The gig economy is something of a hot issue at the moment, one which is generating a great deal of discussion around the web. While some—including major publications like the New York Times and Wired—have heralded it as the salvation of the American worker, others have expressed trepidation about this new direction in which the economy seems headed. Certainly, my own enthusiasm for the gig economy has drawn many curious inquiries from family, friends, and clients, who wonder why and how it benefits me and the way I work.
In my experience, the gig economy lifestyle has aided my confidence, as well as affording me a sense of security and control. This may sound confusing to those who either have not tried it, or have tried it and found it overwhelming (it certainly can be, if not managed properly), but there are a number of reasons the gig economy works for me:
It's more lucrative than most people think.
It's true that most micro-freelancing marketplaces are oriented around freelancers offering their services for relatively little—that's the secret of their appeal. But you, the freelancer, are in control of how much work you do and at what rate. For myself as a writer, I can adjust the word count offered through my “basic” $5 gig at any time I choose, so that how many words I offer for such a small fee can be accordingly proportioned. And there's extras I can offer, so that if people want a longer article, they pay me a higher fee. I can also choose which topics I am willing to write about, specifically working in niches I find easy to write for. Through doing so, I can roughly calibrate the speed at which I am able work with the amount I am making until I arrive at a balance that works for me.
It offers me a sense of security.
I am wholly in charge of supporting myself—no one else in my life supplements my income. As such, I need a reliable source of revenue, and the gig economy has never failed to provide it. In my four years of experience writing in a variety of situations, I have found that clients come and go, but Fiverr is forever. Almost everyone I have worked for through other channels has, at some point or another, either disappeared without a trace, unexpectedly been absent for a while (life, as they say, happens), or simply surprised me with the announcement that they would not have much, if any, work for me that month. This is just the reality of freelancing.
Through the gig economy, however, I am connected to a large marketplace that seems to have a constant desire for my services, and if one long-time client vanishes, another soon takes his or her place (without me having to waste time hunting down new customers).
It's extremely flexible.
Like most people, I don't really like being locked into contracts and dealing with deadlines all the time. Within the gig economy, I have the power to decide what I wish to do, and when, allowing me to flow with my creativity more organically. If I have too many orders, I can just turn on vacation mode, lengthen my delivery times, or pause the gig altogether. I don't have to ask for permission to do this, and I don't have to answer to anyone but myself.
As a creative person, you have good days and bad days. Some days, I feel like the words are pouring from my mind faster than I can keep up with them, other days—if I am tired, for instance—just stringing sentences together can feel like a real challenge. On the bad days, it's easy to question my abilities, because I'm doing something I'm passionate about it and it means a lot to me to do well.
Within the gig economy, I have found that people are (with the exception of a few bad apples) so grateful to get something decent for a bargain that even on my bad days, I get told I'm pretty great. That's the kind of thing that keeps a person going.
Big marketplaces offer a better variety of work.
Another great enemy of creative people is boredom—once I have covered the same subject five or more times, I feel I have nothing original left to say about it. While working in the gig economy, I get asked to write about everything from ancient Aztec farming methods to coconut oil to real estate, and so much more. Not only does this keep me engaged, I learn a lot through my work, and meet a wonderful array of diverse people.
The gig economy isn't perfect by any means—if still falls a bit short of being my sole source of income—but it's rapidly evolving to a point where that may well be possible.
For myself, it's been a worthwhile trade: I get to choose what I want to work on and when, with the option to leave at any time, and in return, I offer quality services for relatively little. As long as the gig marketplace continues to grant me a mix of freedom and control, I'll keep coming back to it.