By the year 2020, the gig economy will make up around 43% of the workforce, according to Intuit. Even now, Intuit says, many workers—around 34%—are contractors and freelancers.
What exactly is a gig economy? With so much work being done online and the rise of the sharing economy with apps like Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, and Airbnb gaining traction, part-time workers and indepedent contractors are replacing full-time workers as the new norm. Many businesses are increasingly hiring independent workers over salaried staff. This is the gig economy.
With roughly 68 million gig workers, it's clear that the trend towards a freelance workforce over tradional full-time, 9-5 jobs, is growing. It's definitely true that part-time jobs and freelance work have their perks. But is it all roses?
While many freelancers report being happier than those who are employed with full-time jobs, that's really only true when these independent workers are doing it by choice. Some part-time workers simply can't find full-time employment.
One factor that led to the creation of the gig economy is the economic downturn. In 2008 and the several years after, many millennials were entering the workforce for the first time. With many companies instituiting hiring freezes, many millennials had difficulty finding full-time jobs. Today, some are still unemployed. Gig work is more affordable for employers, but many millennials prefer traditional 9-5 jobs. According to DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board 2016 Survey, 91 percent say they would like a single full-time job.
I graduated college during the recession and struggled to find full-time work. Or at least that's what it felt like. In reality, I found a full-time job just a few months after my graduation. I worked there for a year and a half, before the small company laid me off, along with the seven other full-time employees. This seemed like a crisis, but I found another full-time job relatively quickly, and stayed with the company for several years.
Last week, I left the company where I had worked for so long to join the ranks of other gig employees. Combining new part-time jobs with freelance work, I'm hoping to make independent work my full-time employment.
Of course, it wasn't a decision I made lightly. The idea began brewing a year and a half ago, when I took on a freelance content-writing position. I worked to pick up new clients and part-time positions, until I had reached a point at which I felt I could sustain myself and would enjoy a more satisfying career going my own way.
Both my parents have been self-employed for most of their careers, so I have some excellent role models. And while I believe (and hope) this new life will offer many advantages, such as more flexibility and the ability to focus on the kind of work I particularly enjoy, I also realize what I'm giving up, such as the benefits I received as a full-time employee, particularly health insurance, and the stability a full-time job brings.
While I'm anxious, I'm excited to see what opportunities this new life brings. Many independent contractors report being happy with their careers—some even more so than full-time employees. Still, it's not for everyone, so time will tell how the gig economy evolves in the coming years.