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Is the Gig Economy Go-go or Oh-no? Depends on Who You Ask.

In recent years, the gig or sharing economy—read that on-demand workforce—has become a heady subject on which respected publications post diverse views. Writers praise it, diss it or dismiss it.

Mobile Mindset of Free-range Workers Defines the New World of Work.

Some cite the movement as enlightened, liberated workers coming of age. “Democratizing capitalism,” as one political strategist puts it. Others decry gig as the demise of steady work, provoking a hand-to-mouth existence. Just this month, an academic writes, there are fewer gig jobs out there than touted, based on government data.

Perspectives on the gig economy vary, such as:

  • “Thriving in the Gig Economy”: In its March-April issue, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) points to about “150 million workers in North America and Western Europe” who left, or were let go from, corporate jobs and now work as contractors. Creatives and knowledge workers make up the majority. For them, the authors state, success is measured by “finding a balance between predictability and possibility, between viability… and vitality…”
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    man working on drafting table creative
     
     

  • “What Happened to That Gig Economy?”: In the July Human Resource Executive, the George W. Taylor professor of management cites the 2017 Contingent Worker Survey that temp work is going down—not up. He cautions against writers and speakers who continue to oversell the idea: “Excuse me, what do you think about the Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that gig work is actually declining?”

I cannot address every business sector. The gig economy does prosper in our industry, having built and led an on-demand contract center company for more than 20 years—long before the term became the rage of the age.

Granted, what’s occurring now is gig gone wild, spawning spiraling enterprises and NewCos run by gigapreneurs and gigatechs. Talent-to-task sites populate the web, from well-established Upwork (Elance-oDesk) and FlexJobs to specialized sites, such as to Rover.com for dog-sitters.

For-hire platforms abound, with 50 leading apps featured this month by Wonolo, including Airbnb to monetize home space and HopSkipDrive, a mom-inspired ridesharing service.

 
holding mobile phone with apple for gig economy
 
 

Recent get-a-gig books sell on Amazon:

  • Thriving in the Gig Economy: How to Capitalize and Compete in the New Work of World
  • The Gig Is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs Are Obsolete and Freelancing is the Future
  • The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want.

(You probably could land a job faster than it takes to read through those book titles.)

And oh, let’s not forget those industry experts, the gigalysts and gigalects with their gigalytics. Accenture coined the term, “Liquid Workforce,” to describe the fluidity of today’s talent—be it contract or on staff. (Pour me one.)

A couple of years back, The Wall Street Journal featured a piece about “The Rise of the Chameleon Worker,” stating: “By the end of the decade, it’s estimated that over 40 percent of the workforce will be freelance, double the amount today, according to Intuit,” which rolled out online QuickBooks for contractors.

Somewhere between the wows and the woes of the gig economy, there lie a few fundamental truths. (No pun intended.)

In a Forbes interview, The Gig Is Up author Olga Mizrahi touches on some of them, including:

  • Tech-enabled, skilled talent can work anywhere.
  • The flexibility that gig affords to blend work and lifestyles.
  • The ability to make a living, provided you produce quality work.

 
 

All true, but not all telling. You see, at the core is the mobile mindset of free-range workers. Untethered talent fuels the gig economy. Working as they please, independent of any company.

They’re not being self-centered. Rather, just confident, self-reliant and on-demand. Freed of corporate confines. Or as one gig worker told HBR: “I can operate more from a place of choice as opposed to a place of need.”

Choice vs. need. Can you blame them, after decades of downsizing? And we’re witnessing the aftereffects. Why do you think companies go wanting for employees—read that talent—these days?

So, the free-rangers pick and choose. And the best businesses—assessed by contractors and employees on jobsites such as Glassdoor—will benefit from their skills.

Can you gig it?

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