Wake up, it’s time to hustle! It seems that an increasing number of Americans are turning to freelance and contract gigs as a lifestyle choice. And it isn’t just millennials and younger generations that are rejecting the 9 to 5 grind and opting for more flexible work parameters.
The gig economy, otherwise known as the on-demand workforce or free-market system, is gaining traction across all age brackets. This deviation from traditional hiring patterns has completely transformed the employment landscape and has left companies, employers, and even recruiters scrambling to adjust to the rising trend.
At its core, a free-market system is made up of temporary, flexible jobs where companies hire independent contractors and freelancers, instead of salaried employees. In some cases, these positions are short-term engagements.
A recent Gallup Poll shows an impressive 36% of U.S. workers are engaged in contract or freelance work, and 64% of that subset says they are actually doing their preferred type of work. Some have argued that this isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but a total cultural about-face.
Contract workers are more in charge of their time, environment and earnings. These are enticing freedoms for those that find flexibility more valuable than stability. The long term implications of a non-traditional labor pool have fueled speculation of a widespread pushback against corporate America. For the sake of explaining what a gig worker actually is, let’s chop them up into four general categories.
Freelancers – Freelancers are gig workers that provide a service or skill. Online marketing has a broad range of freelancing opportunities such as, design or writing. Real estate and wedding photography is another commonly found freelancing gig.
The Freelancer Marketplace – Gig-centric platforms like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and even Airbnb are all examples of ‘on-demand work’ or ‘freelance marketplace jobs’. This allows gig workers the luxury of signing into a network or app to offer their services whenever they feel like it.
Self-employed Workers – This group is comprised of small business owners or those that are offering a service or trade in exchange for monetary gain. This may include consultants, life coaches, independent recruiters and recruiting coaches.
Other – The ‘other’ category is a sizeable cross section of the gig economy. This encompasses side hustles like affiliate marketing, influencers, promotional models, Etsy store owners and even those that turn a profit by selling products on eBay.
Benefits of Being Independently Employed
Obviously there are both pros and cons to being a contract hire, independently employed or a small business owner. It comes down to personal choice and perspective. What do you consider to be of value? Are flexibility and free time more important to you, or is money what gets you out of bed in the morning? While it may be a little bit of both, it seems that more and more of the workforce is wanting to be in charge of their future, rather than banking on being at the same company until retirement.
There is also the physical and mental health factor. As our society swells and continues to mutate due to the hastening of technology, economic fluctuations and a broader mind-set, so will our priorities. People are waking up to new ideas. Being more health conscious and putting added importance on one’s happiness is becoming more of a priority.
Take a typical employee’s daily commute for instance. According to Healthline and Psychology Today, a person who commutes on a daily basis is more prone to high blood pressure, poor eating habits and obesity.
Other pros to consider if you are thinking about working for yourself, freelancing, or taking on a marketplace/online platform gig:
- Profitability: Freelancing can be pretty profitable for those that do it correctly. It has been reported that nearly 20% of full-time independent freelancers earn more than 100k, but this comes with some savvy prepping and finesse. One of the biggest pitfalls that freelancers fall into is not charging clients what they are worth, making it difficult to make ends meet. But if independent workers lay the right groundwork from the start, it can lead to a successful hustle, and even long term wealth.
- Improved Mental Health: The physical strain a daily 9-5 puts on the body is clear, but what about what it does to you mentally. The social aspect of an office environment may be a benefit to some, but at what cost? The stress and anger a daily commute has on the human mind is obvious. “What you do in that car on a moment-to-moment real-time basis makes a very big difference about your experience,” said Curtis Reisinger, Ph.D., Psychiatry-Psychological Services. Dr. Reisinger continues, “The dialogue that you have in your head is going to compound the impact of the deleterious effects.” Basically humans are able to deal with acute moments of stress. But sustained and routine exposure to chronic stress can lead to a host of ailments both physical and mental.
- Flexibility: This is a huge perk for most workers. Being able to set your own schedule really helps improve your quality of life. The ability to work from home and create your own hours is awesome for hands-on parents or those that want more free-time to enjoy life. When you work on your own terms, you also have control of how much money you make. It’s pretty simple, the more you work, the more you earn. You choose whether your ship sinks or not, and that freedom to steer your own ship is enticing.
- Independence: Solitude can be productive. For those that take a lone-wolf approach to life, this is a biggie. Some of us work better in silence or when we are alone. No brain-draining office meetings. No one tapping you on the shoulder. No office gossip or progress reports to contend with. Independent workers have carte blanche to do their work when and how they see fit. They also have complete control over their environment, which is a major plus to those that value seclusion.
- Variety: Although some thrive in a mindless rise-and-grind mentality, monotony has been rumored to restrict cognitive functioning. Working for yourself makes space for more variety in your work day. Different experiences, different interactions and creativity are in abundance when you aren’t clocking in and out. Personal proclivities aside, our brains are actually healthier when they are exposed to fresh and unique stimuli. There aren’t many dull days in gig work.
How a Gig Economy Affects The Employer-Employee Relationship
Opponents of the gig economy are sounding the alarm. Naysayers claim it signals an erosion of conformity and the severing of long-standing social contracts between employers and employees. Meanwhile, supporters say it is a movement towards individual empowerment and entrepreneurship. Again, it depends on your perspective.
The reality is, things change. We have to adjust to compensate, even if it makes some of us uncomfortable. Employers are having to adjust to an anemic workforce, where they are having to offer more flexibility and perks to get butts in the seats. All the while, working class people are finding solutions to adapt to intensifying financial demands, while making an effort to improve their quality of life.
According to a 2016 Federal Reserve report, 22% of employed adults indicate that they are either working multiple jobs, doing informal work for pay in addition to their main job, or both. So it seems that debt and today’s cost of living are having significant impacts on the way people approach careers and employment.
Counterintuitively, the demands that traditional jobs put on workers has been getting more intense in recent years. Less vacation time, longer hours, crazy commutes and impossible deadlines are actually hurting employees and making them less efficient.
When you compare American workers to that of other developed countries, you start to see how absurdly overworked people in the United States are. This could be a major factor in why so many are branching out on their own.
Employers are constantly having to adjust to compensate with this new employee lifestyle. Traditional companies that are used to the old-school way of doing things will find themselves at a disadvantage, and at times, locking horns with potential candidates that want more freedoms, better pay and less micromanaging.
Regardless of what side you may fall on, working for yourself or being an independent contractor isn’t for everyone. You don’t have the stability of a 401k, in-house health benefits or the safety of predictability.
When in doubt, do what makes you happy. We all need to pave our own path in life. Take me for instance. I went from being a fashion grad, to bartender, before deciding to take a leap of faith and start my own business. The universe had a plan in motion for me, I just had to step into it. For me, it was the best decision I ever made.
I make a living helping people turn their passions into profitable careers. If you are thinking about becoming a recruiter, starting your own recruiting business, or are simply curious about what opportunities are out there for you, feel free to contact me.
As the Millionaire Recruiter, I offer coaching services to those that want to reach out and grab their destiny. Be sure to check out my podcast on Transformation Talk Radio. Your time in the sun starts now!