The Gig Economy and the Never-Ending Pursuit of Work-Life Balance.

I love what's happening in the world of work right now, as the gig economy and social enterprise slowly but surely take over the interwebs... and our lives. 

The dictionary.com definition of the gig economy is "a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs." 

Having had hundreds of conversations with business owners over the past 12 months, I'm convinced that the gig economy is the way of the future. People just don't want to be locked into 9-5 jobs anymore, they want freedom. They want to be able to live and work on their own terms. They don't want to be chained to a desk 11 months of the year and have to beg for 2 weeks off work to spend with their family, only to be told no because "Shelly's off at that time too." Damn Shelly. 

In today's economy, a little flexibility is (finally) NOT too much to ask. 

For decades we've been fighting the idea that output is related to 'time at desk' or 'time in office'. And to this day, there are lots of managers and business owners who are reluctant to change up their business model to allow people more freedom and flexibility to work around their own schedule. 

...It's not news to anyone that that workers who have freedom and flexibility are generally happier and more productive. According to this article by Forbes, flexible workers "achieved more, were sick less often, worked longer hours, [and] were happier in their work." 

Why then, are employers still so reluctant to shift their thinking toward giving their people a good dose of flexibility? And if they don't start to come around on this issue, what's going to happen? 

It's my personal belief, that those who don't start providing a level of flexibility and freedom to their people, will start to lose them to the gig economy, and online marketplaces where people can tender out their services on websites such as Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr. 

On the other hand, it's also been said that this movement is happening in part, because people's needs are becoming more specialised, and consultants and service providers are niching down their offering to cater to this new type of buyer. 

The internet has then provided the structure to connect these buyers and sellers instantly, and directly. Typically, contracts are shorter and higher intensity in the form of projects and project support, meaning that people can simultaneously work on a number of smaller contracts, and earn a living that is well-proportionate to what they would have made as an annual salary working for someone else. 

These projects are then up-scaled or down-scaled based on an individual's lifestyle or financial requirements. 

There is a new sub-culture emerging in business, where like-minded people from all over the globe are connecting up and creating new offerings that cater to a niche group of consumers. 

People have found so much leverage just by using the internet well. You can come out with a single offer, which can be as simple or as complex as you like, market it well, get it in front of the right people and execute a highly scalable service to one customer after the next - one that you know has real impact on the people you're serving. 

I've seen first-hand, people rise out of obscurity in their industry, scaling to epic proportions and becoming incredibly rich, seemingly overnight, using a simple 3-step sales funnel.  

I'm not saying everyone is a success story thanks to the internet. But your chances are higher than ever, and the information is 'out there' on how to make this happen. It's up to the individual to go out and get 'theirs' for the taking.

The internet means there's now a market for everything. And unless you're the very best, or the very cheapest, the 'middle ground' has become a bloodbath, as people are finding it harder and harder to differentiate. When you can't differentiate, you get beaten down on price, and end up stretched so thin you couldn't possibly make a living. 

It's more important than ever to build a brand to combat the ever-growing, all consuming 'middle ground' wasteland, and create new opportunities, find new problems to solve, and new ways of doing things. 

According to recent research, 38% of people aged 35 and up are now regular freelancers - meaning that this shift is already happening, as people go out on their own in search for more alignment between their 'personal' and 'work' lives. 

I am a testament to this. I left my steady, secure 9-5 job in search of a lifestyle where I wasn't living to work, but rather working to live. This has had a profound shift on my perception toward work and how it fits into our lives, and honestly, I've never been happier. 

The truth is, we are in the age of the internet, and the online business world is growing like some sort of rare and precious weed. It's only going to get more prevalent as we come to truly understand the possibilities available to us. 

As more and more people realise they could make the same or more money by doing the same thing online, from the comfort of their living rooms - we're going to see that percentage of freelancers get a LOT bigger. 

If I was an employer right now, I'd be looking at how to foster a culture of trust, flexibility and freedom within my company, and focus on outcomes, not output.  

We are living in the best time in history to go out and 'make it' on our own terms. The notion of being paid to do what you love is now so far within reach that I believe we almost have an obligation to reach out and grab it. 

To your (online) success,

-Carmen