The gig workforce has been expanding rapidly since the Great Recession, so much so that the number of independent workers in America has already surpassed total employment in the information sector and is quickly gaining on the finance sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The transition is so prevalent that businesses must adapt to the new economy or risk outsized labor costs.
"We're seeing only one trend here, which is that the gig economy is big and getting bigger," Diane Mulcahy, a lecturer at Babson College and author of "The Gig Economy," told the Washington Post. "Companies will do just about anything to avoid hiring full-time employees. Add to that the fact that there is no job security anymore, and workers are increasingly aware that they need to work differently if they want to create any sort of stability for themselves."
The tide is certainly shifting. Still, statistics and trends can only indicate what's likely for you. They can't conclude what's beneficial to you. It's important to consider the implications of the gig economy because opportunities for independent work will no doubt present themselves to you over the course of your career.
1. You have more opportunities to create meaningful work.
The disconnect between employees and their organizations is wide and growing wider. Despite the fact that 81 percent of Americans believe in the potential positive impact of businesses, a mere 36 percent actually trust business leaders to act in alignment with environmental and societal values. This discrepancy drives many workers to self-employment, where they seek opportunities to harmonize their work with their core values.
Entrepreneurs are seizing this opportunity to help freelance workers connect with meaningful work. Trevor Foster, founder and CEO of talent cloud platform Fulcrum, embraces this trend. "I love the fact that people are realizing that they can forego the perceived safety of full-time employment to contribute their unique skills, experience, education, and passions to the world at large," says Foster, "whether that's a would-be employer, a nonprofit, another individual, or anything else. I believe it's opening up unbelievable opportunity for our society."
2. Job security is being redefined.
Perhaps your greatest misgiving about the changing economy is the call to sacrifice the security promised by the traditional 9-to-5 job. And yet, this corporate safety net is becoming increasingly frayed. As more jobs are outsourced or automated, the resultant downsizing means that a stable future is no longer guaranteed by corporate tenure.
Now, stability looks like freelancing for multiple clients, supplementing a salary with side hustles, strategizing nontraditional retirement savings, and making sure your skills are valuable enough to get you hired for project after project. As the gig economy booms, options are multiplying that may help freelance workers thrive. Startups like Stride Health aim to provide security by finding healthcare solutions for independent workers, and even some states are working on initiatives to tamp down premiums for independent policyholders.
3. Your career is in your own hands.
Maybe, on the flip side, the prospect of independence is so alluring that you've already determined to nix your office job. Being your own boss does mean more flexibility, but it also means increased responsibility. You are your own HR rep, your own career coach, and your own account manager. You may find this exhilarating, but it's important to consider the costs.
Employers relying on the gig workforce are after one thing: deliverables. They're not willing to invest in your future in the same way that traditional companies used to be. They won't foot the bill for your training and professional development, so consider what this will mean for you before you venture out into the world of independent work.
As the gig economy changes the nature of work, most people in traditional employment arrangements will venture out on their own at some point. The changing landscape is making that dream increasingly possible for more workers. Consider the implications now, so you are well poised to take control of your career in the years ahead.