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Tips for Getting Into the Gig Economy

Tips for Getting Into the Gig Economy

Side hustles, gig-based businesses, or short-term freelance stints. No matter which name you prefer, these employment options have certainly evolved beyond traditional temp work in recent years. And they will continue to expand as more workers look to supplement salaries and retirement income or leave the world of long-term employers and annual W-2 forms behind in favor of freelancing full time. A survey from Intuit Inc. and Emergent Research found that an estimated 7.6 million Americans will be regularly working in the on-demand economy by 2020, more than double the 3.2 million working on demand in August 2015.

Full- or Part-Time Freelancing?

The survey showed more than three-quarters of on-demand providers worked part time, a percentage that might include retirees, people with other jobs, or people working part-time by necessity or choice. But, there are a growing number of Americans who work full-time in on-demand positions.

To be one of these full-time freelancers, you should keep in mind that you will probably be considered an independent contractor by most of your clients. As such, you’ll be expected to keep track of and pay your own taxes and may not be eligible for benefits, including employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement savings accounts. So, before you pen a resignation letter for your current job, it makes sense to explore alternatives, which may include benefits provided through freelancer advocacy organizations, among other options.

Determining Demand

Whether you want to start a side hustle or become a full-time devotee to the gig economy, it makes sense to find a market where you and your services are in demand and where you’ll enjoy the work. Fortunately, there are many ways you can parlay your passions into a paycheck.

For instance, pet owners in the U.S. spent more than $69 billion on their animals in 2017 according to estimates from the American Pet Products Association, and that didn’t all go to pet stores and vet offices. In fact, pet owners spent an estimated $6.11 billion on services including dog walking and pet sitting. What’s more, you don’t have to quit your current job or come completely out of retirement to snag a piece of that growing market while getting exercise or cuddling with cats and canines while their owners are away. Online networks of pet-service providers have made it easier than ever to find clients whose needs fit your schedule and to manage the payment process.

And there are similar networks that allow you to offer your skills in a variety of other areas including everything from home improvement to translation services, another expanding market. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for interpreters and translators will grow by 18 percent—much faster than average—between 2016 and 2026, which is good news for language lovers looking to earn an income.

 Projecting Professionalism

Even if you enroll in an online network, it may make sense to invest in some materials to market yourself and your skills. For instance, a professional-looking website is an excellent way to showcase your services, and, if you’re not tech-savvy yourself, web-design and website maintenance services are becoming increasingly affordable for even the smallest operation. And the investment might help your business boom.

Experts also recommend setting a schedule for your gig work and sticking to it. That means making work time off-limits for socializing with friends. On the other end of the spectrum, you should try to limit work-related calls and emails during your personal time. Although this schedule certainly doesn’t have to fit the traditional five-day work week, keeping it consistent will send a signal to friends, family, and clients that you value your time, and they should value yours in return.

While there are as many ways to succeed in the in-demand economy as there are skills to show off and passions to pursue, these tips could help you start and sustain a successful gig-based business.

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by Lucy Reed // Lucy Reed has been starting businesses since she was a kid, from the lemonade stand she opened in her parent's driveway at age 10 to the dog walking business she started while in college. She created GigMine because she was inspired by the growth of the sharing economy and wanted to make it easier for entrepreneurial individuals like herself to find the gig opportunities in their areas.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.