Many employees are leaving their structured desk jobs to break out on their own in what is known as the gig economy. The coronavirus pandemic forced the issue — many lost their jobs or were asked to work from home, leaving them to look for alternatives that give them more freedom and control over their work-life balance and schedules.
The gig economy covers many freelance jobs that can be done online or in-person. Some examples of gig workers include Uber or Lyft drivers, freelance designers or writers, web developers and programmers, and legal aids.
Being your own boss, working whenever and wherever you please, and choosing which customers you’d like to work with seems ideal, but it’s not the full picture of the life of a gig worker. Working freelance comes with many challenges that may outweigh some of the best advantages, so it’s important to examine if you’re cut out for working for yourself and prepared enough to jump into the gig economy.
It’s best to be practical before you make a major career change and look at the drawbacks as much as the benefits. The benefits are easy to define — being your own boss, working remotely from your home or an exotic destination, having a more flexible work schedule, the opportunity to make more money, and not having to commute every day.
But the gig-worker drawbacks are just as important to weigh into your decision. The largest challenge is the lack of job security. You’re solely responsible for landing your own clients and keeping them happy. Gigs usually last for a limited period of time before you need to find a new one.
The gig economy is a competitive one — you’re competing for the same job with freelancers from around the world, many who come from low-income or emerging countries such as the Philippines, Pakistan, and Brazil, and charge rates below your cost of living. You may lose on many bids for work as clients choose the cheapest option. If you’re not comfortable with the constant work required to find new clients, you may not be cut out for gig work.
The Best Gig Economy Jobs
To avoid getting priced out for many of the gigs available, you’ll need to develop a niche or skillset that sets you apart from the competition. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, specializing in more technical writing work, such as medical or scientific writing, may give you an advantage over non-specialist gig workers in order to pass on jobs for content about travel or parenting, which can be filled by nearly anyone from around the world.
When deciding on the type of gig work you’d like to do, it’s a good idea to research market demand to find fields with less competition. Western Governors University shares some of the best gig economy jobs, which include drivers, freelance programmers, handymen, and consulting accountants. Knowing the demand for the work you’d like to do ahead of time can help you find work faster.
Tightening Up Data and Device Security
Most gig workers will work from home. Setting up a home office is a good idea to get off to a professional start. Besides setting up a designated work area at home, it’s important to address your online and device security. The gig worker relies heavily on staying connected to find work, connect with clients, and even complete their gig. Getting hacked or accidentally downloading a virus can cripple your new venture.
Make sure you perform a cybersecurity tuneup for your new venture and implement data security into your new gig work to protect yourself and your business data from being compromised. Some ways you can tighten up your security is by:
- Creating strong passwords for all your devices and applications
- Installing antivirus and malware protection software on your computer
- Keeping all software updated to minimize vulnerabilities
- Setting up business email accounts and keeping personal from business activities separate
Have a Financial Cushion Before You Transition
Leaving your steady job to get into the world of gig work comes with some risk. You may not make enough to cover your living expenses right away. Set aside several months’ worth of funds to make due until you’re working enough to cover your expenses using the income from your gig work.
Besides having an emergency fund, prepay your health insurance coverage, rent, and other necessary expenses, for several months before you leave your job to minimize the pressure while you’re tracking down new gigs.
Transitioning into the freelance world comes with its challenges but it can be a rewarding way to make a living. Do your research, prepare as much as you can, and develop a proactive attitude. Once you’re working for yourself, you’re responsible for all aspects of your work life. If you’re a take-charge kind of person, you will likely thrive as a worker in the gig economy.