Every week, someone asks me about the freelance life. What’s it like to work for The Man all your career and then do your own thing? Lots of people are taking the plunge. Some who have been working from home since the pandemic will never go back into an office and now gig instead.. Others have seen the freedom and benefits of working for themselves. I’m no fortune teller, but I got lucky. My freelance/self-employment career began before the pandemic started. It gave me a chance to get a foothold on it before the latest spurt of growth in the gig-economy.
What Is A Gig?
It’s a one-time job, task or project. I have some regular clients but a lot of my work is made up of single jobs for one client or company that I’ll never work for again. They only need me or my skills once. I do the job, they pay me, and we both go on our way with fuzzy good feelings about the experience.
The gig economy got started with the tech boom of the 90s. Websites like Upwork (one source of my income) and Craigslist kicked things off. In 2008, AirBnB and 2010, Uber, brought the idea of gigging to people who previously never would have thought about it. For example, a cab driver sick of the industry’s regulations or a couple with a granny suite in their home, looking for extra income.
Estimates vary, but somewhere between 30-60% of US workers are in the gig economy. For some, it’s a sideline. For others, it’s their main source of income.
Gigging is growing in Canada too.
Research shows, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the number of Canadians who participate in short-term contracts or freelance work, such as rideshare drivers, freelance writers and graphic designers, or contractors. These gig workers now represent more than one in 10 Canadian adults (13 per cent), and more than one in three Canadian businesses (37 per cent) employ gig workers.”Payment.ca
However, The Globe and Mail reports that self-employment is down in Canada. To me, gigging and self-employment now go hand in hand now. But that’s obviously not how it works for all giggers.
The Upsides of Gigging
Not having to answer to anyone but yourself and your client. Controlling your time. Generally, I work longer hours than I did with a traditional employer, but that’s my choice. No one’s keeping me from doing something else I’d rather do! And if I need an afternoon off, I let myself have it. I’m a tough boss, but I’m also fair!
I make my own rules and don’t have to work with jerks if I don’t want to. I can refuse a job if the demands are unreasonable compared to its rewards. There was a guy who said the voice-over job was 110 words and I bid on it accordingly. When the script arrived it was 20 times that length and should have cost much more. He begged. I begged off. That hasn’t happened much but saying no is a nice option to have as a release valve for stress. And to make sure I’m not taken advantage of.
You need to be good at time management. My personal record is six separate projects coming in at once of various lengths, areas of difficulty, and levels of neediness. If you can’t prioritize and deal with multiple clients who all have immediate deadlines, your head might explode.
It’s not predictable. Maybe you break all sales records one week and the next, you wonder if your email stopped working. There’s no rhyme or reason to the ebbs and flows. You have to be okay with that and plan accordingly. And not lose your confidence in the meantime.
Communication issues. Some company liaisons are experts at communicating clearly. (Anita, I’m talking about you!) And some vanish when you need the answer to a crucial question. Also, the job isn’t a job until it’s a job. Plenty of people will claim they want to hire you in hopes you’ll deliver the work for free before it’s official. Or they don’t have final say and can’t keep their word. Others lowball the fee to a ridiculous degree. There are all types out there. Stickhandling them is a skill to develop. Never do the job until you’ve got the job. And never count on it, either.
It’s a difficult way to start a career. Young people working remotely find they miss out on a lot of things like mentoring and social activities.
What All Self-Employed People Know
Not all giggers are self-employed, but even if you’re just doing some jobs on the side, you have to know or learn about all aspects of running a business. Even if you have an accountant, you need to know a little about keeping the books. This is not news to owners of retail stores. Or artists. The thought of doing a bit of all the jobs, even the ones you hate, might make working for The Man more appealing!
My gigs are voice-overs and some writing. You can gig in trucking or deliveries or making custom signs. Gigging is nothing new but once it went online, it became a monster. If you think you might leap, dip a toe into the waters first. There’s a saying that goes, “Jump and the net will appear.” That’s got merit. You can spend your life considering what-ifs and never make a move. Sometimes jumping is what you need to do. But there’s a lot of value in good planning and knowing what you’re in for, good and bad, before you take that leap.