Navigating the new world of work
No matter what they call themselves – independent contractors, digital nomads, freelancers, “giggers” or flex workers – the people who make up the gig economy are becoming an ever-bigger chunk of the globe’s workforce.
In the USA, for example, a recent survey showed that the number of freelance or gig workers is growing 3x faster than the USA’s workforce as a whole. In fact, more than half of people are forecast to be working independently by 2027.
There are similar trends elsewhere in the world, including South Africa. Statistics SA’s employment outlook found that temporary employment rose from 2.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2018, with further increases almost certain.
Companies around the world are also investigating how to make the most of flexible workforces, be it staff working remotely or the use of freelancers. For a country like South Africa, the gig economy offers a wealth of opportunities – for both full-time freelancers and curious full-time employees alike.
The gig economy in 2020 and beyond: trends and tips
Big companies are using more freelancers
Once, freelancers were most commonly used by smaller companies and startups. Now, that’s changing. An increasing number of major Fortune 500 companies are shifting jobs such as marketing, human resources and procurement over to gig workers. This allows the companies to focus more of their efforts on their core services, and disseminate the support roles out to freelancers, many of whom don’t even need to be in the same city as the company headquarters.
An increase in gig work platforms
It’s becoming easier and easier for freelancers to find work as the number of freelancing platforms increases, and the jobs posted on them ticks up.
Better yet, gig work platforms – such as Upwork – are also seeing an uptick in hires from major companies.
More fully remote companies
Remote workers – people who are employed by a company, but spend no time at the company’s physical location – have been part of the world of work for well over a decade. And their numbers are set only to grow – as are the companies that hire them.
According to FlexJobs, an online platform specialising in remote and flexible employment, there are approximately 170 fully virtual companies in the United States. This is up from a mere 26 in 2014. While South Africa has far fewer fully remote operations, South Africans are often eligible to work for overseas remote companies – meaning that there’s no need to confine the job hunt within SA’s borders.
It’s a whole new world of work. Many of this new breed of remote companies have no central headquarters, and the majority of their staff work remotely – from home, a shared office space or even the local coffee shop.
A sense of company togetherness happens not in the office, but via video call and email. Some companies also organise annual retreats, allowing digital workers to meet one another in person.
More tools to help with workflow
While some gig workers may do everything regular workers do – attend meetings, send emails, meet with other employees – many rely on a suite of digital tools to help manage their workflow.
Tools such as Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and Quip are growing in number and power. They make it possible for giggers to communicate with easily with other employees – no matter how far away – and track their performance and projects.
The rise of collaborative work spaces
While many gig workers prefer flexible work arrangements that allow them to work from home or coffee shops, others still value meeting with others in person when working on projects and common goals.
To cater to the need, co-working spaces are now springing up across major cities everywhere in the world. They’re places to socialise, get work done, and meet other digital natives.
Tips for thriving in the gig economy
With all the opportunities the gig economy offers, it’s an exciting time to think about getting involved.
But before you take the plunge, it’s important to remember a few key tips.
1. Find ways to manage stress
Unlike a regular job, gig work comes and goes. And it may take you a while to build up enough clients before you have regular work. Be sure that you’re able to manage the stress when you’re just starting out and looking for opportunities.
2. Remember to stay social
It’s easy to go into your shell in between gigs to conserve energy. You may want to just sit on the couch or spend the hours on your favorite hobby while you wait for your next opportunity to come along.
While enjoying some downtime is important, remember that your downtime is also important social time to connect with other freelancers and independent workers, as well as network with people in your industry.
3. Stay on top of your finances
Full time employment simplifies your finances. You get a salary. You pay tax.
When you’re a gig worker, you need to take more responsibility and run yourself like the business you are.
That means tracking money coming in and going out, expenses, and work-related costs.
A tool like Quickbooks can help you simplify your money management from Day 1. Giving you more time to focus on your business.
4. Consult a tax professional
If you’re unsure, ask a tax professional what you need to know about tax when it comes to your new life in the gig economy. It’ll help you be prepared – well ahead of time.
5. Get equipped with the right tools
Being a gigger means owning a small business – and that business is you.
So, think like a business. You may want to: order some inexpensive business cards and create a professional invoicing template to bill clients. Quickbooks can help you generate professional invoices in seconds.
6. Give it time
Above all, it’s important to remember that succeeding in the gig economy takes time. Don’t lose heart if work doesn’t come your way as soon as you get started. Keep persevering, brush up on your skills, and remember to market yourself well. A professional online portfolio can do wonders. So can a strong online presence. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to gig work success.