Why the economy is shifting towards the freelance and gig world

24 September 2018 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read
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Changing business and societal norms, a change in perspectives and changes in career goals coupled with a shift in generational work ethics have combined to make work a part of a lifestyle as opposed to a distraction from it. The gig economy is on the brink of changing it all, writes Thomas Oppong, author of ‘Working in the Gig Economy’ and an expert in the professional services landscape. “The gig economy means having your work go where you go versus having your work chain you to a desk in an office five days of each week.”

One of the greatest contributors to the gig economy was the recession. When companies and corporations of all sizes began to downsize, and jobs became scarce, creating an own income was the only way many people could make ends meet. Consequently, stringing together a series of small jobs to equal the pay of a single full-time job started as a temporary fix, and grew into an entire cottage industry – known as the gig economy.

What it means is that work today is far different from ten or twenty years, or a generation ago. Full-time employment, fighting to climb the corporate ladder, and building a business for someone else is no longer the go-to career choice. The gig economy is taking over and shifting from side hustle to full time income stream. It’s evolving to include men and women of all ages and independent contractors from all fields, including management and digital consulting.

Why the economy is shifting towards the gig world

With a variety of studies predicting that up to a full third of the workforce in the next ten years will consist of freelancers, the question looms: how and why is the economy shifting towards the gig world? There are a number of factors driving the emergence, growth, and longevity of the gig economy.

Previous generations viewed employment as a 9-5 workday that put money in the bank, food on the table, and offered job security and retirement income. The shift in mindset means a career is less about a job and more about a feeling of accomplishment, working less hours and doing work you enjoying while earning a livable income. What other contributing factors and recent innovations have led to the emerging and thriving freelance economy?Why the economy is shifting towards the freelance and gig world

  • Ease of entry: The gig economy has virtually no barriers of entry. Almost anyone with a specialised skill set or well-defined niche can set up shop. The move from full-time employee to freelance consultant for instance has never been easier. It’s also more feasible to engage in a traditional job while preparing to enter the gig economy when ‘moonlighting’ was frowned upon.
  • Affordability: Starting a career in the gig economy can be as affordable as getting the right equipment and establishing an internet connection via WiFi. The vast majority of people already own most of the equipment it takes to create their gigs (usually a laptop and mobile device) and WiFi is accessible and affordable everywhere from an own home to fast food restaurants to coffee shops.
  • Digital technology: From email to productivity tools, smartphone capability and technology enables freelancers to carry an entire suite of office apps and software in their pockets. Laptops and tablets provide complete functionality that at one time could only be found in a brick and mortar office.

How the economy is shifting towards the gig world 

As the gig economy takes a foothold in the business world, the growth of small business is spurring it along. Small business owners are huge contributors to the gig economy because they provide the opportunities and require the services of freelancers in major ways. Savvy small business owners spend their time focusing on their core competencies and the research, development, and marketing necessary to grow their businesses. What happens to the other moving parts that go into running their businesses? That’s where freelancers come in.

Contracting the services of freelancers allows small business owners to collaborate with a variety of service-based providers. It allows them to outsource services like graphic design, IT support, content management, blogging, social media management, grant writing, editing, event management – the list is endless. For more strategic and organisational work, small business owners typically tap the services of independent consultants.

Freelance services further allow small business owns to purchase the services they need in affordable chunks. With the absence of long-term contracts that lock them into a service whether they use it or not, small business owners and entrepreneurs view the freelance economy very favourably.

“Today’s gig workers demand flexibility that complements their lifestyles, freedom to handpick the individuals and companies they work with, and the freedom to set their own rates for the services they offer.”
– Thomas Oppong

Freelance and gig economies let businesses of all sizes get the teamwork they need without a prolonged hiring process. They also avoid the many of the costs and liabilities associated with hiring full or part time staff. The gig economy takes on many forms – and is here to stay – with many traditional jobs giving way to it.

  • The taxi industry is being disrupted by ridesharing in the same way that huge agencies and consultants are giving way to freelancers;
  • Literary agents are seeing a huge number of authors opt for self-publishing as traditional publishing is giving way to Kindle and eBook publishing;
  • Caterers and home-cooked meals are losing ground to meal subscriptions and front door delivery services;
  • Hotels are watching their target market take advantage of home sharing sites and privately owned vacation rentals;
  • Computer specialists are losing ground to IT specialty and consulting services;
  • Advertising agencies are watching as many of their clients use the services of copywriters and graphic designers.

Technology allows the gig economy to flourish all over the world. The value of bite-sized jobs and short-term work is becoming recognised and prized for the boon it is. Today’s workers demand flexibility that complements their lifestyles, freedom to handpick the individuals and companies they work with, and the freedom to set their own prices and rates for the services they offer. 

No longer viewed as the last resort for unskilled or undereducated workers, the gig economy has drawn freelancers from all walks of life and from all over the globe. Technology has made the world smaller, people easier to reach, and face-to-face connections all but unnecessary to success. Freelancers are now composed of talented men and women who make up a well-educated, highly skilled talent pool. Consulting, self-employment, and the multitude of current freelance and gig platforms are the future of freelancing and the reason the global economy is shifting toward the gig world.

Related: UK has 2 million freelancers and the number will continue to rise.