Advice

Getting Started in the Gig Economy

For most people, the hardest part about succeeding in the Gig Economy is getting started.

This is normal.

Society and the media continue selling the idea of a single, stable job as the real-world possibilities for this evaporate. To reach your full potential you need to embrace the opportunities that the Gig Economy offers. Get yourself out there. Find your niche. Make yourself known. Success, satisfaction and money will follow.

First Steps

Clearly, the Gig Economy is less predictable than a ‘career’ has traditionally been – at least less predictable than a career was 50 years ago. When getting started, don’t forget your basic needs. You still need somewhere to live, something to eat and people to share your life with. Success is hollow without human connection.

Assets

How you approach this will depend on your current situation, your assets (both personal and financial) and your skills.

If you have the privilege of being able to live cheaply with family or friends – use it. Everyone needs help to get established. It is a sign of strength to understand when you need help and to accept it with humility. Don’t see it as a step back or an imposition. Taking temporary measures to minimise your cost of living will let you focus more time and energy on building a sustainable independent income.

If you have money saved away for a rainy day then consider how stormy your situation really is. While it can cost money to money, especially in the early stages, consider the risks and rewards. Spending a portion of your savings on a new camera, programming courses or art supplies may be necessary to start up your project – but also take time to find alternative avenues. Perhaps you can borrow a camera once a week? Perhaps you can learn what you need to online for free? Perhaps you can use a computer at the library instead of buying your own?

It is a sign of strength to understand when you need help and to accept it with humility.

Skills

It may seem obvious, but how you get started is likely to be determined by the skills you already possess. If you’re already able to do something that people will pay for then it makes sense to start by monetising this – even if it isn’t your ultimate goal. Embracing the Gig Economy doesn’t necessarily mean only pursuing your passion. You can start by shifting to greater independence and control in your current field then use this a stepping stone to an alternative path. If you’re working in graphic design but keen to branch out then picking up some freelance graphic design work is a logical starting point. From there, you can work on building your personal brand, portfolio and online presence to move into other areas of interest.

While you may not feel like you have any skills that can be traded, consider the vast arena of (relatively) unskilled gigs. These are gigs that don’t require any specific training or experience to get started, such as online trading or completing surveys. Your personal qualities can still influence how well you perform in these roles, so it’s worth looking over your options and working out which best suit you.

Building Your Gig Portfolio

The immense range of potential avenues can initially be overwhelming. Don’t fear – we’ve all been there.

You may already have a good idea of where you want to focus your efforts. If you’ve always wanted to turn your hobby into a full-time pursuit then this step may be simple (though it probably won’t be easy). It’s important to consider your options seriously regardless. I’ve met many people who found tying their passion to money drained it of enjoyment and led them to regret the move.

If you’re not sure how you want to make money – take a look at The Gig Shortlist for inspiration. Think about what will most likely provide an adequate income but also think about what you will enjoy, what you will find fulfilling and how much time or effort each would require. You may be able to start something immediately if you have readily marketable skills (e.g. graphic design) or resources (e.g. an empty room just waiting to be listed or a car that’s ready for ridesharing). You may also need to invest some time and/or money to get things off the ground (e.g. craft supplies and production or a typing course).

Diversify

One of the key advantages of the Gig Economy is the ability to diversify your work. By dividing your time between multiple avenues of income you can keep your work interesting, have greater control over how and when you work, and protect yourself against market fluctuations. Many gigs will see fluctuations over time – demand for Airbnb properties, for example, is often seasonal and will change with local events and the overall economy. Unless you have the rare fortune to find a niche of high demand and reliable returns, it would be wise to avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. For most people, this means a mix of income streams including some that are interesting and enjoyable with others that are purely to keep money coming in. Interest and enjoyment won’t pay your rent or put food on your table.

By dividing your time between multiple avenues of income you can keep your work interesting, have greater control over how and when you work, and protect yourself against market fluctuations.

Where to next?

Making a living in the Gig Economy is hard work. If all of this is confusing or intimidating then take a step back and breathe. It’s scary to take the power and responsibility for your livelihood into your own hands – especially when you’ve grown up being sold the ‘dream’ of working a steady 9 to 5 job for life. You aren’t the first person to feel this way and you certainly won’t be the last. Subscribe for ongoing advice and inspiration for surviving in the Gig Economy. We’re here to help.

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