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Working in the Gig Economy

“Did they say gig economy? What is that?” Despite my millennial status, I had not heard of the “gig economy” until an employer mentioned it in a meeting. As tempting as it was to pretend I knew what that word meant and then Google it later, the look of confusion on my face gave me away. The employer explained that this term is used to describe the high number of independent contractors, or short-term workers, seeking temporary projects or jobs. According to Forbes, “gig” workers represent 34% of the workforce, and will reach 43% by 2020. A Harvard Business Review article reports that approximately 150 million workers left corporate employment and are now independent contractors.

I knew there was a labor market of short-term workers since companies such as Lyft and Airbnb have grown in popularity and provide unique employment opportunities; however, I did not know there was an official term or that “gig” representation was continually growing. Working on jobs that I want, when I want, and where I want? My first thought was, I want to be a “gig” worker when I grow up! While some of you may agree that freelancing sounds like a fantastic route to pursue upon graduation, consider that there are both positives and negatives to working for yourself.

Pros:

  • Diverse work experiences – Engineers are accustomed to project-based assignments, which makes engineering work ideal for the gig economy. A major advantage to freelancing is that you get to pick the projects and by doing so, you can explore different types of projects within various industries.
  • Values and independence – Finding that perfect work/life balance can be challenging; however, as an independent contractor you have control over the hours you work and where you work. Additionally, the struggle to find an employer whose values match yours decreases since independent contractors can select their business partners, clients, and vendors based on similar values.
  • You are your own boss – Yes you are the boss, but you are also the business. Your reputation and history of completed projects is driven completely by you. If you are a self-driven professional who embraces the challenge of defining success, then the gig economy might be for you.

Cons:

  • Inconsistent paychecks – If jobs or projects are inconsistent, your income will vary every month. As a result, financial planning becomes extremely difficult if you do not have a steady paycheck.
  • Individual health insurance – As a result of the new tax bill, there is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance; however, if you do not have health insurance and you require medical attention, the charges can be extreme. The cost of individual health insurance is usually higher than the health insurance offered through an organization.
  • You are your own boss – Maintaining productivity is an endless struggle for freelancers, but even more so if one lacks self-motivation. Not having a manager to report might sound intriguing, but self-discipline is required in order to constantly produce products and services.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” - Ben Parker (Spiderman)

About the author

Danielle Corrigan

Danielle Corrigan is the Employer Relations & Recruiting Manager at Engineering Career Services