The last few years have been nothing short of a wild ride, and the world of work has undergone a dramatic shift- and some would definitely argue that it’s for the better. With the rise of the gig economy, the way people work and earn has fundamentally changed, and there’s no one fixed career path that a typical professional is expected to follow. 

The gig economy, also known as the freelance economy or on-demand economy, is characterized by short-term contracts, freelance work, and independent contracts. There’s no single employer, but the professionals are free to work with multiple clients or companies simultaneously. According to a study by McKinsey, approximately 20-30% of the working-age population in the US is engaged in some form of independent work; this statistic is a clear indication that the gig economy is no longer a mere trend but is a booming market that is reshaping the modern workforce. 

However, is the gig economy right for everyone? 

With so many different work structures now available, skilled professionals are spoiled for choices, and while this is initially perceived as a good thing, it can quickly become a messy challenge to try determining which one is right for you and your unique circumstances. Are you cut out for freelancing, or would you prefer the good old stability of a traditional job? 

That’s where this blog comes in. In this guide, we shall delve deep into the advantages and disadvantages of the gig economy, the different work structures to consider, how to introspect to find the correct one for you, as well as a brief glimpse into the future. Additionally, we’ll provide practical tips on how to thrive in the work structure you choose for yourself and navigate the obstacles like a pro! 

Read on! 

Understanding The Gig Economy
The growth of the gig economy has been remarkable. Estimates suggest that by 2027, more than half of the American workforce could be freelancers. The question that crops up is ‘Why?’. Why have people moved beyond the traditional 9 to 5 job and are now exploring different avenues of employment and exploring new sources of income? There are several reasons behind this. 

Firstly, the enablers. The rise of digital technology, high-speed internet, and faster computers has made it easier than ever for people to work remotely and connect with potential clients or customers without a hassle, even across borders. Secondly, the Covid-19 pandemic served as an eye-opener for many when hoards of people lost their jobs in a matter of days. According to a research funded by NIOSH, working professionals realized the importance of having multiple sources of income flowing in to ensure they’re financially stable during difficult times. Moreover, the pandemic also enabled people to see how much more they could get done when they worked from the comfort of their homes; this left many desiring that flexibility and control over their work schedules even after everything blew over. Gig workers can often choose when and where they work, allowing them to prioritize their personal lives alongside professional responsibilities. Moreover, more and more organizations are also preferring to employ freelancers/gig workers for certain tasks that allow them to get the work done without having to bring someone on board permanently at a higher cost. 

There are several types of gig work, including freelancing, project-based work, and platform work. Freelancers are self-employed individuals who offer services such as writing, graphic design, or programming on a project-by-project basis. Project-based work refers to short-term contracts where workers are hired for specific tasks, such as event planning or website development. Platform work involves enlisting your services through online platforms such as Fiverr, where workers are connected with customers or clients through a digital platform. 

There are multiple benefits of choosing to be a part of the gig economy: 
  • Flexibility: Gig work allows professionals to set their own schedules and work from anywhere, giving them greater control over their work-life balance. This can be particularly beneficial for people with additional responsibilities in their personal lives. 
  • Independence: Gig workers are self-employed and have a high degree of autonomy over their work, allowing them to choose the projects they work on and the clients they work with. 
  • Diversified income: As discussed above, gig work provides professionals across industries with multiple sources of income, which is particularly beneficial during times of economic downturn. They are able to work with multiple clients simultaneously, allowing them to build a more stable financial base. 
  • Skill development: Gig work enables the professional to develop new skills, meet more people, and gain experience working on a wide variety of projects with different organizations. This helps expand one’s network and build a strong portfolio- which will be valuable to any large-scale organization. 

However, every path has its challenges and it’s necessary to acknowledge them and plan accordingly. 
  • Income instability: While there might be multiple sources of income, gig workers could often experience irregular income, as they are not guaranteed a steady stream of work or money. This can make it difficult to plan for the future. 
  • Lack of benefits: Gig workers do not typically receive the kind of benefits that traditional employees would receive in the workplace such as insurance, investments, paid time off, etc. 
  • Isolation: Gig economy professionals typically work alone and are unlikely to visit any workplace. They have limited to no time to interact with coworkers/colleagues on a regular basis, which can quickly become the reason to feel isolated and cut out. 

Possibly due to these challenges, combined with a desire for more stability, according to a McKinsey report, 62 percent of independent workers surveyed preferred to work as a permanent employee.

