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Making it big in the gig economy

Freelancers, contractors & small business: How to gain another income stream and develop a career on your own.

The gig economy – the portion of the labour market made up of independent contractors and freelancers – continues to grow. As it stands, more than 30 per cent of the labour market is connected to the gig economy in one way or another. That number is only set to grow as apps, technology and automation continue to change society and commerce.

Whether you view it as an opportunity to gain another income stream or to develop your career, thriving in the gig economy is achievable with a bit of know-how.

Find the right industry

Making it big in the gig economy

Finding the right niche is your first key to success in the gig economy, and there are plenty of options right now. From financial advice and marketing consulting to project engineering, the options are endless. In particular, creative and professional services are fast-growing parts of the gig economy.

Sites like Upwork and freelance job boards have options for you to find clients right out of the gate, but there’s also something to be said for making your own connections and gathering clients the old-fashioned way.

Continue to network

Being out on your own doesn’t mean you are alone. In fact, the average full-time freelancer in the creative industry could have more than a dozen clients.

This will vary based on your industry and the amount of time you wish to put into your role in the gig economy – but being able to network is still a major part of building your brand and connecting with more potential clients. If you’re on amicable terms with your previous employer after moving from the standard labour market to the gig economy, consider working with them on a contractor basis.

Learn financial basics

By becoming an independent contractor, you develop new strengths and skills. With more accountability for running a profitable business, you will learn how to make more efficient use of your time and existing skills. You’ll also learn about budgeting and being able to turn a profit based on the time that you put into your job — which is key to success.

As well, you’ll round out your management and leadership skills — especially when your organization grows and if you add new team members. And in addition to crunching the numbers, you may learn about hiring an accountant and working with them on a regular basis — an eventual step (particularly at tax time).

What about a compensation package?

Another consequence of being in the gig economy is the impact of setting your rates and earning your own take-home package. One of the drawbacks to being on your own is the lack of a set compensation package – it’s up to you to survive and stay afloat, and things like dental benefits don’t come for free.

Though more businesses are starting to offer benefits and insurance policies to their contractors, be sure to keep track of this when determining a budget for your goals with this role – especially if it’s your primary source of work.

Get references

Making it big in the gig economy

One of the best reasons to go on your own is the ability to select your own work. This flexibility in schedule and work is often cited by independent contractors as one of the leading reasons they chose to take a role in the gig economy. This lets you work on things you feel connected to and can be driven by purpose while also bringing in an income.

At the same time, watch out for work or accounts that don’t mesh with your vision or that you cannot deliver on effectively. Managing and meeting expectations for both you and the client is very important to grow profitably, enjoy your work and develop healthy professional relationships.

References and testimonials from clients can also serve as endorsements and show other businesses that you are not only legitimate but also a high-quality choice with a real body of work.

Build a routine

Even though you could have all the autonomy in the world, it’s important to establish a routine to stay productive. Doing so is not only a proven method of getting things done for professionals in every field, but it also helps you feel the fulfillment and reward that comes with building your own business. As long as it’s productive, you can do what works for you and define the space, style and time of work that suits you and your clients’ needs – just make sure you stick to it.

What’s in it for you?

If you’re planning to use work in the gig economy as your primary source of income, research is key to going out on your own. You won’t have the full picture, but getting yourself set with respect to expectations, the slow build, a routine, a schedule and a strategy for gathering clients is paramount to your success.

Finding your niche and doing it well is critical to thriving within the realities of the gig economy. Being able to manage expectations for yourself and clients while having a purpose will set you up for being successful on your own terms.

Up Next: Tips from small business owners who battled through adversity to come out on top.

Michael Badejo

Michael Badejo is a communications professional and entrepreneur based out of Winnipeg. His diverse body of work has appeared in Canadian and international outlets covering technology, transportation, commerce and more. When he’s not writing, he’s running his boutique communications shop or finding out the latest in current events and technology.

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