The gig economy is a labor market system where jobs are done by independent contractors and freelancers in a temporary work arrangement. It’s not an entirely new concept, as companies have always hired people temporarily for specific functions. Still, due to technological advancements in the workplace, the number of people working in the gig economy has steadily increased.
A 2022 survey by McKinsey & Company showed that 36% of employed people in the United States identify as independent workers, an equivalent of about 58 million Americans. A recent survey also showed that the number of gig workers in Canada doubled between 2022 and 2023. The global gig economy also has potential to grow in value; a report by Mastercard estimated that transactions related to the gig economy will increase by 17% yearly to about $455 billion in 2023.
Remote work and freelancing
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to work remotely was a major perk in some companies, especially tech companies. Today, working remotely has become a new normal; there are fully remote companies without any brick-and-mortar office locations and many others that offer hybrid work options.
Gig work and remote work are different in the sense that gig work is usually done on a contingent or temporary basis and may be done remotely (e.g. virtual assistant, freelance designer) or on-site (e.g. Uber, DoorDash). Gig workers have flexible schedules and can decide to work for different companies if they wish. Remote work can be done either as a gig worker (e.g. freelance writer) or a full-time employee who works normal office hours but works fully remotely.
How to explore remote work opportunities
Today, many job opportunities have remote or hybrid work options that candidates can choose from. When searching for a job online, there are options that show whether the job is remote or not. For example, LinkedIn jobs will allow candidates to select jobs that are remote, onsite, or hybrid. You can also select jobs based on whether they are full-time, part-time or it’s a contract/temporary position. This is also true for many other job websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.
Outside the traditional job websites, there are websites that are specifically for remote job opportunities such as Remote.co, FlexJobs.com, Remotive.com, RemoteOK.com, etc. These sites offer full-time and contract work opportunities that are either remote or hybrid. Before you apply, take some time to implement some LinkedIn best practices on your profile to make sure you shine and stand out.
Strategies for landing gigs in the current environment
If you choose to work as a freelancer, here are some ways you can improve your chances of getting regular work.
- Know the skills companies are looking for and develop them. According to Upwork, one the largest freelancing websites in the world, the freelance skills most in-demand by enterprise companies are technology, customer service, and marketing. You can develop your skills in these sought-after areas and target hiring companies and individuals for work opportunities.
- Search for companies that hire freelancers and send cold emails, letters of introduction, or your resume. It’s important to be proactive and reach out to companies that need freelancers. Do your research and find the right person to reach out to.
- Learn new skills with online courses! Freelancers are expected to constantly upskill and the more skills you can showcase, the more easily you’ll attract clients.
- Have a good online presence. Many freelancers are active on social media as a way to showcase their work and skills. You can also use relevant content to attract and engage prospective clients, enough for them to want to hire you.
- Understand that the skills and education you have are transferable, so don’t let the relevance of your major in the University deter you from looking for freelancing opportunities. If you are a science major and you prefer not to work in traditional roles in your field, you can take up freelance writing in various scientific fields.
Advantages and disadvantages of freelancing and remote work
Freelancing and working remotely can be beneficial in several ways.
Flexibility: Most people who choose to work as freelancers do it for the flexibility that comes with it. You can decide your own schedule, and how many hours and days you want to work weekly, as long as the client’s work is done within agreed deadlines.
Various income sources: Freelance work means you can take on as much work as you can. This means there’s the possibility of earning more than in traditional employment. Even if you work a traditional job, freelancing can provide the extra income you need to live better.
Digital nomad lifestyle: With freelance or remote work, you can work for any company from anywhere in the world. This opportunity provides the freedom to travel and explore different places around the world, even as you work.
Better work-life balance: freelancing and working remotely can help you maintain a better balance between your work and other aspects of life. Commuting is reduced, and you can plan your work in a way that you’ll still have time for leisure activities or spending time with family.
Freelancing and remote work also have downsides.
Isolation: Working remotely may mean that you are working alone most of the time, without the socializing that happens in a traditional workplace. This may affect your mental health in the long run.
Time difference challenges: Differences in time and location could affect simple things like online meeting attendance, communication, and real-time collaborations.
Time management issues: If you’re not disciplined enough or get distracted by other things, you might find it hard to manage your time and find yourself falling behind in work-related tasks. On the other hand, there are those who find it difficult to unplug after work and are unable to separate work from personal life, especially when working from home.
More work-related expenses: You will spend more on energy bills, internet, and other things an employer would provide in a traditional workplace.
The workplace is dynamic and will continue to evolve, especially with the use of technology. Companies are also interested in providing remote work options because this gives them access to talent in any part of the world. It is expected that there will be more people working remotely in the future; an estimated 255 million people are expected to be working remotely by 2030. Also, the number of freelancers is expected to continue to increase: 50% of the US workforce will be freelancing by 2030. As remote and freelancing opportunities increase, having a good understanding of how to thrive as a gig or remote worker will be very beneficial.