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What is the Gig Economy?

Have you ever considered becoming an entrepreneur?  According to Randstad Canada, "if you add up all the contingent workers, freelancers, independent contractors and consultants, you are talking about 20 to 30 per cent of the Canadian workforce being "non-traditional workers" already. That percentage is only going higher. Eighty-five per cent of the companies surveyed by Randstad figure that they will increasingly move to an "agile workforce" over the next few years".1 This phenomenon is often referred to as the "Gig Economy", which moves away from permanent, full time work and towards contracts and freelance work.  While gigs used to be associated with performers such as actors and musicians, the gig economy can provide opportunities in many different categories including drivers, couriers, graphic design, website design, IT, and writing and copywriting.  Employers often prefer this arrangement over hiring full time employees because they don't have to pay for benefits or office space and because it gives them more flexibility with their salary expenses.  From the employee perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages to the Gig Economy.  The main advantage that you gain is independence; you can set your schedule and determine when and where you work as well as which projects you accept.  The drawbacks to this type of work is that your schedule will vary and your finances will be unpredictable.  Freelancers and contractor workers always have to hustle to find new contracts, even if they have been in business for a long time.  Also they don't receive holiday pay and sick pay like full time employees.  Here are a few steps to take if you are thinking about starting your own side hustle:

Figure out what you want to do.  Your goal is to find something that you can do that fits in with your skills and abilities and that is also in demand.  The reality is that this will probably only work if you find something that you would enjoy doing.  Make a list of your skills and experiences.  What are you good at?  What are your passions?  What do you do in your spare time?  Once you have a list, do a little research to figure out if your product or service is something that individuals or businesses would be willing to pay for.       

Make a plan to find work.    Imagine that you have just made the decision that you are going to design and sell personal greeting cards.  That's great!  What now?  Even if your cards are beautiful, people won't buy them if they don't know about them.  Identify your target audience; who would be most likely to hire you?  What exactly are they looking for?  What is it about you that would be attractive to them?  How are you different from your competition?  How can you reach your potential customers?  Figure out how you are going to reach them to let them know what you have to offer.

Set clear goals.  So many people have a dream of a business they would like to start 'someday'.  For many people, that day never arrives.  The reality is that it won't happen unless you make it happen.  A great way to push yourself is to set a goal and to commit yourself to it.  For example, you could set the goal of creating your website by the end of the year.  You could even purchase the domain name to give yourself a little push.  It also helps to tell your friends and family about your goal so that they can help keep you accountable.  

Get your finances in order. Since the amount of money that you earn from contracts can vary significantly, it's important that you have a clear picture of your financial situation.  Establish a budget and stick to it.  You need to know how much you have to bring in to cover your expenses.  If you are currently working, don't quit your job.  It might take more time than you realize to make a profit with your gigs.

Be persistent.  A lot of businesses fail and many people who do have successful businesses failed with the first business they started.  It takes time and commitment to be successful with this and it won't happen overnight.  A good approach might be to keep it as a side hustle and to try to view it as a hobby.  If and when you start to make a profit, you can re-evaluate.  However, if you are working full time, it's important that you stay honest.  Don't use company time and resources for your business endeavours.   

If you are thinking that the Gig Economy sounds like a lot of work, you would be right.  It's a constant hustle.  However, when you consider that it seems to be the direction that the economy is headed, it makes sense to get in the game.  It also gives you an opportunity to explore a passion or a skill that you aren't able to use in your day job.  Don't waste your time by sitting on the fence; just give it a try and see what happens!



(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by