How The “Gig Economy” Is Changing What Work Is

There’s an economic boom going on right in front of our eyes, and lucrative opportunities are being created for those who recognize and embrace them. Forbes, Wired and Bloomberg are calling this boom “the Gig Economy”.

This boom is desperately needed. Our modern economy has been plagued by two trends that have been hurting employees–

  • The current way people earn a living — dedicating your life to one job that leaves you less than fulfilled, with the hopes of someday escaping the “worker-bee” grind through retirement despite minimal savings — is becoming an unfortunate reality for a growing number of people.
  • Due to improved cloud software and productivity tools, businesses don’t need to hire as many employees to get the same amount of work done

The Gig Economy and the companies leading the path are solving both of these problems by connecting businesses willing to pay for specific services with people willing to offer those service. In turn, our economy improves as businesses get the services they need at better prices and people get to earn money in a much more fulfilling, flexible and lucrative manner.

How the Gig Economy will benefit business & startups

Due to limited resources, startups must operate as lean and efficient as possible. Between the rise of cloud software and crowdfunding, it should be no surprise that we have seen a rise in million-dollar one-person businesses. A “one-person business” usually means one owner-operator with no employees, even though most hire outside help from freelancers and contractors. The Gig Economy allows not only one-person businesses, but all startups to find perfect matches for outside help quickly, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a firm or a full-time employee.

“The ‘Gig Economy’ is not a trend,” said Rich Pearson, Chief Marketing Officer at Elance.com, “it’s a new way of working. Startups are regularly tapping into specialized talent on demand, resulting in faster time to market and lower costs. We’re now seeing larger companies hiring teams of freelancers online, creating opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. By 2020, we believe 1 in 3 people will be hired online.”

This is a trend that will continue to grow. Workers who make themselves available for this sort of work will open up endless possibilities for themselves, including financial freedom and location-independence.

How the Gig Economy will benefit workers

Some people don’t want to start their own business but still want the flexibility of working for themselves. Some people want or need to make some extra money on the side. The Gig Economy will help both of these groups of people. Thanks to new platforms ushering in the Gig Economy, it’s not only possible, but easy for people to make a little cash on the side — sometimes magnitudes more than what they are making at their full-time job– just by making themselves available on these platforms and choosing jobs they would like to do. Imagine having a job where you only do tasks you want to do, and ignore the tasks you don’t want to do– that’s freedom.

Here are some companies that are bringing us forward into the gig economy, and some of my suggestions on how the entrepreneur as well as the average individual can take advantage of these new platforms–

OLD ECONOMY: Monetize your skills with a fixed salary
NEW ECONOMY: Monetize your skills with infinite potential

SkillShare – marketplace for video courses from experts
CreativeLive – marketplace for video courses from experts
LiveNinja – marketplace for video courses from experts
Udemy – marketplace for video courses from experts
AudioJungle – marketplace for audio files, beats, and background music

Success Strategy for the Entrepreneur: Business is very personal these days. People love stories about people, not stories about businesses– so while growing your business, it would be beneficial to also grow your personal brand. What’s the best way to do this? Be recognized as a thought leader in your industry– share knowledge, help others, engage in discussion and debate. The main benefit of these platforms for entrepreneurs is not the money that can be made, but how being on these platforms in the first place grows your personal brand and furthers your story.
Suggestions on how to earn a living from these platforms: These platforms will not drive traffic to your content themselves– you should think of these platforms only as a medium to post your content, not as a marketing platform. Therefore you need to have a strong marketing strategy to succeed. I would suggest being active on Twitter and Quora to build your personal brand, and link back to your content on these platforms. You could also experiment with small, highly-targeted facebook and twitter ads pushing directly to your content. The great thing about these platforms is that once you have your content up-and-running, if you market it correctly, you can easily set it on auto-pilot and scale up since how much you earn wouldn’t necessarily correlate to how much you work, giving you enormous earning potential.

