For those working in the gig economy, it is an opportunity to trial a new business idea, while still continuing paid work.
A freelance lifestyle is nothing new but there has been such a fundamental change in how many people are working that a new term, the ‘gig economy’, has been coined to match.
The gig economy takes its inspiration from the working lives of performing artists who usually move from one short-term paid job to another, gigging as they build their reputation and their careers.
This new way of working has now become mainstream, enabled by technology (the ‘uberisation’ of services) and a genuine change in outlook from a new generation of workers who want to spend more time with family, pursuing travel or hobbies, as well as finding inspiring work that pays the bills.
The idea of a traditional nine-to-five job with a fixed salary has become less appealing and many people are excited by an entrepreneurial challenge.
Platforms like Etsy have allowed designers and craft makers to sell their goods internationally online and popular short-term accommodation platforms like LoveHomeSwap and Airbnb have turned many into micro-entrepreneurs.
There is much in the media at the moment about the gig economy potentially exploiting workers, but working mothers, guardians and carers can undoubtedly benefit, not least with the chance to work the hours that they have available and to fit their career around their other responsibilities.
What we now need to see is further training and support for gigging entrepreneurs, as well as government, banks and pension providers start to address the needs of this new type of worker by offering products, services and tax breaks that suit.
For those working within the on-demand, gig economy, the burden of success is solely their responsibility. To some people this sounds exciting, to others, terrifying.
However, many aspiring female entrepreneurs could do well with a gig approach to their new business dream. Research shows that women fear failure more than men.
RBS Group found that 42 per cent of women they surveyed were reluctant to start their own business because they were worried that it would not succeed.
Cause4’s own experience working in partnership with Santander on their Women in Breakthrough Business programme, which is a mentoring scheme for women in fast growing companies, reveals that female entrepreneurs are less likely to apply for external funding and when they do they often ask for less than male entrepreneurs.
So how might the gig economy improve things for female entrepreneurs?
It offers an opportunity to trial a new business idea, at the same time as continuing other paid work.
In that way, a woman who wants to start a business can build confidence and a track record before making the leap to receiving their income solely from their own business. They don’t need to break ties with their existing career and can move from one project to another until the time is right.
On-demand and flexible
For those wanting to take the plunge into this on demand, flexible style of working it’s easier if you keep the following four things in mind:
– Your manager is you. You’ll need to look for work, presenting your skills to new employers and researching opportunities for work. Doing the work itself is one thing, but you’ll need to manage your time and set objectives like any other business leader.
– Invest in yourself. It’ll be important to keep your skills and qualifications up to date, gaining accreditation where necessary. Set aside a budget for your own ongoing training and development and keep connected to other gigging entrepreneurs and freelancers to share experiences.
– You are now a business. Keep an eye on the finances, have a business plan and gather the resources you need. Look after your cash flow – it’s the main reason that businesses fail, and don’t diversify too quickly. Successful small businesses always maximize their expertise before moving on too quickly.
– Networking. Stay in touch with your professional community to keep informed about industry changes, useful contacts and partnership and job opportunities.
The gig economy has changed today’s working world. A new freedom is on offer for those who want to embrace the flexibility and adventure of working for themselves, how this impacts on employers is another story, but for now it’s a seller’s market – gigging is here to stay.
About the author
Michelle Wright is the founder and CEO of Cause4