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The Voice of the Black Community

Business

Freelancing becoming the new normal
 
Published Thursday, January 3, 2019
by Maria Magher, Correspondent

Do you ever get to work from home? Do you ever wish you could telecommute every day, sitting on your computer in your pajamas and watching Netflix in the background?

For a lot of people, this is no longer a fantasy, as more are either working from home part-time or full time. It’s what’s being called the growing “gig economy,” and some expect that it’s a vision of our future.

“The gig economy actually mirrors the economy in general,” said Craig J. Lewis, the founder and CEO of GigWage.com. “Major metropolitan areas with lots of people and lots of companies have lots of contractors. The beautiful part about the gig economy, though, is the fact that no matter where you are located, as long as you have access to the internet, you can push a button and get work.”

A recent CNBC report found that there are now more contract workers at Google than direct employees, a first in the company’s history. Pymnts.com, a site that shares news about business and ecommerce, reports about 36 percent of the American workforce, or 57.3 million people, are now freelancing. The site estimates that number to rise to over 50 percent by 2020.

However, even though more people are working independently, many of them are not working full time. Pymnts.com reports that 53 percent of gig workers do not have a full-time job.

“The gig economy is a macro shift from the traditional economy of full-time workers who focus on a lifetime career to a more modern mentality of freedom, choice and flexibility,” Lewis said. “It’s also a part of a cultural shift led by the explosive growth of millennials as the largest generation in today’s workforce. The current reality is that people tend to change jobs many times throughout their working lives; the gig economy is an evolution of that trend. Even full-time employees can and are getting into the gig economy as side hustlers, moonlighters and part-time workers.”

The advantages of working independently are obvious to most. Workers get to set their own schedule and the terms of their own employment, such as who they work for and for how much.

However, there are drawbacks.

“The cons that people like to bring up are steady income and health benefits,” Lewis said. “But technology platforms like ours and others are popping up to solve these basic challenges in very innovative ways, not to mention there is some great legislation coming down the pipeline to help gig workers with a ‘social workforce safety net’ like the Portal Benefits Act.”

La-Vaughnda Taylor of Charlotte knows about these advantages and disadvantages all too well. She has been freelancing for about four years now. She is an attorney by trade but freelances part-time.

She says the challenges are “not having a consistent schedule like a regular 9 to 5. If I'm working on multiple projects, it becomes more like a 24/7 type thing, and I have to be careful that I don't forget to take care of myself and take breaks and schedule me time to recharge and refocus.”

But, she said, “in the end, if I just remember my purpose and ‘why’ for doing this (being able to live the lifestyle that I want with flexibility and fulfillment), I can overcome any obstacles.”

Taylor says she primarily finds work through word-of-mouth and referrals, but she plans to use more of the platforms that connect employers and workers to create a more sustainable future.

She says that making a living as a freelancer is, “only difficult if you're not truly committed to drumming up business and finding new clients and projects. You have to put yourself out there and work at it…. You also have to be dedicated and organized with good time management skills because you won't necessarily have someone over your shoulder telling you what to do and when to do it.”

Lewis sees freelancing as a growing trend that will soon become the norm.

“All four generations are taking advantage of the benefits of the gig economy: Boomers, Gen X, millennials and even Gen Z,” he said. “Businesses will continue to see the cost savings, productivity and other benefits. Government will play a positive impactful role, and technology will make it easier and even more lucrative for people to do gig work.

“The gig economy is the biggest macro shift in the workforce in over 100 years.”

 

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