The gig economy is where hundreds of millions of people around the world are making their living. Folks from Bangalore to Berlin to Burnaby are working as part-time consultants, contractors, designers, and temporary adders of value with countless other titles. The gig economy is popular because it allows for flexibility and nimbleness for employer/client and employee/contractor. But it’s also eroding the essential role that companies and big public and non-profit organizations play as community builders by providing long term stable employment, benefits and the dignity of consistent work. Whatever your opinion of the gig economy, it’s here and you will probably experience it. Here are seven tips for thriving in the gig economy.
Know your value
Whether you’re a “solopreneur” or a “personal awesomeness architect” (don’t call yourself the latter), it is critical to understand what you’re worth. Know what people will pay you to do, how much they’ll pay you, and what others see in your skills and style that differentiates you from everyone else. Monster.ca’s Valerie Lipow recommends discussing salary and fees with others who are doing similar work in your field through industry events or informational interviews.
#PROTIP: ask 10 people – friends, clients, colleagues, family – to describe the unique value that bring to work and figure out ways to articulate it to the people who might hire you.
Build your brand
Folks working in the gig economy require a strong digital presence that is rooted in the unique value that you bring to projects. Fast Company magazine’s Barry S. Saltzman highlights that it is our personal brands that differentiate use from the competition:
Establishing yourself without credentials is essentially impossible—no matter what you want to do, a degree in something is required. However, there’s one problem with this—everyone looking to establish themselves has that same degree to some extent. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing unique about a business degree when looking for, say, a cozy business job.
Having a great brand doesn’t mean that you’re the loudest person in the room or that you’re always oversharing online. It does mean that you probably take 15-30 minutes every day managing your social channels and journaling about what you learned that day and how to apply such lessons in the future.
#PROTIP: while in the phase of perfecting your gig, offer to help a non-profit organization or charity that you care about with a piece of work at no charge; highlight these kinds of projects on your website or LinkedIn profile so that you have a bank of testimonials to present to future clients. Incorporate the work (and the mission you’re supporting) into your personal online brand.
Grow your network
Over lunches, during events, and through online communities you need to build a professional network. Building authentic relationships with a variety of people is critical for success in the gig economy. There is a science to networking in the right way. Building a network is possible for even the most introverted people. Thousands of articles have been written about how to avoid (or embrace) the awkwardness of networking events and engaging people online, too.
#PROTIP: think less about asking someone for connections or for work and think more about asking where you can assist others.
All kinds of work exists where people face problems or where things don’t exist that are needed. Put yourself at the intersection of your talents, interests and the problems that the world needs you to solve. By leveraging your network and deeply understanding your industry and the needs of potential clients you can determine what the right problem to solve is. Embrace methods like design thinking or the community-inclusive approach used by the Creative Reaction Lab.
#PROTIP: check out this awesome 99u story by Chris Guillebeau about a talented brand strategist named Shenee Howard who interviewed 100 regular people, not experts in the field, to understand their problems, learn from the solutions she provided, and plot her next career move based on the lessons.
Always be shipping
Having a vibrant network is great. Great ideas are awesome. Knowing what problems to solve is essential. But you will always be judged for the value that you’re bringing to an opportunity by your record of shipping work. Average people who deliver consistently add more value to organizations than geniuses who pontificate.
#PROTIP: figure ways to repress what Seth Godin calls “the lizard” and reach your productive potential.
Be financially literate
Millennials will be the generation most impacted by the gig economy. The decline in long-term, pension-earning jobs and the rise of short-term “gigs” means that you should get familiar with financial literacy resources. Members of the gig economy must think ahead. In the absence of a defined benefit pension, which is what previous generations have relied on, it’s important to save an adequate percentage of your earnings in retirement vehicle. If you’re in Canada, that’s an RRSP or TFSA.
#PROTIP: build a budget, follow it and put aside some savings, even if you have to start with a small amount.
Get a reputation
A great one, just to be clear. Combining all of the above ideas and bringing them to life every day in your habits will send ripples through the communities that you serve. Cultivate generosity, presence, decisiveness, own your mistakes, and develop other habits of folks with great reputations. And do it all with resilience and grit because these traits are essential for thriving in what’s a pretty unfair professional landscape.
#PROTIP: define your rules of engagement for work and deliver awesome experiences consistently – over and over and over again.