OLD ECONOMY: Trade time for a salary at your employer’s will
NEW ECONOMY: Trade time for money at your will

Clarity.fm – connects people with various experts for a quick phone call
Odesk — marketplace for freelancers of various virtual tasks
Fiverr — marketplace for services, starting at $5
TaskRabbit — marketplace for local tasks and chores
UrbanSitter — marketplace for babysitters
Mandy – marketplace for videography and photography projects

Success Strategy for the Entrepreneur: After taking a quick look at these sites, the benefit should be clear– get the same help from freelancers at a fraction of the cost of a full-service firm or full-time employee. Need quick business advice? Have a quick call with an expert on Clarity.fm. Need some quick programming or graphic design work done? Hire someone on Odesk to get it done quickly. Need to shoot some pictures and video? Hire a freelancer instead of a studio. Unlike hiring a firm, you get to see reviews of these freelancers, so you know what kind of quality to expect. Also, since you can leave feedback, these freelancers are much more likely to over-deliver since they are all competing for great feedback. Oh, did I mention these freelancers cost a fraction of what it costs to hire a firm? You can get anything and everything done on here– web design, web development, app development, graphic design, virtual assistance, telemarketing assistance, data entry assistance, etc. You could hire a full team of support for an entire startup for the same price as hiring one full-time employee– without the headaches of recruiting, interviewing, payroll, taxes, benefits, etc.
Suggestions on how to earn a living from these platforms: The first step is finding the right platform to be on depending on your particular skill set. Once you find the right platform, the next step is to understand the dynamics of how these marketplaces work– they are mainly driven by reviews, so when you’re just starting out, naturally you will be short on reviews. To compensate for that, you must either significantly drop your rates until you have strong enough feedback to warrant charging higher rates, or start working with clients you already have through these platforms so that they may leave honest feedback for you. These platforms are pretty popular, so you won’t need any outside marketing to grow your presence– simply work hard and earn great feedback and things will fall into place. It’s also important to understand the numbers– these platforms take out fees, but once you build a reputation on these sites, you will most likely be able to earn just as much as if you were working for a traditional firm, plus you’ll have the ultimate flexibility in schedule and location, and you don’t have to commute. It’s also important to recognize that most jobs on these platforms are hourly-wage jobs, so the only two ways to grow your earnings are to raise your rates or bill more hours. It’s much easier and much more pleasant to earn a higher hourly wage as opposed to working more, so providing outstanding quality to your clients and managing your feedback are extremely important for success.

OLD ECONOMY: Use your assets as you need them
NEW ECONOMY: Monetize assets when you don’t need them

Uber – On-call personal drivers for a fraction of the cost of a cab
Lyft – On-call personal drivers for a fraction of the cost of a cab
Airbnb – Rent out a couch to crash on or an entire home for a temporary stay
SharedOffices — Marketplace for shared office space

Success Strategy for the Entrepreneur: Not only can travel expenses add up when you’re trying to grow a business, but travel always comes with headaches. So when Uber and Lyft gave us our own affordable on-call drivers, the benefit was self-explanatory. Or when Airbnb introduced to us the world of room-sharing at a fraction of the cost of a hotel without the headaches, we were jumping for joy. Anything that makes life easier and cheaper is always a win in my book.
Suggestions on how to earn a living from these platforms: The idea behind these companies is to never let your assets sit idle. How often is your car just sitting in your driveway or a parking lot when someone else would pay money to use it? Why let your extra bedroom stay unoccupied when people would pay good money to sleep there for a few nights? Like many other platforms of the Gig Economy, these sites are driven by feedback, so always provide a great experience to clients, and you could easily collect a steady stream of revenue.

OLD ECONOMY: Stagnant Job Growth
NEW ECONOMY: Flexible Job Creation

Obviously different people aspire for different lifestyles– some people want to own their own business, and some people’s dream job involves earning a steady paycheck from an employer. The beauty of these new platforms is that not only are they providing more efficient and affordable labor for startups and small businesses, but they are also providing new ways for people to earn a living. Not everyone would be happy earning their living from these new platforms, but for the people that are, they can. By doing so, they aren’t taking away the traditional salaried jobs from people who are happy with that type of employment. Everyone has a job — more importantly everyone has a job that they are happier with — and everyone wins.

This type of innovation is a perfect example of how great the private sector is at creating jobs– smart entrepreneurs and talented programmers will continue to solve problems, create jobs and grow our economy, so let’s support them as best we can.

Thoughts? How have you used these platforms? Please share your story, or any platforms I’ve missed in the comments below!

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Stephen Steinberg

Stephen Steinberg

Stephen is the Founder of Vapor Fresh, a line of safer plant based cleaning products for the sports & fitness industry, as well as Founder of Animate Yerba Mate, a brand bringing quality unsmoked organic Yerba Mate teas to the USA.