How to Break Into the Gig Economy

Angela Ash

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The gig economy is providing more and more people with the means to find better jobs and a flexible schedule. Remote work is on the rise, and digital nomadism is reaching wider audiences. Many people are reconsidering their priorities and professional outlooks, so let’s see how the gig economy may help.

First of all, it is important to understand that the gig economy doesn’t differ much in terms of requirements. Highly skilled professionals will always be able to find better positions than entry-level workers, but the difference is that even entry-level workers will be able to find a gig to keep them afloat.

Secondly, the flexibility that the gig economy offers is rather tempting. However, only experienced freelancers and remote workers know that this may well be a trap for people unused to this type of work. One thing that everyone should learn before ditching traditional employment is — discipline.

Getting Started With the Gig Economy

Once you know all this, it’s time to start looking for gigs. But, where to start?

Truly, there is a slew of online marketplaces. Skilled professionals have it easier because they can look up specific portals, but what should the myriad of marketers, sales personnel and customer support representatives do?

General advice is to avoid generalized platforms or those catering to low-level skill workers as they offer jobs that don’t pay well. Unless you are an entry-level worker, you should look for more specific online job marketplaces.

Paid or Unpaid Remote Job Marketplace?

There are many online marketplaces that are free to use. Keep in mind, however, that those that practice an escrow system charge a fee. Look for online marketplaces that connect people instead.

Some experts may find it difficult to find well-paid jobs among the myriad of cheaper offers, so for them, a good option is to look for membership services.

Remaining Competitive

Even though everyone is able to find some kind of remote work, skills still count. The more you know and the more competitive you are, the better the job offers coming your way will become.

It is a good strategy to look for recurring clients, which may be found even on some general platforms like Fiverr.

Also, make sure to keep learning so that your chances keep increasing.

Types of Contracts

There are all kinds of contracts out there. Some businesses are looking for full-time or part-time employees while others look for project-based contractors. The offer is massive, so you should start by determining the type of contract that would suit you best.

Keep in mind that the common error when starting out is that inexperienced freelancers take any job they can get immediately, even if it’s underpaid. Underpayment is common practice, too, because many employers are counting on workers from third-world countries (there are even online job platforms catering to those audiences alone).

No matter what marketers are telling you about the benefits of the gig economy, you may be sure that every employer is embracing outsourcing because it is cheaper, so don’t fall victim to unrealistic gigs.

Market Yourself

It is important for gig workers to learn soft skills, the first one of which should be negotiation. If someone is offering an unfair deal (or a shady one), don’t shy away from pointing it out. Ask about the conditions, contract type, deadlines, payment due dates, and make sure you get everything in writing.

If you’re applying for jobs through non-escrow platforms that secure deposits, make sure to read feedback before applying.

Choose the Right Tools and Apps

Everyone relying on the gig economy must be tech-savvy. This is not conditional; it’s an absolute must. It goes without saying that you should be familiar with the common apps and tools freelancers use, specifically communication, task management and invoicing tools.

Look up the latest trends. Presently, trending are Zoom, Skype, Asana, Trello and Slack, but things change rapidly, so always keep informed.

Don’t Slack Off!

Now, remember the first two paragraphs and make an effort to establish a schedule. There’s nothing wrong with flexible schedules — after all, many people get into the gig economy exactly because of that — but if you haven’t built up discipline, better make daily schedules until you get used to the flow.

Your schedule should include breaks — as many as you need. Make sure you stick to the plan and don’t waste your time on meaningless tasks to stay productive while working remotely. Basically, this means that you should change the habit to check incoming emails all the time and scroll through your social media feedbacks, because these two practices are the two biggest deterrents.

Calculate Desired Earnings

When starting out, newbie freelancers often make the mistake of scheduling too many tasks in too short a time, especially when they’re accepting jobs that don’t pay well, believing erroneously that this practice will help them build a reputation faster.

Never forget that the only way to build a reputation is to consistently provide quality work. So, instead of accepting many short-term gigs, look for the gigs that suit your expertise and preferences best and take your time finishing them.

Optimally, look for clients with the potential to become recurring employers. No one wants to go through hundreds of applications all the time if they have a quality contractor.

So, it all comes down to proper calculation. It’s better to accept a couple of gigs that pay better than tens of smaller ones that pay less to accumulate the desired sum. Think a bit in advance: you don’t want to keep scrolling through new job offers all the time. It’d be better if you could rely on satisfied clients contacting you when new projects become available, so start building your portfolio of returning clients from day one. In that way, you’ll be able to avoid the doom many freelancers face: being rich for a month and then eating popcorn the next month.

Key Takeaways

The gig economy certainly has the capacity to accommodate every freelancer’s wish, but it’s neither easy nor effortless.

Start doing things properly from day one:

  • Research online job marketplaces
  • Bid on projects that suit your expertise and preferences ONLY
  • Don’t commit to too many cheap projects; rather, look for better-paid gigs posted by recurring clients
  • Build up discipline
  • Polish your soft skills
  • Keep learning
  • Keep up to date with the latest tech

Over time, you may be able to work for only one or two clients but be persistent in finding the right people to work with.

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Angela Ash is a professional writer and editor, who focuses on topics related to business, remote work, digital PR, marketing, clean tech, mental health, travel and more. She also enjoys playing the piano, writing poetry, and music festivals.

Louisville, KY
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