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The phrase “gig economy” points to a work environment that involves short-term employment. It is different from traditional employment in that projects aren’t permanent. The jobs differ in length, involvement, and scope. Freelance workers jump in the “gigging” pool for various reasons: unemployment, to supplement their income; achieve flexibility, and constant change.
In South Africa, the gig economy has taken hold in recent years as parts of unemployed and informal workers move into semi-formalized work through online platforms. In addition to generating new work opportunities, gig platforms provide a channel to understand the financial needs of the people who make up the gig economy.
Launching a side hustle, especially following the global social and economic turmoil rendered by Covid-19, has never been more important. The gig economy creates an alternative source of income for many people outside of their traditional jobs. And exploring the gig economy is also an opportunity to turn your skills into a long-term career.
When you have skills that add value to other people, you should be making money from sharing them. For example, the ability to plan and stage successful events is valuable to the people and businesses that have events on their calendars. Gig Culture is a start-up example in the events space bringing value to brands, businesses, and people. Thinking through the value of your talent(s) is the first step to working in the gig economy.
Let’s explore how you can lunch and promote your skills.
Learn what makes your work valuable
The ultimate goal is to make a comfortable living doing what makes you happy and productive. It could be proofreading and editing words; online gaming, writing and designing slide decks for corporate executives, cooking, or anything else you have a strong knack for.
You need to think about what makes you stand out from other people who do the same work. To develop a unique selling proposition, ask yourself:
How do I stand out?
How do I make myself irreplaceable?
How do I learn the skills and master the technique of my work?
How do I become an artist at my trade?
How do I become helpful to people and build an audience (customers)?
Once you start looking at and working on yourself this way, you’ll soon learn the monetary value that your presence/skills provide for other people.
Create a portfolio of your work and refine your online presence
In the process of identifying the ‘secret sauce’ of your talent, there is a need to build a personal brand. This is a story about you, the reasons you do your work, how you do it and what work have you have done before.
A portfolio and a strong online presence are your allies in helping you land clients.
To achieve this, you can create a blog/website; write a slide presentation detailing your work and level of experience and distribute it to potential customers. And as you make progress, you might even consider boosting your brand awareness and credibility with a logo, a video channel, branded document templates for your proposals, invoices, etc.
Thanks to the Internet, joining the gig economy is not as hard as it used to be. You can connect with prospective clients from different parts of the world from anywhere you might be.
Begin by spreading word to your close network: family, friends, and colleagues. Let them know that you are open for work, what type of projects you are looking for, and what you offer.
Share your story, vision and ideas on your blog or social media pages. And to get attention on social and build an audience, aim to educate and help. The more people who get value from your content, the more you can build an engaged audience that routinely returns to hear what you have to say. In the process, don’t hesitate to share your work and ideas – you’ll gather insights you never thought of and build relationships.
As you develop your client base and produce quality work, those clients will refer you to others in their own networks. Before you know it, you will be ready to switch to being a full-time freelancer.
Which jobs qualify for the gig economy?
The advantage about working independently is that it’s entirely your choice what type of work you want to do.
In the gig economy, there are a variety of professionals: market researchers, legal and business consultants, project managers, game concept designers, data analysts, IT support, etc. The point is that if there is a channel to communicate and deliver the work to the client, you are in business.
According to Upwork, an online network that connects freelancers to employers, common freelance jobs include: design and creative; web, mobile and software developer; administrative support specialist; writer; translator; accounting/finance/consulting professional; IT and networking professional; sales/marketing/customer service professional; lawyer/paralegal; engineer; architect; and data science/analytics specialist.
The gig economy challenges
Being a freelancer comes with a few concerns. This includes access to affordable healthcare, a healthy savings account, retirement funds, and being compensated fairly for work.
Upwork says that 89% of freelancers wish their education prepared them for the gig economy work. If they were to return to the classroom, 52% of them say they would replace their traditional college education entirely with training tailored to their current work.
On the same report, 81% of the freelancers have figured out that freelance business skills are essential to their work and would appreciate additional training. The top three areas they would benefit from additional training on are:
- Financial planning
- New skills in their industry
- How to start and grow a freelance career
And because working independently involves managing relationships, pitching and marketing, 78% of the freelancers mentioned that soft skills are as equally important as the technical skills in order to succeed in their work.