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How to survive and thrive in the gig economy

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A gig economy is a global market where businesses and contractors (freelancers, independent contractors, part-time workers) set short-term and on-demand professional relationships that are both flexible and skill-based.

Technology is a major enabler of freelance work. Popular digital apps and websites, such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Upwork and Taskrabbit, allow gig workers to work from anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet. It also opens up opportunities for those who want a side hustle in addition to their full-time job or who want to earn a living by taking on work that won’t box them in an office setting. It’s never been easier to be your own boss from the comfort of your home office or coffee shop.

While there are a lot of advantages if you choose to work as a freelancer, there are also major downsides you should consider before signing up for gig economy jobs. And as the growth of the gig economy shows no signs of slowing down, surviving (and thriving) as a freelance worker has never been more challenging. 

Here is our guide on how you can survive the gig economy and become a successful freelance worker. 

Know your purpose   

For many independent workers, work is more than just earning a living wage. One of the main reasons freelancers decide to leave their traditional jobs is to pursue something that is more aligned with their values and interests. For others, it is to find work/life balance. For some people, their side hustle provides extra income that will help them reach their financial goals. Having a purpose for your gig work is crucial to stay motivated. Look back on that purpose when you encounter difficulties to stay resilient.   

Create a routine

Research shows that routines enhance daily focus and performance. Establish a routine that will help send a signal to your brain that it’s time to work. This is especially helpful when you are working from home and not in an office setting. Routines give you time to get your thoughts together so you’re more equipped to handle whatever the day brings. Choose working hours that you feel you will be more productive and will suit your schedule. 

Whatever routine you set, make sure to set at least a rough start and end time each day. Otherwise, you’ll end up just working beyond the standard eight-hour workday and reach a point of ‘burnout’.

Determine your rate 

There are a lot of horror stories of gig workers being underpaid for the amount of labor they did. Recently, Uber was under fire after it was revealed that its independent contractors are still earning below minimum wage, even during peak times

If you don’t charge enough for the work you’re doing, you may be overworking just to make ends meet. This is not only demoralising, but also impractical. To have a better estimate of how much your rate should be, ask your fellow freelancers what the market is like for your skills and what their rates are.

However, don’t make the mistake of basing your fees and what you need to earn. Make sure that your rate is appropriate to your expertise level and your skill market. You may have to quote a lower rate at the beginning while you’re still working out how much you’re worth and still competing to get clients. But plan to raise your prices sooner than later. When you’ve hit the right rate level and you’re doing good and reliable work, there’s a bigger chance that people will rehire you.  

Organise your finances

Whether you’re a part-time freelancer or a full-time independent contractor, you’ll be thankful you tracked your finances when tax season comes around. Create an organisational system to keep your business and personal expenses separate. Diligently monitor your income and expenses so you can claim all the appropriate tax deductions. If you need help with your taxes, you can consult a financial adviser or hire a trustworthy accountant. 

As a freelancer, keep in mind that there are things that a company normally would provide that you now must take care of yourself. A recent study showed that workers in the gig economy could face long-term financial disadvantage due to their lack of access to employer-funded superannuation and other basic entitlements. Remember to save for retirement and to get health insurance to make sure all your bases are covered.  

Be prepared for the uncertain times 

Experienced freelancers learn that income in the gig economy is very episodic. When you’re first starting out, your income is not stable and may fluctuate. If you’re planning to leave the nine-to-five employment to become a full-time freelancer, make sure you have an emergency fund so you have a safety net during the dry spell months.  

Most freelancers make the mistake of jumping at the first opportunity that comes their way to combat uncertainty. However, it’s important to select your jobs wisely. See how much you’ll potentially earn for the time you will spend doing the job. Don’t waste your time on a job that will leave you undervalued and underpaid. Instead of grabbing that job, you can network to find gigs that would actually pay a living wage. 

Improve your time management skills 

Being a gig worker is like having several jobs and bosses, so time management is essential. To see where the hours in your day are going and to give more time to tasks or jobs where more effort is needed, you could consider using a time-tracking app. 

Freelancers sometimes make the mistake of taking on too much work and getting overbooked. Before taking on any job, make sure you have room in your schedule. It’s also advisable to do business development and networking during your downtime. 

