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What is the gig economy? Why the future of work is online (and how to prepare)

Discover the gig economy and the likely future of work. Plus: how to prepare!

Published onMay 15, 2021

Working Online Web Design

The term “gig economy” describes the increasing reliance on freelancers and contractors that work on a “per gig basis” rather than having a single employer. This is a trend that has been growing, at least in part, thanks to new technology that facilitates fast and secure transactions, even over distance.

With the gig economy growing at a rapid rate, it’s likely that more and more of us will soon work in this manner. In fact, the choice might be made for many of us in the next few years, especially in the wake of Covid.

The best thing we can do is to learn how the gig economy operates… and be ready!

What is the gig economy?

You might be skeptical — that’s understandable. Read on and I’ll try to change your mind.

You’ve likely encountered members of the gig economy. They look just like the rest of us. For example, if you’ve ever used an Uber, then you have had an encounter with the gig economy! Uber allows drivers to make money by taking on passengers through an app and getting paid for each journey. They are paid “per gig” rather than according to a fixed salary. The same goes for Deliveroo drivers and even your neighbor who cuts your hair!

Is this a good thing?

In the worst-case scenario, the gig economy can be compared with zero-hours contracs. There is a real danger that freelancers end up working for a single company with everything that entails, except the stability and rights that come from a full-time contract.

There has understandably been some pushback from the European parliament and other government organizations.

On the other hand, the gig economy has proven highly successful. By decentralizing the business model, customers pay far less for a much quicker and more reliable service. So much so, that old-fashioned taxi firms are already in danger of going extinct.  The same thing is happening across many other industries.

And there’s no requirement to work through a third party either. As mentioned, someone who cuts hair is technically a part of the gig economy!

When done right, the gig economy also has the potential to be highly liberating for professionals too. This is especially true when it comes to online, skilled work. Now you can pick and choose the jobs you want to take on, in order to fit your work around your lifestyle.

Let’s say you are a data scientist, a copywriter, a programmer, or a cybersecurity specialist. Working online in the gig economy would mean taking on freelance jobs with one or several companies, and getting paid for each of them.

Read also: Best work from home apps, gadgets, and tools

This would liberate you to work from home, pick and choose the types of jobs that might help to further your career (or that simply appeal to you), and set your own terms.

Why working online is inevitable

So, what makes the gig economy such an inevitable force?

Consider the point of view of a tech company looking for a web designer, or a full stack developer.

This company has two choices: hire local talent, or use a site like UpWork or PeoplePerHour to find a skilled professional online to “rent” on a per-job basis.

In the first scenario, the company needs to go through the lengthy and expensive process of interviewing and training a new employee. It needs to provide desk space, sick pay, and health insurance. At the same time, the “pool” of local talent it has to choose from is limited. This is especially true if it needs a specific type of skilled workers, such as a machine learning researcher.

How many of those do you think are looking for work within a 50-mile radius of where you are right now?

In the latter, a company only pays for the work it needs and can pick from a gigantic pool of people to find someone with the ideal skill set and experience.

This is what the choice really boils down to:

  • Someone who isn’t a perfect fit for the job and involves a lot of expense and commitment
  • Someone who is ideally suited for the job, with no strings attached

Today, remote collaboration tools, project management tools, and telepresence, all make working with a distributed workforce not only doable but optimal. At Android Authority, we do exactly that: we have team members located across the globe, all contributing to projects and discussing ideas and strategies. Countless tech firms do the exact same thing.

How likely is it that businesses are going to continue hiring through traditional channels? How long until the traditional office is an anachronism?

Those who don’t adapt will likely get left behind.

The impact of Covid

While the idea of an army of online freelancers has been inevitable for a while now, recent world events have likely only accelerated this change.

Millions of people all around the world have now been forced to work from home. Companies have had to adapt quickly to implement the necessary security measures and collaboration tools to make this possible. Employees have likewise created home offices, become used to not having to commute to work every day, and gradually learned how to work quickly and efficiently without a boss breathing down their necks.

It’s no wonder that I’m hearing a lot of murmurs from employed friends about “not going back.”

But here’s the thing: now that companies are used to not having their employees in the office, how long until they realize they can hire from overseas? Or not hire at all?

What does the gig economy mean for you?

Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be!

It’s not just businesses with a strong incentive to switch to this new gig economy model, it can also benefit the rest of us. Sure, there’s a little less job stability, but there is also no earning cap, and you’ll get to keep a much larger slice of the pie.

Why not cut out the middle man altogether? As mentioned, participating in the gig economy can also mean going direct to customers with a range of services and products. And why work in a gym as a personal trainer when you can do the same thing just as well with customers that you find online? You could work for a web design agency, or you can become a web designer!

Why work for only a cut of the profit, when you can keep 100%? While choosing the precise jobs you want to accept?

Why work for only a cut of the profit, when you can keep 100%?

We’ve been moving in this direction for a while. These days the average person reportedly changes careers between 3-7 times in their lifetime. Work is becoming increasingly fluid.

More to the point, working remotely and per-gig gives you the flexibility to work around your ideal lifestyle. Just think about how much time you waste every single day traveling to and from the office. Even by working the exact same hours, many people could save hundreds of hours on travel each year.

You’ll be able to take days off when it suits you, or change your hours around as you see fit. You could work an extra two hours Monday to Thursday and take Fridays off. This is called “lifestyle design,” which basically means fitting your job around your life, rather than the other way around.

Where to go from here

It’s important to prepare for this change, and make sure it will ultimately prove positive for you. Remember to bulk up your CV with the right qualifications and experience. You’ll be competing with pretty much everyone else on the web, meaning you need to work even harder to make yourself the perfect candidate. You need to build a personal brand to become that “superstar” companies on the other side of the world want to hire.

Keep it tuned to Android Authority’s Future Jobs section to learn precisely how to do that and prepare yourself for the brave new world! We’ll be exploring how to make the most of this new gig economy, and how to train yourself for those jobs that will be in high demand in the coming decades.

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