What is the Gig Economy?

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As an industrial psychologist, one of the topics that my colleagues and I get asked about all the time, is the gig economy. The rise of the gig economy in the recent years has changed the world of work, with taking on freelance jobs and juggling multiple passion projects becoming a norm.


A history lesson

Though it was not a common practice, the concept of holding multiple jobs or taking on ad-hoc projects is not new - it has been in practice since the 18th century! More interestingly, people did not always do it for the money. Rather, they valued the contacts that they made and the fulfilment that they got from doing what they loved, more than financial remuneration .

However, in the time of the Baby Boomers and Generation X, job security became a priority, and it was common for people to stay in a single job for as long as possible, keeping job changes to a minimum. Employers would also take great care of employees and they’d have the job for the rest of their lives.

Unlike the prior instabilities back in the days, the present generation, the Generation Y and the Millennials, live in the age of the Internet - growing up with it and experiencing the power of the Internet firsthand. The increased accessibility of the Internet via mobile technology and the increased access to information, equipped people with the ability to learn just about anything under the sun, anywhere, just with a quick swipe of a finger! This exposure to the world and gaining of new knowledge encouraged people to seek new possibilities, pushing people out of their comfort zones to find better opportunities, thus cueing a new era of alternative occupations and incomes.

Not to mention, the world has never been more affluent than now! So when better than now to seek out new alternative incomes?


The second coming of the gig economy

Cueing in the second coming of the gig economy are four socio-technological phenomena:

  1. It is A LOT easier to learn anything and improve a skill. Information is available to just about anyone and everyone who desires to to learn something and improve themselves.

  2. We have MUCH MORE free time thanks to the automation and computerisation of tasks. With time-consuming but mundane tasks pushed out of the way by the efficiencies of technology, how much time we have and  how we distract ourselves (with television and other pursuits) is another question altogether.

  3. Aspirational Living. We all have aspirations as to what we want to achieve and how we want to live! So instead of following the system and settling for less, why not live the way we want to and do what we love without compromising our livelihoods?

  4. The disruption of the employer-employee social contract. We are pushed to make rapid adjustments and pick-up new skillsets as a means of staying relevant in our organisations and in the industry. With the increasing difficulty of getting jobs, moonlighting is no longer just an option but almost a necessity.


What’s out there?

Today’s gig economy includes a myriad of opportunities, ranging in skill, industry, complexity, and remuneration. Jobs in the gig economy that probably comes to mind first might be driving for a ride hailing app, delivering food, shopping for people, helping out with households chores etc. These are great opportunities and there are even structured ecosystems and companies out there doing them. But that’s not all that there is to the gig economy.

There’s actually a wide variety of jobs and projects requiring a whole host of different skillsets out there. Different types of jobs out there include:

  1. Creative: designer, copywriter, photographer, videographer, animator,

  2. Language: proofreader, translator, writer

  3. Educator: tutor, music teacher, art teacher

  4. F&B: baker, personal chef, barista

  5. Performances: singer, pianist, violinist, guitarist, busker

Essentially, anything you can think of that you can do better than someone else, or something that helps people save time or money, is an opportunity.

Can it co-exist with the rest of my life?

The great thing about being part of the gig economy mean that you don’t have to give up your day job to be a professional freelancer. If you are a student, it doesn’t mean that you have to forego your studies. It can co-exist with whatever you are doing in life.

Many people take on side hustles in addition to their day job. Others take on multiple projects. As cliched as it sounds, the sky is really the limit. It’s all about finding something that you’re good at, learning how to market your skills, finding someone who’d pay you to do it, and balancing that with your other commitments.


How to get a head start?

So, how can you get started and participate in the gig economy? Here are some questions that we usually get from people who are new to the gig economy.

  1. How do I find a side gig?

  2. How do I know what skills are in demand?

  3. Where do I market my skills and abilities?

  4. Where do I find someone who’d hire me?

Being freelancers ourselves, we know how difficult it is to answer these questions. And we wondered why no one had ever built a product which answered them.

Hence, we put everything that we’ve learned over the entire course of our combined freelancing lives into our product — Flair. It’s super easy to use, comes packed with features that you’d find useful, and it’s completely and entirely free. Check it out here. We promise that you’d love it!