Written Way.

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