The Gig Economy

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On the Young PR Pros mailing list I saw some discussion about a gig economy. I hadn't heard that term before so I did a quick search and found it's a fairly popular term. In The Daily Beast, Tina Brown writes "No one I know has a job anymore. They've got Gigs."

In the olden days (a few years ago) the people who had gigs were the artists, musicians and freelancers.

The way companies are laying off today, everyone is becoming a freelancer. No one is safe.

I don't care where you work, the bottom line is that you are your own boss. You are at a gig right now, or perhaps you are in between gigs. You are responsible for finding your next gig.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It should.

The way companies are laying off today, everyone is becoming a freelancer. No one is safe.

I don't care where you work, the bottom line is that you are your own boss. You are at a gig right now, or perhaps you are in between gigs. You are responsible for finding your next gig.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It should.

For many people this is dramatically different from how we were conditioned. The idea was to get a good job, which usually meant go to school and work for a company (or a few companies), before retiring with some kind of financial security (usually a pension). Now, even if you go to school and land a great job at that great company, there is very little expectation that you'll be there for five years. And no can guess where they'll be in 10 years.

When I got laid off I had a realization: I did not ever want one person (or a committee) to be in charge of my financial stability again. And that's what I got from my old job. I know I wasn't alone in my old idea of career management: do a great job, become indispensable, develop the right relationships, and I would be more secure in my job than "the other person." Then one day I became "the other person" -- the person who got laid off.

A few weeks before I got laid off I was reading Multiple Streams of Income, by Robert Allen. I had no idea that a few months later I'd take Allen's ideas from "would be nice" to "this is how I'm going to survive."

In developing my own multiple streams of income, and also figuring out how to manage my current gig(s), here's what I've learned:

  • No gig lasts forever. In the last four years I've started and stopped various revenue streams. I have to go where the money is, even if that means moving away from a revenue stream that I really enjoy.

  • Really nice gigs get competition quickly. When my LinkedIn book came out I there were only two books about LinkedIn: I'm on LinkedIn -- Now What??? and The LinkedIn Personal Trainer. Now there are over a dozen, and it seems like every day there is a new LinkedIn "expert."

  • Revenue streams ebb and flow. Some of my revenue streams are seasonal. Job seekers are pretty active in the winter (especially at the beginning of the year) and seem to be less active in the summer. Speaking is all-but-dead in the summer. But it is very busy in the spring and fall. I've had to find revenue streams that complement one another so I have a steady cash flow throughout the year.

  • Some gigs lead to bigger gigs. I've started some revenue streams with delusions of grandeur, only to find they didn't amount to what I thought they would. But some of those false starts became stepping stones that became other, bigger revenue streams.

  • It takes creativity to keep coming up with gigs. When times are slow, or when you are ready to shut down a revenue stream, you need to find a new one. You can either replace the same kind of stream with a new customer, or find a new type of revenue stream.

Coming to terms with developing and managing personal revenue streams was one of the most liberating things I've done in my career.

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