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How the Gig Economy Gives Workers More Freedom

The term “gig economy” gets a lot of attention these days. In fact, this growing trend of independent, freelance, and often short-term work is so popular that some experts believe the gig economy is the future of work. While that remains to be seen, the benefits of this increasingly popular system are numerous, starting with how much freedom it gives workers.

What Is the Gig Economy, Really?

According to the American Staffing Association, the term “gig economy” is largely misunderstood. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults have never heard the term, and those who have aren’t clear on its meaning. Once people are told the definition of gig is “various forms of small-project, freelance assignments typically facilitated by an internet platform or app,” 20 percent of surveyed adults confirmed they’ve done such work.

The term “freelance” is relatively well known, so if gig workers are essentially freelancers, why is the “gig economy” such a new thing? In part, it’s because new technologies and apps such as Lyft, Airbnb, and Grubhub make it easy for gig workers to connect instantly with people who need them. It’s also because more of today’s workforce values the freedom associated with this type of work. Many millennials, who now make up half of the workforcee, reject the idea of working a 9-to-5 job for many years.

So, then, how does the gig economy give workers more freedom?

Gig Worker Benefits

Gigs and other short-term work give people more control over their schedules. Rather than fulfilling a list of duties and projects assigned to them by an employer during a scheduled shift, gig workers choose which jobs to take — and which they’d rather leave on the table. Short-term projects allow people to re-evaluate whether they want to continue working with a particular company or cut ties and move on without too much investment. For the most part, these workers decide which hours they’re “on,” so planning around family commitments, doctor appointments, and even fun time is much easier, even if obtaining health insurance, saving for retirement, and having a stable income are harder to come by.

While gig work offers freedom to all workers, not everyone who works this way chooses to, or to do so full time. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, there are four types of gig workers: free agents, casual earners, reluctants, and financially strapped.

Free Agents

Around 49 million (30 percent of gig workers) choose the gig economy as their primary source of income because they want the freedom to choose their schedules, rates, projects, and more.

Casual Earners

An estimated 60 million (40 percent) of these workers choose to perform independent work, but only to supplement their income.

Reluctants

About 23 million (14 percent) gig workers reluctantly earn most of their income from freelance work because they’ve struggled to find full-time employment.

Financially Strapped

Meanwhile, 26 million (16 percent) of workers need to supplement their income with gig work out of necessity.

Each of these workers seek out independent work for different reasons, but they all benefit from the financial and scheduling freedom that the gig economy provides.

Business Perks and Economical Benefits

Many employers also benefit from the swelling pool of freelancers looking for temporary or contract work. Companies can save money because they can often get an expert worker without investing in health insurance, 401k, or other benefits associated with full-time employment. These companies can remain more agile, too, expanding and contracting their workforce of freelancers as needed.

And what about the bigger picture?

While many gig workers forego traditional employer benefits, some can’t afford to pass on the opportunity to earn income when they would otherwise live on unemployment or fall behind in paying their bills. Plus, independent contractor income is still taxable, often at the same rates businesses pay, creating revenue for the government.

How Recruiters Can Help

If workers aren’t looking for traditional jobs, and prefer to be part of the gig economy, can staffing agencies help them? Yes!

Recruiters use their industry insights to help supply gig workers with a steady stream of companies and clients in need of their skills. Some staffing agencies and recruiters have a lot of experience connecting gig workers with companies, and many recruiters are happy to connect on LinkedIn and discuss how they can match a worker’s skills with the right company, just as they would for a traditional job seeker.

Additionally, innovative staffing solution providers have started to embrace the gig economy. These providers empower their clients and their recruiters to easily tap into their temporary employees’ networks and relationships to generate inbound referrals for gigs that need to be filled. In return, staffing agencies often offer referrers a referral fee, as well as the satisfaction of helping their friends find work.

Freelancers who leverage relationships with staffing professionals get the advantages of extensive networks and large databases of potential matches without having to build them up personally. This frees up time to take on more billable work instead of toiling away just to capture new business. The gig economy and staffing industry are an excellent match, and this partnership benefits everyone involved.

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