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Carving out Your Niche in the Gig Economy

Carving out Your Niche in the Gig Economy

The numbers of gig workers in the workforce continue to surge. This means that the opportunities to offer your own services on your own terms have never been more promising. With so many upsides, including picking and choosing your clients and projects, as well as your hours and fees, it’s no wonder as much as 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is involved in gig work.

The demand for temporary roles and skilled talent is unlikely to change, particularly in the post-pandemic era when companies have learned to rely on remote work and project-based tasks. At the same time, the digital world makes it possible to not only find, but also fulfill gig work — providing a gateway to a wealth of contract work once you know how to tap in.

Still, working independently with only your personal wherewithal to steer you through all the possible trials — including new technological territory, tricky client relationships, times of low motivation, and any number of issues that, as a sole contract worker, you must deal with — isn’t for the faint of heart. Before quitting your day job, it’s best to see if gig work agrees with you. Take on an extra gig while still working as a trial run. And, before jumping into the world of gig work, even before you begin crafting a business plan, ask yourself the hard questions that will help you come to terms with your capacity to be your own boss.

For starters, consider the following.

Determine Whether the Service You’ll Offer Lends Itself to Gig Work

Gig work has branched out from the early ride sharing and food delivery adopters in a large way. Today, some high-demand gig roles include customer support, software development, digital marketing, and content writing. Oftentimes, the services that businesses need from contractors are those beyond their own purview — like marketing, web design and management, IT, and more. While you may decide to step down from your current employer and work instead on a contract basis, make sure that you can peddle your services to other companies as well.

Take Stock of Your Expertise with Technology

At a minimum, you will need a web presence, an ability to source and utilize platforms on the digital marketplace, and, in many cases, an online payment account. If all this technology is foreign to you, are you resolved to pick it up on your own? Can you source it outside (which will cut into your profits)? Technology drives the gig economy and a strong comfort level with it is a minimal requirement.

Consider Your Ability to Manage Finances

You will need to either undertake your own accounting or hire someone to provide the service. Importantly, understand your expenses and whether you can make enough to cover them with gig work. With no employer to provide healthcare and savings benefits, figure on adding about 30 percent more to the rate that an employee would make so that you can cover them.

Pinpoint Who Could Be a Mentor or Support Network

As a gig worker, you’re on your own when it comes to problem solving. Similarly, keeping up with technology and trends falls on your shoulders. Do you have former colleagues or classmates, or do you know any gig pioneers who can act as mentors or advisors? Have you been involved in industry associations that you can still tap into? These relationships will prove even more valuable when out on your own.

Ponder Your People Skills

It will take a full measure of self-confidence and sociability to succeed in the gig workforce. Understand that a large portion of your hire-ability will rely on reviews and references from clients. This means that congeniality and the ability to connect well with people must come naturally. In addition, clear, precise, and timely communication must also be a strong suit.

Before you plunge into a new venture as a gig worker, you may want to first test the waters. Start by taking gigs on the side to make sure you not only have what it takes but can find enough work to meet your financial needs. The rewards of gig work can be worth the effort as long as you enter into it thoughtfully and with an appropriate amount of preparation.


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by Vicky Oliver // Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse, 2015), 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep", and Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.