Careers in the gig economy are on the rise

Over the past few years, the gig economy has more than doubled in size ‒ it accounts for nearly 5 million workers. In fact, as many as one in 10 UK adults are now looking for gig work on dedicated online platforms.

Whilst some may deem the gig economy as precarious work, especially as it hinges on self-employment and often the non-existence of sick leave and holiday pay, it is flourishing with opportunities.

Here's how you can participate and thrive in the gig economy today.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is effectively a job system that encompasses short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent, full-time jobs.

It's called the "gig economy" because each piece of work is akin to an individual "gig." To be clear, "gig" doesn't stand for anything in particular, although gig economy work can fall under a few names. It has also been known as the "sharing economy" and the "collaborative economy," usually for peer-to-peer services like Airbnb or Uber.

What is a gig economy job?

If you're a gig worker, you may be referred to as an independent contractor, a freelancer, an online platform worker, or a temporary worker. Your services are usually required on-demand, packaged into a formal agreement.

A gig economy job isn't limited to Uber, Deliveroo, or Amazon. It spans many additional professional fields, including digital marketing, writing and editing, accounting and finance, law, administration and data entry, and design and development.

How to get a gig economy job

There's an abundance of ways to find work in the gig economy. Online platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour are usually a safe starting point. You simply set up a profile, set your hourly rates, and either bid on jobs relevant to your skills or let others find you. These platforms lend themselves well to remote or "office" freelance roles. Popular industries include mobile and web development, design, writing, admin support, customer service, marketing, accounting, and so on. 

There are less mainstream platforms too, such as Freework. If you would prefer onsite work, Worksome may be a better freelancer and contractor marketplace for you. Or, if you're open to both in-person and remote work, consider signing up to Skillbox.

Alternatively, if you are in a "hands-on" industry like delivery, gardening, painting work, removal services and "errands," TaskRabbit is a good option for you. 

And then there are the big name brands and services we recognise that reside on apps. From food delivery services like Deliveroo and UberEats to taxi services like Ola, brands such as these were built on gig economy workers, so you can find plenty of work through them.

You can take the initiative to find gig opportunities on your own, as well. Start with setting up and maintaining a solid online presence, promoting yourself to friends and family, or simply Googling local gig economy and freelance jobs.

What are the pros and cons of the gig economy?

There are plenty of opportunities in the gig economy that will help you to thrive. If you find the right market or you're an expert in demand, you can make a fair amount of money and even turn this career choice into a full-time job (in a freelance capacity, of course). Plus, your hours are more flexible and you have complete control over how much you want to work. What's more, you can enjoy the freedom of improving your work-life balance.

It's important to be aware of the problems with the gig economy though. You may find that your pay is lower overall than if you were in full-time employment, and it has been reported that some companies pay lower than minimum wage. Plus, you may miss out on workers' rights such as sick pay, annual leave, or maternity pay. Not to mention that it creates job insecurity, as you may find yourself chasing your next gig - that could be stressful, as you're getting paid per job, rather than by the hour.

How to list gig economy work on your CV

Whether a gig economy job is your main source of income or just supplementary, it deserves to be listed on your CV. Even though you're taking on temporary jobs, they are still assets; if displayed in the right way on your CV, they can show that you're an attractive hire.

It's best to treat your gig economy stint as a position of employment – much like you would with freelance work on your CV. Add the dates of your self-employment and make it clear that you are part of the gig economy by adding "contractor" or "freelance" in your title, along with your niche or specialism ‒ for example, "Freelance VA" or "Contractor Accountant." Set the scene for the prospective employer by including a short summary of the work you do underneath.

Then you need to showcase the nitty-gritty details of your work. There are two ways you could do this:

Your first option is zeroing in on a few impressive clients and projects. Include the client name or industry and the time you worked with them. Then add a few bullet points to list key achievements and skills. You can separate each client with subheadings.

Your second option is to use subheadings to split up your most impressive skills ‒ including transferable skills ‒ and examples of use via bullet points underneath each heading.

If you have a portfolio, don't forget to link to that too. And remember, as always, make sure the clients, projects, examples, and subsequent details are relevant to the role you're applying for. Don't let unrelated projects mask your talent.

The gig economy has something for everyone, whether it's a permanent stream of freelance work or the occasional temporary contract. You could choose to pursue gig work long term or short term and thrive either way. Plus, you can sleep tight knowing there's always a way to land a permanent role if you change your mind.

CVs are still important when job searching within the gig economy. See how yours stacks up with a free CV review.

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