The Gig Economy

Gig (/ɡiɡ/ )
Informal noun. Plural: gigs
1. A live performance by or engagement for a musician or group playing popular or jazz music. 2. A job, especially one that is temporary.

If full-time, permanent, salaried positions are difficult to find in the area you want to work (as is often the case in creative fields), gig work, freelancing, or a side hustle related to your interests could be a good way to gain experience and build your resume. Gig work can also be a path to meeting life’s practical obligations while honing your craft or perusing creative goals. Sounds interesting…but, wait…what’s the Gig Economy?

A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations and companies contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. Over 70 percent of Americans have used a shared or on-demand service, such as Uber or TaskRabbit, and one-third of American workers are now engaged in some kind of freelancing, project-based work, either as primary or secondary jobs. The trend toward a gig economy is projected to continue growing and many people will go back and forth between contractor and employee roles for periods of time in our evolving economy. This work model goes by many names: the sharing economy, the gig economy, the side hustle, the on-demand, peer, or platform economy. Technological innovation and increasing globalization are in part behind the rise in short-term jobs and the growth of the Gig Economy. The digital age allows for alternative work arrangements, an increased decoupling of job and location, and a workforce that is geographically mobile and can be productive from various locations. This allows many workers to choose temporary jobs and projects internationally, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than that available in any given geographic area.

Workers included in the Gig Economy are often freelancers – self-employed workers who offer services or goods to businesses, organizations, or individuals and often work with multiple clients at a time. There are numerous types of freelance work. In fact, nearly every type of service a business would need could be provided by a freelancer, including marketing, such as social media marketing, copywriting, and publicity; writing, such as articles and blog posts; technological support, such as web programming and design; creative works such as graphic design and branding; and financial support, such as bookkeeping and tax work.


Benefits of Gig Work and Freelancing

  • Gig work can allow you to explore multiple interests. Many creative people have numerous and varied interests and passions. You may be an artist who loves photo editing. Maybe your background is writing, but you’re really interested in culinary arts. You may even be a musician who is good at web design. No matter your situation, multiple gigs allow you to explore a variety of interests, instead of For many creative and media jobs, networking is a fundamental to establishing and advancing a career – and gig work is a great way to build connections. Multiple gigs serve as the perfect gateway to making meaningful connections with a variety of people. After all, the more people you know in your respective industry, the higher your chances are of getting work.
  • Maintaining multiple gigs seems challenging because it involves balancing more than one position. However, successfully managing more than one gig can illustrate a positive work ethic and effective multitasking is an important skill in any work environment.
  • Freelancing is flexible; you can set your own hours, working full or part-time on the projects of your choice. While clients offer specifications to the work, a freelancer generally controls how the work is completed. Freelancing allows you to set your own price, which is often higher than what you'd make as an employee doing the same work, because the employer is not investing financially in your benefits. The regularity of freelance work can vary. Freelancers could work for the same set of clients over a long period of time. For example, a freelance writer might have a client that requires an article twice a week ongoing. Others work with clients over shorter periods, usually on specific projects with a fixes timeline, such as a freelance web designer who builds a website for a client and once the site is done, the working relationship ends.
  • Though building a career with multiple gigs is a more ‘outside the box’ path, it can help creative people continue to expand their skills and knowledge, respond with flexibility to the ever-evolving world of work, and lead more fulfilling and balanced professional lives because they are working in the areas they are truly interested in.


Challenges of Gig Work and Freelancing

  • It can take time to build a robust and steady enough clientele for freelance work or your side hustle to supports your financial needs. Initial investment in materials, equipment, and marketing your gig or side hustle may be required.
  • Work can be irregular. Many gig workers experience ebb and flow in their work. You need to plan for lean times, and be ready to extra time and effort to stay on schedule when work is plentiful.
  • Managing multiple clients and projects can be a challenge. While some people like the variety of working on several projects at a time, others may find it difficult to keep track of deadlines deliver quality work on time. Strong time management and organization skills are key.
  • In addition to regular income tax, freelancers are responsible for paying a self-employment tax (the current rate is about 15%), which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes that employees have taken out of their paychecks automatically by employers.
  • Those who work in the gig economy are earning money, but missing out on other standard benefits of traditional employment including health care, worker’s compensation insurance, and paid leave. Companies in the gig economy provide flexible schedules with minimum employer responsibilities, including not offering benefits.

Some groups and economists are advocating for state or federal legislation that charges a fee on gig-economy transactions to create an independent fund that would provide what are known as “portable benefits” – benefits that a worker accrues by working that can be accessed even when moving from job to job. But, until there’s a policy change in the current structure of the gig economy, a realistic assessment of your needs – both currently and in the future – regarding benefits is very important.


Additional Resources




Online Porfolio Sites

  • Cargo (online porfolio site). Please visit Handshake for the Student Code which offers free access to this service.
  • Wix
  • SquareSpace
  • And many others!