The gig economy is the new reality for workers and companies. If you aren't sure you believe that, all you have to do is look at the numbers.

Statistics compiled by Jobble, an on-demand workforce platform, vividly illustrate the growth in the gig economy. Among the sources cited, the Pew Research Center found that nearly a quarter of all Americans have reported making money from the digital "platform economy." Meanwhile, 53 million Americans--just over a third of the country's workforce--are working as freelancers.

Living the Gig Dream

Many freelancers say that they never would have had the career they have now a decade ago. Thanks to the internet, new technologies, and companies that realize the financial and strategic benefits of an on-demand workforce, today's workers understand they don't have to choose a traditional position.

Those working in the gig economy will tell you just how much it's changed their lives. A WBUR segment on the future of work related the stories of numerous gig workers who went from traditional jobs to gigs. Most ended up making more money but working fewer hours, and some even doubled their annual income. In addition, they were able to set their own schedule and enjoy more personal time in the process. They liked the idea of having greater control over their work and lives.

Things to Consider About Being a Gig Worker

While there are many great things about the gig economy for workers, there are also many issues that must be factored into working this way. When surviving on gigs, there is a significant level of uncertainty about future revenue. Some gig workers have been able to lock in clients that give them steady work over time to alleviate some of this uncertainty, but not all of them. This means most gig workers realize they have to really hustle to ensure they make a monthly income that meets their expenses and financial goals.

Also, freelancers in the gig economy do not receive benefits as a traditional worker would. As a result, they have to cover their own health insurance, retirement funding, and vacation time. All of this requires special planning. However, it also opens up opportunities for other companies to serve what has become a brand-new target audience, including creating benefit products and other services just for gig workers.

That's one reason companies are smart to embrace the gig economy, too. As EY notes in its global report on the gig economy, it can be a significant game changer for companies. On the one hand, it means changing the talent they hire and their cost basis; on the other, it suggests new revenue streams they can generate by serving these freelancers.

In fact, even small businesses and startups can tap into the incredible talent now available, whereas they might not have been able to afford such professionals if they had to hire them on a full-time basis. When tapping this talent, it's important to have a clear picture of how you want to use gig workers for specific projects. Also, you should think about how you can retain them over time to assist on future projects.

The Gig Economy Disrupts Industries

Some companies view the gig economy as a chance to change their industries and generate new opportunities for revenue and growth. Paro, a successful Chicago upstart, has decided to use the gig economy as a framework for reinventing the accounting industry. According to Michael Burdick, Paro's CEO and founder, "accounting firms are behind the times. The frontline staff does all the work, but the partners get all the profit," Burdick says. "The success of these firms is also predicated on in-person interactions in a world that's increasingly digital and virtual."

To design the next generation of accounting firms, the company developed a marketplace where clients can connect with the top 2 percent of vetted finance talent. This marketplace provides freelancers and companies with important resources, including tools for tracking time, processing payments, improving task management, and ensuring compliance. Freelancers in Paro's network are able to handle everything from the basics like bookkeeping and taxes to more complex financial tasks, such as CFO guidance, financial modeling, and development of key performance indicators.

Using this innovative gig economy platform for accounting and financial expertise allows many of the company's clients to significantly reduce expenses by leveraging the talents of Paro's freelance network, regardless of physical location. "We're able to connect the right people to the right projects based on relevant industry and subject matter expertise rather than geography," Burdick says. "Clients are charged what they actually spend on an hourly basis, and the freelancers are fairly compensated for their hard work. Everybody wins."

Opportunities Abound

Accounting is just one example among many industries being transformed by the gig economy. It's the new global reality. I recently spoke to Jess Ostroff for my podcast, FUTUREPROOF. Ostroff is the founder of Don't Panic Management, a company that specializes in virtual assistants (you can listen to the whole episode below). She's one of many entrepreneurs who have realized that the gig economy can be a boon, especially for those looking for virtual work.

The Future of Virtual Work ft. Jess Ostroff (Author, Panic Proof)


There is an incredible opportunity for industries of all kinds--from consumer-oriented products and services to B2B to manufacturing--to access the talent they need to fill in skills gaps and provide cost-effective solutions for projects. Along the way, companies will be able to tap into new digital processes that allow them to meet expectations for greater speed and service delivery. Are you finding ways to thrive in this new reality?