Getting Into the Gig Economy Is Easier Than Ever
By Lucy Reed
Everyone from students to retirees, parents to aspiring entrepreneurs — and even employees of other firms looking for a side hustle — are finding success in the growing gig economy.
Gigs Are Growing
Because of the variety of participants, the number of people employed in the gig economy is difficult to measure. For instance, you could be operating an after-hours business in addition to a more permanent part- or full-time job, working for a variety of clients as a full-time freelancer, or one of the many students, parents, and retirees working only when their schedules allow.
One way to measure participation in the gig economy is to look at what the Census Bureau calls a non-employer.
In most cases, these non-employers are actually self-employed individuals operating a very small, unincorporated business with no paid employees. Every industry sector tracked by the Census Bureau showed an increase in non-employer businesses between 2003 and 2013, with the “other services” category experiencing the largest gain, tacking on nearly 1 million businesses. This broad industry sector includes areas such as pet sitting, appliance repair, and other on-demand services that are a natural fit for the gig economy.
Another survey from Intuit Inc. and Emergent Research showed an estimated 7.6 million Americans will be regularly working in the on-demand economy by 2020, more than double the 3.2 million working on demand in August 2015.
So, there’s no time like the present to experiment with the on-demand economy. And, once you decide how much time you can and want to devote to gig employment, there are several online networks that make it easy to start offering services and cultivating a client list.
For instance, if you’re an animal lover, you can list yourself on Rover.com’s extensive network of background-checked pet sitters or dog walkers. Road warriors can enroll as rideshare drivers through one or more ridesharing services, and you can offer a wide variety of skill sets, including everything from web development to writing, through websites including Upwork.
You can also build your business through a website or social media platforms that showcase your work. There are several free or low-cost ways to boost your online presence, including establishing a business website, setting up social media accounts for your gig businesses that are separate from your personal accounts, and soliciting client endorsements and recommendations through sites such as LinkedIn. Patience and professionalism help many on-demand service providers turn short-term assignments into repeat business and an expanded client corps.
Taking the Next Step
Depending on what types of services you offer and the clients you serve, you may find yourself considering a co-working space as your business evolves. Many co-working spaces offer members access to meeting rooms and other amenities, including mail handling, without the overhead costs associated with renting a full-time office. These spaces can also offer opportunities to network and socialize, which many freelancers find difficult to do when working from home.
And, as the earning from your gig-based business grow, you may need to make additional investments to ensure a secure and successful future. For instance, if you are a full-time freelancer, the odds are good that you won’t have access to employer-sponsored insurance or retirement plans, and you’ll be responsible for calculating and paying your own taxes since no single employer will be doing the appropriate withholding.
Organizations such as the Freelancers Union might be a good place to start when researching these business basics if you aspire to be an on-demand entrepreneur.
So, whether you want to start a side gig for fun and a few extra bucks or parlay a lifelong passion into a substantial salary as a full-time freelancer, now might be the time to get into some gigs.
About the Author
Lucy Reed has been starting businesses since she was a kid, from the lemonade stand she opened in her parent’s driveway at age 10 to the dog walking business she started while in college. She created GigMine because she was inspired by the growth of the gig economy and wanted to make it easier for entrepreneurial individuals like herself to find the gig opportunities in their areas.