Networking is a must 

With so many talented freelancers looking to make a career in the gig economy, one of the best ways to stand out is to create a good relationship with your contacts and potential clients by networking. Join forums, online communities and connect with people who can refer you to clients that are seeking freelancers with your skill and expertise. 

Conclusion 

The rapid rise of the gig economy is expected to further increase the number of people working as freelancers. As more employees become more open to non-traditional forms of work, employers are also increasing work-from-home flexibility and independent contract work. In order to survive as a gig worker, remember the purpose you established from the beginning and never sell yourself short. With enough perseverance, resilience and discipline, you may even find yourself thriving in the gig economy. 

Are you part of the gig economy? What are your tips for people seeking to survive and thrive in the gig economy? Share your thoughts! For more tips on how to earn money through side hustles, explore nestegg today! 

How to survive and thrive in the gig economy

How to survive and thrive in the gig economy

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Bye 9-to-5, hi mental health struggles: the effect of the gig economy

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The gig economy offers both freedom and uncertainty (Getty)

The way we work is changing and it’s not only because of the pandemic. There are a lot of options available to us these days. Too many, in fact. One such alternative is the gig economy

 Essentially, the gig economy means that workers are paid for ‘gigs’ which are short-term, temporary jobs, often referred to as freelance work, as opposed to permanent employment.

Gig economy workers could already be in full-time or part-time employment though, taking on gig work to top up their income and make ends meet. Or, they could be self-employed, filling their day-to-day lives with enough freelance hours to make a living. 

Long gone are the days of simply working nine-to-five.

For some, this fundamental shift in the way we work offers flexibility and freedom to carry out work job-to-job. For others, it brings insecurity, no promise of contractual work and lack of holiday and sick pay.

According to research by the University of Hertfordshire, between 2016 and 2019, the UK gig economy workforce doubled with one in 10 working adults using gig economy platforms in 2019.

But whether it’s moonlighting as a YouTuber or Amazon seller as a side hustle or working full-time juggling a variety of jobs like delivering food for Uber Eats or Deliveroo, how do we know the right time to turn off our ‘work mode’ and boot up our ‘life mode’?

And what is this precarious and ever-changing way of working doing to our mental health?

Research findings from a 2016 study commissioned by the charity, Help Musicians UK, looked into the potential links between the gig economy and mental health.

Looking at over 2,200 musicians working in the gig economy in the UK, 68.5% self-reported depression and 71% anxiety.

Some of the key issues which arose in the study pointed at worries about financial stability, job insecurity, and the requirement to have an online presence and network which exposed individuals to relentless opinion and criticism.

Whilst the phrase gig economy originated from the music industry, the rise of the internet and technological innovations has created a whole new world of opportunity for the way we work and seemingly endless opportunities to fill our home life with more and more work.

But is this tech-enabled gig economy causing burnout because we just don’t know when to stop? Or does it allow us to embrace freedom from traditional corporate roles?

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, has been taking a look at the social, organizational, and policy implications of the shift towards the online gig economy.

Dr Alex Wood, who has been working on the study, says the gig economy can have both positive and negative consequences on our mental health.

‘We find that one of the things workers like most about this work is the sense of being their own boss as they don’t have to deal with a manager on a day-to-day basis.’ Alex tells Metro.co.uk.

Dr. Alex Wood has been studying the effects of the gig economy (Alex Wood)

‘This autonomy from traditional management is a real positive for many workers but that comes with the stress caused by the algorithmic control of their work by platforms; knowing that if they don’t work hard they’ll get a bad rating and lose your ability to make a living.’

‘This algorithmic control comes with its own risks for mental health as workers work hard for long hours without taking many breaks which can cause burnout.’

Michael Daly, associate professor in Psychology/Behavioural Science at Maynooth University, says the research he and his team have carried out on underemployment and psychological distress has shown a notable increase ‘when a discrepancy emerges between the amount of hours they would like to work and the hours offered by their employer.’

‘Workers also want job and income security, benefits such as health insurance, and opportunities for promotion and career development that tend to be underrepresented in gig economy jobs.’

But what do the people who actually exist in this new way of working think about it?

Phillip Smith, a freelance editor, is fully immersed in the gig economy and says finding the right work-life balance is tough. 

‘There was a period at the start where I was building contacts where you would be repeatedly hitting refresh on your emails begging for replies, that was tough.’