Exploring Work Structures: Which One Is Right For You? 

There are multiple sorts of work arrangements now available to professionals, all with their own unique characteristics and requirements and it’s hard to determine which one is best suited for you. 

In traditional employment, which would be the typical 9-5 job, individuals are employed by a company on a permanent basis. In this structure, employees receive a regular salary, and benefits, and have the opportunity to move up the ‘corporate ladder’ with chances of advancement within the company. It’s arguably the most popular work structure and the most common since it provides a sense of familiarity, stability, and security. However, many would say that this comes at the risk of losing out on a lot of autonomy and flexibility. 
In reality, this is a never-ending dialogue. Everyone would always have a preference for a particular work structure, which is arrived at after taking into consideration personal preference, personality traits, skill sets, and lifestyle. You can ask yourself important questions such as: 

  • What kind of work environment do I see myself thriving in?
  • Do I value stability and benefits, or flexibility and autonomy? 
  • Do I prefer working independently or as part of a team?
  • What is my preferred work schedule and location? 
  • How important is work-life balance to me? Does my current work structure support it satisfactorily?
  • Am I comfortable with a more traditional hierarchical work structure or do I prefer a flatter, more autonomous structure? 
  • How much control do I need over my work? 
  • How important is a regular/steady/predictable flow of income to me? 
  • What are my long-term career goals, and which work structure will likely help me achieve them? 
  • What are my key skills and strengths?
  • What are my personal commitments and responsibilities? Do I need a work structure that allows for flexibility in scheduling?

Apart from this, it helps to do your research before taking any major step. Take time to learn about the pros and cons of each, the potential income, job security, etc. Also, remember that no one said you have to pick one path and stick with it! In the modern business world today, agility and flexibility are highly valued and desired traits. Feel free to remain open to new opportunities that come your way and experiment with different work structures as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. 

Mastering Your Career Path

At the end of the day, mastering your career path truly means finding a sense of fulfillment and purpose in whatever you do. Whether you work in an office setting or in a flexible remote environment, you can achieve mastery by following certain principles and techniques. This involves not only working on developing your technical skills but also the ever-important soft skills such as communication, leadership, and critical thinking. It is a continuous process of learning and improvement, where you strive for excellence in all aspects of your professional life. 

  • Set clear goals and develop a plan
  • Prioritise continuous learning and improvement to stay ahead of the new technologies and industry trends 
  • Seek feedback and mentorship 
  • Network and build relationships - online via LinkedIn and even offline through industry events, professional associations

The Future Of Gig Work In India

The emergence of different work structures in recent years has had a significant impact on the job market and this trend is only expected to increase in the future. 

This isn’t limited to just the Western countries; similar shifts are taking place in other countries around the world too. 

Talking about the Indian scenario, the gig economy is a relatively new concept here and while it has shown impressive growth in recent years, it has not yet taken off at the same pace as some of the other economies. This is due to a number of factors. In India, there is still a strong emphasis on traditional employment models, with many people preferring the stability and security of a permanent job. Gig work is often regarded as the last resort here, which is an attitude that demands immediate change. Another factor that has contributed to the slow growth of alternate work structures in India is the absence of clear laws and regulations governing it; many professionals are left without legal protections or access to necessary benefits. 

However, despite these challenges, there are signs that the gig economy is picking up a rapid pace in India a well. According to ASSOCHAM, India’s gig economy is expected to grow to $455 billion by 2024 at a compounded annual growth rate of 17% — with the potential to grow at least double the pre-estimates for the post-Covid-19 period. This is already evident in industries like IT, where gig workers drive innovation and growth. 

The future of work in India will likely be characterized by a mix of traditional and non-traditional employment models. 

However, this shift also has its challenges. The traditional job market is built around the concept of full-time, long-term employment, and this model is being ‘disrupted’ by the rise of alternative work arrangements. This is increasing the talent gap in many industries, especially technology, as employers struggle to find skilled professionals.

At Global Talent Exchange, we’re working on a mission to mobilize talent to bridge this talent and skill gap. We help skilled professionals from tech hubs around the world find the perfect jobs that play to their strengths and provides them with a strong sense of purpose across the different work structures. 

Register with us to access multiple career opportunities, mentorship and guidance, networking opportunities, and several resources to keep you updated with the latest information about the technology industry.