Gig work has become extraordinarily popular—referring to those who work on a freelance, temporary or independent basis. It’s an effective model for those who want more autonomy and flexibility in their work and life. And it works well for companies which increasingly hire freelancers, so they have more variability in their labor—matching work to demand […]
Gig work has become extraordinarily popular—referring to those who work on a freelance, temporary or independent basis. It’s an effective model for those who want more autonomy and flexibility in their work and life. And it works well for companies which increasingly hire freelancers, so they have more variability in their labor—matching work to demand cycles.
For many, gig work may seem like the ideal since it seems to feature plenty of benefits without the constraints, rules or limits of working for an organization full time. But is gig work all it’s cracked up to be? Answer: There are significant pros and cons.
Gig Workers Are Everywhere
According to Zety, there are about 59 million independent workers making up 36% of all U.S. employees. In addition, gig workers are projected to balloon to 85.6 million by 2027, and the gig economy could reach $455 billion.
Gig work tends to cluster by industry, with the greatest number of gig workers contributing in tech, accounting, art and design, administrative and education roles and industries. In addition, most freelancers (76%) work for two or three companies at a time, and most (94%) find work by using online platforms.
Companies are increasingly tapping into the freelance workforce. According to a Fiverr survey, 81% of companies say they’re using temporary labor to buffer costs in case of economic downturn and to fill skill gaps. A large number of companies (40%) also say freelance staff provides a larger pool of people from which to recruit and 38% believe gig workers are more efficient than traditional staff.
What It’s Really Like
What’s it really like to be an independent worker? Is there any money in it? Is it great to manage your own schedule? And how about being your own boss? Here’s what you will want to know if you’re considering a shift to freelance work or adding a side hustle.
Money and Job Security
According to the Zety study, Most gig workers (63%) earn between $7 and $15 dollars per hour and 61% believe they could be paid better if they were working in a traditional fulltime job. In addition, for 59%, gig work is their main source of income, rather than a supplementary side hustle.
In terms of financial health, fully 26% say they don’t have the money they need, and 60% say they have enough to cover spending but aren’t able to save very much. In addition, 39% say they struggle with a lack of employee benefits and 30% a lack of insurance. And 35% struggle with unstable income, with 34% reporting a challenge with the additional costs piling onto personal expenses. The stakes are high for most, since 52% of gig workers took up their work out of necessity.
Many people prefer freelance work, but it can also include worry about job security. Fully 69% of respondents prefer gig work, but 67% are afraid of what the future might bring. Perhaps their financial concerns are the reasons 24% plan to resign from independent work and take a full time job and 54% plan to obtain a full time job and keep up their gig work as a side venture.
Flexibility and Free Time
The reasons for taking on a freelance role are varied, but for many, it is because of the desire to have more free time (39%) and to have more control over their schedule (34%).
In fact, 38% of independents work only 10-20 hours per week and 32% work 20-30 hours per week. Only 3% work 40 or more hours per week. For some, working hours don’t work as well—with 37% saying unstable working hours are a disadvantage.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of gig work is being your own boss, and 40% of people who started freelancing did so in order to have this kind of independence. And most gig workers (58%) rate independence as the main advantage of the model. This is followed by flexibility in when and how they work (50%) and the ability to choose to do a wide variety of work (43%).
Perhaps the biggest take-away message is that gig work includes tradeoffs. Like many things, it may look ideal from a distance, but when you understand the details, it may not be as perfect as you thought.
Energy and Purpose. When you’re working for yourself, you can choose what you want to work on and you can invest your effort toward things that energize you most. This can be a wonderful thing, but it will invariably include compromise as well. If you need to make your hours/pay for the month, you may need to take on work which isn’t your favorite. In addition, if you’re like most gig workers, you’re likely strapped with work which is necessary but not your favorite—like managing your financials in addition to doing graphic design or writing proposals and negotiating deals in addition to doing core coaching work.
Choice and Autonomy. Being independent provides for plenty of independence, and you can work when and how you’d like—theoretically working with only the best companies and doing only the work you want. But this is only up to the point that you can pay your bills and make ends meet as well. You get to run your show, but also need to ensure you make choices which ensure your ongoing security.
Flexibility. Many people who work for themselves say that while they have more flexibility on a day-to-day basis—no one is managing whether they are working or surfing on an average Tuesday afternoon—they actually feel a bigger responsibility to their work compared with when they were employed in a traditional fulltime role. If you’re a gig worker, it may be tough to get time away if you are in a cycle where you need to win more jobs to ensure a pipeline of pay. Or if you do get away and an urgent need emerges, you may not have backup support.
Overall, independent work or regular fulltime work may be more similar than different—with the need to work hard, perform brilliantly, get along with those who are guiding the work and remain engaged and motivated over time. The best model may shift over different stages in life. And perhaps the most important thing is to go into any work with eyes open—embracing the opportunity to contribute your gifts and talents in meaningful ways and to understand the advantages and disadvantages of any approach.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.