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Will The Gig Economy Become The New Working-Class Norm?

Marcin Zgola is an Entrepreneur with 20 years of IT experience and founder of the Wage marketplace, which bridges the gap for solopreneurs.

It’s never been more apparent: Today’s office workers are seeking drastic change. The gig economy, which gained popularity in 2008–09 when the financial crisis forced many individuals to resort to task-based labor, has become a much-desired career path. As the CEO of a platform for gig workers, this shift in perception of the gig economy comes as no surprise, considering it offers flexibility, solid wages, a variety of tasks and no boss. Whether an individual is looking to supplement their household income or shift entirely away from the day-to-day grind of office work, the gig economy can be a no-strings-attached option to achieve both these goals.

Gig work can serve as a springboard for individuals looking to earn extra income. They can supplement and diversify the income with tasks they enjoy, at rates they set, on a schedule they determine.

As the Covid-19 pandemic raged on and many employers were forced to downsize, countless individuals got a taste of the gig economy as they tried to find their way and survive the massive disruption to their lives and bank accounts. With vaccines making it possible for people to return to office jobs, many of those same individuals are hesitating. What awaits many of them in an office is a regimented schedule, endless project lists, temperamental bosses or coworkers and perhaps even a lengthy commute. What they’ve experienced over the past year-plus was a flexible lifestyle and a work-life balance they’ve never before experienced. The gig work that saved their home and put food on their table is now what they want — not what they need.

Those who are open to returning to office jobs may find it difficult to secure a position that pays them a salary equivalent to what they made pre-pandemic. Employers are cautious with expenses, understandably so, with some perhaps taking advantage of a large pool of candidates desperate for work. Many of these candidates are also turning to gig work to supplement lower salaries so they can fund the pre-pandemic lifestyle they’ve missed.

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Whether a worker intended to return to the office or not post-pandemic, many have discovered a work-life balance for the first time. They now understand that independent work is both possible and sustainable.

There is also a tremendous — and ironic — flip side to this evolution of the working class, with the gig economy also proving to be a valuable asset to employers themselves. As they cautiously reopen and get back to business-as-usual, they’re leveraging this exploding audience of gig workers to fill vital roles and accomplish tasks that would typically be performed by part or full-time employees. Businesses can find gig workers in a variety of fields, from plumbing and construction to events services and marketing.

For small and mid-sized businesses, the benefits of the gig economy can be even more significant. Their smaller budgets and staffs mean gig workers can fill vital roles, from cleaning services for their brick-and-mortar locations to IT professionals who can help them troubleshoot technical issues as they arise.

All that being said, the questions become: Is the gig economy going to become the new norm for income? Will enough professionals make the transition that we see a seismic shift in office workers versus gig workers? And will employers have smaller staffs as they leverage gig workers who can help lower their costs? While these questions will be answered in time, the statistics speak for themselves.

The gig economy experienced 33% growth in 2020 and is expanding much faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. About 1.1 billion on-demand gig workers exist worldwide, and 2 million new gig workers emerged in the U.S. in 2020 alone. Statista estimates that by 2027, about half of the U.S. population will have engaged in gig work. Today, 35% of U.S. workers are involved in the on-demand gig economy.

For some, gig work might seem unfulfilling or mundane without the adrenaline of achieving corporate success, earning promotions or seeing high-budget projects come to fruition. But what it offers instead is the ability to diversify your income streams, dabbling in whatever tasks are of interest and allowing you to add variety to your daily routine. For example, a service-oriented individual might offer house cleaning services during the morning and dog walking services in the afternoons. A freelance writer might expand their portfolio of services to include everything from feature articles to short, snappy social media captions. For gig workers, it’s entirely possible to increase revenue simply by diversifying their service offerings.

Certainly, challenges exist in all aspects of life and in all aspects of work. This is no different for the workers partaking in the gig economy. One of these challenges is demonstrating their abilities. Without a portfolio, I suggest that gig workers use references in the form of positive reviews on their website or a gig platform. Additionally, it is wise to constantly put your best foot forward, which means creating a nice website and/or completing the full profile on any gig websites, complete with descriptions of the work you do and images of your completed tasks.

Another challenge for workers in the gig economy is getting the first handful of jobs booked and completed. Often, landing the first few jobs is the hardest. To solve this problem, it is best to think like a small business and price yourself accordingly. Do what it takes to get the first gigs completed, leverage your increased ratings and reviews and steadily increase your rates as you prove yourself as a gig worker.

Only time will tell, but the desires of today’s workers paired with statistics pointing to even more remarkable growth of the gig workforce have many of us in the space believing the gig economy could become the new working-class norm.

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