As a freelance editor, Phill Smith is immersed in the gig economy (Phill Smith)

Phill says carving out time for exercise has massively counterbalanced the negativity overworking has caused his mental health.

‘I’ve had a few crazy weeks where I’ve landed too much work and realised I had to pull back. I found that I have to rota in downtime during the week. I have a home studio so I can and have worked every hour of the day so forcing myself to go for a run or do yoga is essential.’

Working full time in the gig economy is one thing, buy what about having a ‘side hustle’ alongside a full-time job?

Amy Harris works as a full-time retail manager but launched her own craft store on Etsy during the Covid pandemic.

‘Having been on furlough for so long it was something that definitely worried me if I would be able to keep it up once back,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

Amy says the opportunity to work on something she’s passionate about brought positivity to her life.

‘It really helped me with my mental health when I wasn’t working and gave me a sense of purpose everyday. I’ve always regretted not pursuing what I studied at university and creating this little business has almost lifted a bit of that guilt and given me a creative outlet.’

Amy Harris said the gig economy allowed her to pursue something she’s passionate about (Amy Harris)

So, what is the future like for the gig economy?

Dr Wood says this way of working has seen and will continue to see growth through the pandemic and beyond.

‘I think the gig economy will emerge from the pandemic even bigger than before with local gig work boosted by the growth of food and retail delivery and remote gig economy boosted by companies looking for more remote workers who can be engaged and controlled without needing to bring them on to the companies’ premises.’

‘Companies are also going to be hesitant to invest in permanent employees in these uncertain times.’

What’s clear is that as the gig economy asserts itself in a post-Covid world, the mental health of workers involved shouldn’t fall by the kerbside as a result.



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MLB mental health crisis: Inside relief pitching gig economy

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Ryan Buchter, 34, has spent almost half his life pitching in professional baseball. In those 15 years, Buchter has been traded four times, released three times, changed organizations 10 times, pitched for teams in 22 cities and only once spent a full season in the majors without being demoted or released. What his itinerant playing record does not show is its cost: a drinking problem, depression and mental health issues that left him so wounded he is speaking out because he knows his story is too prevalent among ballplayers.



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New Labor Secretary Says Gig Economy Workers Should Be Classified As Employees | Fisher Phillips

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Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh didn’t beat around the bush when he provided his first public thoughts about the gig economy workforce since assuming office. In an interview with Reuters released on Thursday, Walsh said “in a lot of cases, gig workers should be classified as employees.” His comments should come as little surprise to those in the industry who have tracked his career and followed President Biden’s campaign promises to crack down on purported misclassification.

While he tried to strike a balanced tone – noting that in “some cases” gig workers are treated respectfully, and indicating that he didn’t “begrudge” any companies for raising revenue and making profits – his pointed comments send a direct signal to gig economy businesses that the Biden Department of Labor will soon ramp up efforts to force gig workers to be considered employees.

What Can We Expect?

Walsh said that he wants his agency to have conversations with gig economy companies in the coming months in an effort to ensure workers have access to the types of benefits that a typical employee might have: consistent wages, sick time, health care insurance, and similar benefits. While some business leaders have expressed hope that Walsh’s pragmatic streak demonstrated throughout his career as a union leader and mayor would carry over to the worker classification debate, it appears that he will push through an aggressive agenda on behalf of unions and workers.

First up? We can expect to soon see the DOL to formally rescind the Trump-era “gig economy rule” that was set to make it far easier to classify workers as independent contractors. In its place, the agency will no doubt release a new rule that will more closely align with the Biden administration’s aim to target misclassification and ensure as many workers as possible are considered employees. While litigation filed by business groups is ongoing in an attempt to revive the business-friendly version of the rule, gig economy companies cannot rely on this federal lawsuit to be a magic bullet to erase all concerns in this area.

Walsh also noted the success of the pandemic-related unemployment insurance program that ensured gig economy workers who were left without work could regain some of their lost income. “If the federal government didn’t cover the gig economy workers, those workers would not only have lost their job, but they wouldn’t have had any unemployment benefits to keep their family moving forward. We’d have a lot more difficult situation all across the country,” he said. But in expressing admiration for that legislation – which was paid for by massive stimulus spending bills approved by Congress – he didn’t expressly state how he would expect any future extension of UI benefits for gig workers to be funded or managed.

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