What is Your Gig?

Have you been reading all about the gig economy and the massive expansion of people taking gigs and working independently?  Payroll numbers keep dropping and gigs are up!

In the past when I thought about people who are doing a “gig,” I assumed they were playing in a rock band. That is not true today. In fact, there are millions of people doing “gigs” that are not at all related to music or putting on a show.

What is a gig today?

A gig is often a job and project that is temporary, without a set number of hours or defined length of time. A gig is not employment. Gigs are global. Those that take on gigs can often do so working remotely, sun-up to sun down. Gigs offer flexibility and diversity.

Gigs became more prevalent through the expanded use of the Internet, beginning with old school job boards and temporary work websites. These have now morphed into specialization communities, social sites and platforms for crowd sourcing, online recruitment, talent management and project collaboration based on identified skills and types of expertise.

Though the term is trending now, gigs aren’t just for hipsters and millennials. They aren’t only relevant to teens, working moms and dads or those that need a little extra cash driving people around in their own car. Gigs are growing across all types of industries, geographies, and for all ages and levels of expertise.

We call this collective group of alternative workers the gig economy. They are contingent workers, freelancers, contractors, outsourced talent and independent workers, often doing short-term engagements without a set number of hours or employment benefits.

Some say we are in a freelancer revolution. Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors.

More than 53 million Americans are now earning income from work that’s not a traditional 9-to-5. That’s 1 in 3 workers.

Source: Monthly Labor Review, October 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Gig workers could be in contingent or alternative employment arrangements, or both, as measured by BLS. Contingent workers are those who don’t have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment. Alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors (also called freelancers or independent consultants), on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms.”

Companies are driving the gig economy.

People are in high demand to fulfill gigs. They provide immediate expertise for limited work or short-term assignments and they often are able to provide quick turn-around on projects. Businesses are highly motivated today to utilize people that will take on work as a gig. Global corporations often utilize those in the gig economy for a variety of projects and tasks, from technical to creative.

As an example, language service providers have a huge network (600,000+) of translators and linguists that work independently or as freelancers. This group consists of native language experts that localize and translate all types of content in hundreds of languages, as well as do gigs for product testing and reviews for some of the world’s largest consumer, manufacturing and technology brands.

It was reported by CNBC in October 2016, that over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to CNBC calculations using data from a study by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

The top industries sited for utilizing freelancers for gigs include transportation, healthcare, communications, technology, arts and entertainment and construction. Companies often list cost savings in benefits, overhead and administration when utilizing people to do gigs. Most will work remote, require little training and can work from any where in the world, reducing office space requirements. They will often use their own equipment and materials, which also creates further savings for businesses.

Why would an experienced corporate executive want to be part of the gig economy?

I believe the inherent richness of taking on “gigs,” where you can apply creativity, inventiveness, and strategy experience across various companies, is perfect for an executive. Imagine collaborating and advising all types of businesses, applying your seasoned experience and knowledge gained from other “gigs,” to then celebrate in your client’s success. It’s rewarding and stimulating. It is also feeds a need and desire to problem solve, stay relevant and never stop learning.

The gig economy is trending today with great buzz, yet it has been long in existence across all functions. As a corporate executive, I’ve been hiring people to take on gigs for 20 years in marketing, including web developers, creative designers, digital pros and software integration experts just to name a few. In finance, I’ve recruited accountants, auditors, controllers and investment managers for gigs. In technology, I’ve hired people for gigs related to coding, implementations, data management, process and workflows and so much more. Gigs are part of every company.

The gig is up!

No matter how you classify those working “gigs” today, they are actually profiles that span across all levels of expertise. They are growing in demand requiring extensive know-how to advise C-level executives and upper management on strategic initiatives and projects. Though they are designed for short-term projects by definition, I’ve worked for some CEOs for five or more years on what started as a gig. Gigs are important to all business sizes. I’ve worked on gigs for small start-ups, as well as established multi-million dollar businesses. It’s the expertise that matters most. You could even say board members and advisors are all participants in the gig economy, providing a high level of practical skill and judgment.

The richness in experience I’ve gained through a variety of gigs that I’ve worked on over the past 20 years, has enabled me to apply my knowledge and skills across all types of industries, including retail, finance, technology, professional services, localization, media and even golf. The more gigs I get, the more experience and best practices I can share with other businesses in pursuit of their goals. It’s fulfilling and mutually rewarding.

I’ve long said, sales is sales and marketing is marketing no matter whether you are selling custom golf clubs or sophisticated business intelligence software. Without the overhead of taking on another executive, gigs enable a CMO and senior executive like myself to advise multiple companies across various functions – a big savings that can drive even bigger results. Whether I help a CEO set up a sales organization, write a business plan or implement complex marketing programs, the ability to apply past experience benefits everyone.

So what’s my next gig? I’ve had a very rewarding experience as the CMO at Welocalize. Working with this growing and vibrant organization since 2013, it is now time for me to venture on to my next gig (or two). I’m now going to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from a very interesting industry to helping more CEOs and business leaders – whether it is in globalization, product marketing, service line management, executive leadership or just plain old sales and marketing. It is my journey in an exciting history of being part of the gig economy through my own “gig” business, Artful Thinkers.

So, I’m ready to take on some new gigs! How can my expertise help you?

Jamie Glass

CMO + President of Artful Thinkers