7 Reasons Why the Gig Economy is a Net Positive
Flexibility and variety are just the tip of the iceberg.
Every new development in business brings positive and negative aspects, and the gig economy is no different. While the place and impact of the gig economy within various cultures and countries will continue to be a well-debated topic -- and rightly so -- it’s clear that it offers many benefits. In this article, we’ll examine seven ways the gig economy has enriched our lives.
1. Flexibility in pay and hours.
For those building a life and career inside the gig economy, the configurations of pay and schedule are almost unlimited in possibility. How much you earn can vary depending on either the quantity of work you take on or the difficulty of it. Your pace of work is up to you, and it doesn’t have to be the same week-to-week. You are also free to take vacations and sabbaticals, as no one is holding you to an expectation of availability. Whatever the reason you may need or want complete control of your hours, true flexibility in schedule is a direct benefit and not one that the traditional workplace usually offers.
2. Variety in work.
The gig economy promises constant variety -- whether in the types of people you will meet or the kind of work you will do. You’ll never live the same day twice nor meet the same people at the same times. Many people enjoy the chance to meet people from all walks of life on a daily basis, and the variety in the type of work often prevents people from falling into comfortable ruts of complacency. For people who don't enjoy the sometimes repetitious nature of long-term jobs, this can be a real positive.
3. Poses the possibility of “enough.”
Once people begin to see that time is as valid a currency as money, and that it might be just as important to have control of time as it is to max out earning potential, there’s space to ask the larger questions that most people in traditional jobs don’t ask until they’ve gotten to a certain path in their career: What is it that I really want? Can I configure a life where I earn “enough” while also carving out time for what matters to me? How much longer do I want to be working in these fields?
4. Mimics entrepreneurship.
Many opportunities in the gig economy are enabled by well-run, venture-backed technology platforms. You often don’t have to go to the trouble of creating your own website and hanging a virtual shingle out in the lonely streets of cyberspace. These gig economy platforms help you build an attractive and well-designed profile that makes it easy for potential clients to find and hire you. You can experience some of the benefits of entrepreneurship without the time and cost of building websites and customer acquisition funnels. You also can get a taste of running your own business, albeit with a bit of a safety net. It can be an excellent proving ground for you to strike out on your own should you decide that starting a business is precisely what you want to do.
5. Provides an outlet for personal and financial growth beyond a traditional job.
For those who already have a conventional job and are content there, the gig economy still beckons, with opportunities to earn additional income as well as work on skill sets or passions that their workplace doesn’t allow for.
There are certainly opportunities to use professional skills, such as coding or other business skills outside of work freelance gigs. However, some of what you might consider hobbies may also be useful. Whether that’s selling handmade jewelry on Etsy, taking people on a comedic walking tour of Airbnb experiences or writing poems on Fiverr, you can make money doing hobbies or engaging in pastimes that you would have done for free, but that in this era, can be monetized.
6. A faster on-off ramp for employers.
Employers who are working on projects or are looking to develop positions no longer have to go through a costly and tedious hiring process. They can focus on specific skill sets and hire for them with time-limited horizons. Rather than take the dim view that many media outlets often offer us regarding these opportunities, the savviest workers will see these chances for what they are -- trojan horses to display their skills and enterprise so that employers, having had an opportunity to give you a trial run, can offer you a permanent position once the contract is complete. Many people who started in a simple contract position that was only supposed to be for a few months are now permanent employees. That said, limited-time contracts also give employers the opportunity to simply cut their losses with someone who is a poor fit, rather than go through a long and often unfruitful process of attempted rehabilitation and reintegration if someone has alienated himself from his team or management.
7. Disrupt legacy businesses and patterns and open up social and political conversations.
But perhaps the most important reason the gig economy is a net positive is the fact that the disruptions it causes to entrenched businesses force us to look at the way we think and act more critically. Uber has asked us questions about how we get around and how we pay those who take us around. Airbnb has asked us questions about trust and how we seem comfortable to have “strangers” stay in our homes. It’s also asked us questions about the types of neighborhoods we want to have and what should be considered a commercial property when it comes to renting out a spare room. Disruption doesn’t benefit everyone equally, surely, but that’s the point. Rather than take our established systems for granted and never asking why, we are instead in the position of posing “why not?”
The gig economy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Its share of the total economy is growing rapidly. What remains to be seen is just how many more people will engage in it, not just as users, but as providers. As more people engage in the gig economy, network effects will continue to accelerate its dynamic and positive contributions. We may be looking at not just a workforce trend, but the beginning of a dramatic reshaping of our lives and economy for the better.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor