More than one third (36 percent) of U.S. workers are in the gig economy, which works out to a very large number of approximately 57 million people.
With the rise of Uber, Lyft, Etsy, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Freelancer.com, Ebay, and others, more and more workers are doing part-time work, side hustles, as they are often called, and are joining the “Gig Economy” as it is more formally known. Essentially, for many, it is when you are between full-time jobs or cannot find a new job after a layoff, or just need more flexibility than a traditional job can provide. So, you go freelance and string together jobs on a short-term, contract basis.
Technology is a big enabler of this mode of freelance work – with a smartphone and one of those ubiquitous unlimited data plans (or a good Starbucks or indie café with fast wifi and a power outlet) – you can work from just about anywhere. I count myself in this category as I have been self-employed for most of my adult life. Whether you will make enough to provide a living wage is another story. Many do, but quite a few do not. My post is aimed at the entrepreneurial thinker looking for ideas, not to enter the debate on how the gig economy needs to change (and I do not disagree on that point, but am aiming to provide resources and ideas to get people started who want to pursue a side hustle or more).
Steve King, owner of Emergent Research, and creator of the Small Business Labs blog, is one of the top researchers and reporters on the gig economy, particularly how the co-working phenomenon has supported it. He has done major projects for Intuit, MBO Partners, and many other big firms to uncover how the freelancer or independent worker is making his or her way.
If you are studying the idea of joining the gig economy as a side hustle, or as a startup, here are just a few of Steve King’s recent posts that I have read and that are summarized here in today’s post:
- Gallup Says 36% Of U.S. Workers are in the Gig Economy – Small Business Labs
- Independent Workers Have Higher Satisfaction Levels than Traditional Job Holders
- 189 Coworking Spaces Opening in August – Small Business Labs
- According to LinkedIn, Most SMBs Use Freelancers – Small Business Labs
- MBO Partners’ 8th Annual State of Independence Report (excellent read, lots of data)
The above 36 percent gig economy statistic comes from a Gallup poll. They estimate “that 29% of all workers in the U.S. have an alternative work arrangement as their primary job. This includes a quarter of all full-time workers (24%) and half of all part-time workers (49%). Including multiple job holders, 36% have a gig work arrangement in some capacity.”
There are two types of gig workers. There are “independent” and “contingent” workers, the former being people who are truly their own “boss”, and the latter being the group that work for another company just like a regular employee might, minus the security and all the other benefits that come with being a full-fledged employee.
But even the “contingent” workers seem to be happier than standard workers. Gallup found some additional interesting facts:
- Almost 60 percent of independent gig workers strongly agreed that they had flexibility, while 38 percent of contingent gig workers said the same the thing.
- Only 27 percent of regular workers strongly agreed they had the flexibility
- 47 percent of independent gig workers said they really liked their hours, while only 34 percent of contingent gig workers and regular workers said the hours were really good for them.
However, things aren’t always best for gig workers and many experts point that out. Though gig workers get many “lifestyle benefits” they fall far behind on “traditional benefits” and in the “paid timely and accurately” category. As you might expect, regular workers (those who are employed full time) strongly agreed they get paid on time (82 percent), but less than 70 percent of gig workers strongly agreed with that statement.
Loneliness is another issue and part of why co-working is on the rise, or why you cannot ever find a seat at your local café. Working away from other people can make you feel lonely and depressed which is extremely unhealthy and slows down employee productivity. This had led to the rise of “coworking” where independent employees “work alone together” in a shared office space. While the average cost to use one of these facilities is about $350 per month, prices can spike way higher. Regardless of the high price, according to the Harvard Business Review, employees are still quite satisfied and think the cost is worth it.
- 77% of respondents stated that they thought the price they paid was fair, while 17% said they actually felt the price they paid was a bargain
- 90% of respondents reported either being highly satisfied or satisfied with their coworking space
- Only 4% of respondents said that they likely won’t stay members once two years have elapsed
That said, there are some that have very affordable options that are under $100 a month for light-level use of a facility, but you usually find those in a smaller city, not in a big metro.
The idea that independent gig workers are getting their money’s worth seems to hold water. Gig workers have stated that coworking environments have helped them to expand their social network and that they are happier and less lonely.
- 89% of respondents report that they are happier since joining a coworking space
- 79% said coworking has expanded their social network
- 87% of respondents stated that they meet other members for social reasons, with 54% saying they socialize with other members after work and/or on weekends
Since loneliness can be as dangerous as smoking and obesity, coworking spaces are providing a valuable service. In our age of social media and technology replacing human interaction, the fact that many are moving toward more social interaction shows that many are realizing that they need to be more involved and connected to others, in real life, not just digital life.
This article was originally published in: https://www.forbes.com