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The work environment that our parents and grandparents once knew does not really exist anymore. The economy is ever-changing, and the Internet Age has seen rapid developments that have revolutionized the way we experience work.  The nature of our work will continue to change for a variety of reasons.

But what does it take to be successful?

First and foremost, the current economy demands a knowledge-based workforce. This generally means that workers need to be highly skilled and educated in a given area to solve problems and adapt to new situations.

Second, many traditional industries were decimated by the economic crisis of 2008. Some industries that did survive the downturn were disrupted by technological advancements. And third, these same technological advancements make it easier for work norms to shift in a new direction.  Making money via the “gig economy” is one of those new potential work norms.

There is not much consensus on exactly how fast the gig economy is growing, and how much of the workforce will be swept up in it. Conservative data shows that about 30% of the workforce will be gig workers by 2020, while other sources put the number as high as 43%. The share of the U.S. workforce in the gig economy rose from 10.1% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015.

During the same period, the number of self-employed workers rose by more than 19%. While no one knows exactly how many people will be affected by these changes in the workforce, it is clear that the gig economy is here to stay.

Alternative Work Arrangements

When people hear the term “gig economy,” they generally think of Uber drivers or Airbnb hosts, but there’s so much more to it. There are countless ways to market your skills, or simply begin freelancing in your spare time without having to become a full-fledged entrepreneur. For example, you could moonlight as a freelance writer or do contracted PR work.

You could also find clients as a professional therapist, accountant, or any number of other professions. For those who have years of experience in a given field, you might try consulting for different companies in your industry on a part-time basis.

If you’re not already taking part, here are a few reasons to consider taking the plunge:

  • Traditional jobs are not that stable anymore – As technology and automation continue to reduce labor costs and the need for human workers, layoffs have become more commonplace. Doing your own thing can be a great way to create more flexibility in your life while maintaining your income.
  • It’s good to have a fall back – In uncertain times, having a Plan B can help you weather the storm and protect your finances. Finding freelance work or additional gigs can be a great way to earn income when you are in between jobs, or when you simply want to ramp up your earnings. Many people also want to make money from their hobbies. For example, some freelance writers build blogs that allow them to have multiple revenue streams.
  • Autonomy – While some people like the structure of working at a traditional job, many yearn for more freedom and flexibility. Being self-employed allows you to decide how you run your business and make decisions. You decide who to work with, who to hire (if needed), and if you don’t like something, you have the ability to change it.
  • Fulfillment – With greater responsibility and control over your work, you might also have a greater sense of purpose in your job. You can make your work as meaningful and impactful as you want. When you control the work, you also control your long-term goals and how you plan to reach them.
  • You don’t need to start from scratch – Many newcomers worry that they will need to start making money from nothing and put a completely new system into place. The reality is that most gig jobs rely on centralized platforms that serve as an intermediary between you and your clients.  You can use these platforms to get you off the ground.
  • You don’t need to dive in head first – Starting small is a great way to experiment with gig jobs before deciding whether or not to attempt full-time entrepreneurship. Many gig workers have found success on centralized platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, but there are often specialized platforms for specific industries. Naturally, when you feel more confident, you can move away from these platforms to have greater control over your work. Once you have a client base, following, and reviews, you can leave the apps behind and do things your own way.

Are you interested in working in the gig economy? Do you have a skill that could translate into self-employed income? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us!

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