Getting in on the gig economy

Do you know what the gig economy is? You had better. Short term working arrangements make up a large percentage of the Australian workforce, managed correctly freelance work can become a viable and lucrative alternative to the traditional working arrangement.

Working in the gig economy – the freelance labour market defined by short term or contract employment – is no longer just the realm of those wearing jeans and t-shirts to work. In 2014, it was estimated that 3.7 million Australians (approximately 30 percent of our workforce) contribute $51 billion to the economy annually, making it more than an alternative avenue for one’s career, but an integral arm of Australian productivity.

In light of this, exploring options for self-employment on the back of extensive experience in your chosen field can shape up as a more viable avenue than previously thought.

There are huge benefits to being your own boss: freedom and autonomy to pick projects befitting your interests and skills; flexibility with working hours; opportunity to build your own brand and develop your business acumen; and – as mentioned previously – the luxury of wearing what you want to work.

But, at the same time, there are a number of not so insignificant challenges, which can impact upon both your professional success and personal wellbeing.

If you decide to branch out into the freelance world, there are a number of things you must consider if you are to be not only productive and successful but also healthy and happy.

  1. Insecurity and irregularity of work. Not having a steady salary can be unnerving, especially if you depend on regular income to pay off a mortgage or pay rent. As a freelancer, you’ll have some weeks which pay for the whole month and other weeks of nothing. Such discrepancy in your cash flow requires strong budgeting disciplines and monitoring, so as to stave off any anxiety about how to support yourself or invest in your long-term future, such as with superannuation contributions.
  2. Working alone. As social creatures, we crave and rely on the collegiate atmosphere of a workplace. Being in the gig economy often means a solitary working environment, where we can’t chat to others over the water cooler or bounce ideas around. In response, freelancers should find themselves good mentors with whom you can discuss any professional issues, a strong networking regime to help with developing your business as well as ensure a consistent social life to balance against working alone.
  3. Choosing a workspace. While it may be tempting to stay in your pyjamas and operate from home, it’s psychologically difficult to eat your dinner at the same table you’ve been working from all day. Find a compatible location for the nature of your work. Co-working spaces, for example, offer a constant, flexible and purposely designed environment through which you can network with others and receive contextual cues to remind you of the importance of your sole practitioner work.
  4. Knowing your rights. Gig economy workers, by virtue of their employment status, don’t have the same rights to award wages and unfair dismissal afforded to regular employees (unless otherwise negotiated in your contracted work arrangements). Having a base understanding of your rights under Australian consumer law – or at least being across any terms and conditions imposed in freelance jobs – can make a big difference in securing fairness and protecting yourself. Having access to a good lawyer can also help you to develop contract and proposal templates and provide advice will assist here as well.
  5. Protecting yourself. Being outside of a structured, organisational workplace means taking on more risk, such as insecure internet connections and risky payment methods. As such, employment of good security habits is a must if you and your independent work are to survive. Hardware protection, strong passwords, secure connections (HTTPS or VPN), encryption for files and communication, and digital signatures are a good start in retaining control over your devices, intellectual property and ultimately your reputation.

Work in the gig economy can be fruitful and rewarding if done right. Having proper consideration for its challenges, and responding accordingly, will place you in good stead to manage your new professional reality and achieve success.

For more information or to get help making a transition to freelance work, contact: Jo Attard PeopleEdge Coaching & Consulting, +61 (0)418 438267 or