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The Good, the Challenging, and the Messy of Working for Yourself in the New Gig Economy

In the new Gig Economy, growing numbers of people have moved from traditional office jobs to working lots of bit jobs, called gigs.

Everyone knows that freelancing means you get to goof off all day, hang out with friends all evening and sleep late every morning. You never shower, you eat a lot of cereal, and you’re always free to attend your niece’s birthday parties. You’re the life of the party, right?

Not always! Freelancing in the Gig Economy offers its share of perks; but just as with working for a traditional company, freelancing has positives and negatives. Some features are a little bit of both. In the end, a successful freelancer looks for the positives, works around the challenges, and hopes the income at least comes close to making up for the headaches inherent in working for oneself.


Good: You run the coffeehouse.

Making your own coffee with your own coffeepot, your own choice of beans, your own mug. Every day. It doesn’t get much better than that.


Good: Meeting lots of new people, building ongoing relationships but also having new people to interact with all the time.

This applies to clients as well as to network connections in my field.


Good: You present whatever image of yourself you want.

Your image is part of your currency. Here’s my freelancer profile picture. I get all the jobs I need this way, but my life more closely resembles the second picture, a lot of the time. I really enjoy the fun of presenting and working as my persona.



Challenge: You have to watch your own back all the time.

Those hiring freelancers by the gig tend to want a lot for a little, such as content for a full website for $25. This is complicated by the fact that today’s freelancer is competing on a global scale, directly with freelancers from international sources who are willing to work for almost nothing. This not only takes the job elsewhere but reinforces to buyers that they can get the work for rock-bottom prices. Granted, when you hire a freelancer there is a discount because you don’t have to deal with the overhead of a company, and the Gig Economy is part of the engine that has helped it happen. But there is a point of diminishing returns. Freelancers still need to make money.


Challenge: You are responsible to train yourself.

No more corporate training. Because you don’t work for a company that has an image consultant, you have to work harder and market yourself. Every time. If needed, you are responsible to teach yourself cutting edge topics like SEO or cloud computing, and sometimes also have to prove you know both US and UK English.


Challenge: When you aren’t with a company, you have higher expenses.

This challenge demonstrates where freelancing excels as a second income. When a partner’s job covers living expenses and health benefits, a freelancer gets to enjoy the positives of freelancing without as much overhead. Taking it to a primary career level means higher requirement for consistent income, at a percentage higher level than the same job in a traditional company to account for those expenses.


Messy: Freelancing inherently demands an irregular workload.

Sometimes you won’t have enough work to cover expenses, but sometimes you may have too much to accomplish in the time available. You learn to work with this ebb and flow by using the down times to catch up on errands, phone calls, dishes, or just staring at the wall. And sometimes, occasionally, the load lands just right, like a perfect spring day.


Messy: Technology has advanced to the point you can work from anywhere.

Including vacation. This is messy because maybe the freelance work is the bonus cash that made the vacation possible. Or maybe the random gigs that come in might just happen to come during a moment when you’re away. And that client may go elsewhere. So it’s great that a freelancer can continue the work anywhere and still go on vacation. But, really? Who wants to think about work while on vacation? Sometimes freelancers are too accessible, with “just one more quick thing” coming up repeatedly during time that could have been better used just relaxing.


Messy: Customer service in the Gig Economy is a delicate matter.

The careful freelancer works to over-deliver every order, spending more time than the job pays to make sure it’s all perfect, to protect a fragile reputation. This may make for happy customers, but also translates to lost income. With time the freelancer learns how to balance the speed and quality of work with the amount of pay. The advantage here goes to the one who can say no, who is brave enough to let some jobs pass by, knowing that other better jobs will come along.


Truth: Freelancing is not inherently the perfect job any more than a traditional job.

It’s just another way to work, and it provides a different source of income to those with non-traditional situations. The day may not end in time for prime time, but when it does you get to sleep with the satisfaction of having been in charge of your own destiny for another day.


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