This is not some dystopian dream. Nor is this a fad. The so-called gig-economy is coming and will be a significant part of our lives very soon (if it isn’t already). The “Gig-economy” is a phrase coined to describe the “Uber-ization” of the workforce in the coming decades. It basically means that every service which could be outsourced will be, and will be done so on a demand basis. You need to go to the grocery? You’ll have someone do that for you. You need to drive across the city? Someone will pick you up. You need to submit a complex excel sheet by tomorrow morning? Someone will create it for you. Everything will be price by the deliverables, making almost everyone an ad-hoc service provider. We all realize that the job security of yesteryears is forever gone. No assurance of employment until our retirement. But we still hope to have at least a steady monthly income.
But with the “on-demand” trend raising, many jobs will shift to a more flexible base. The services sector (including government) is the largest in all modern economies (after most of the manufacturing and agriculture have been mechanized). But this is exactly the sector which will suffer the most from this shift- no need to have so many people on the payroll- an employer can simply hire or order services on demand, reducing fixed costs and increasing his flexibility. Even sophisticated jobs like software development, IT and legal will suffer- these can easily be outsourced and consumed on demand using the global network of talents and freelancing hubs such as upwork or Fiverr.
While it is easy to dismiss the above as a simply a worrisome prediction, but it isn’t just a dystopian view of the distant future, it’s a process that is happening before our eyes, and only gaining momentum. So unless you are a barber, plumber or chef’ (these professions can’t be perform from remote and it will take many years before robots will be able to perform these tasks) you should be concerned for your occupational future.
But concern isn’t a great action plan, so instead, try to see how you can adjust to this new, albeit scary reality. In the following section I will describes the mental shift and skills required to survive this shift, and offer some tangible advise to “hack” this trend
1. Think like a freelancer
This mind shift is extremely hard for people who were employed in full time jobs for most of their grown lives. It requires one to embrace uncertainty and forgo the monthly paycheck and job security. But it is surely better to develop this mental toughness independently and not be forced into it by layoffs. This as job as something temporary, and always think about your next one. Acquiring this mindset is hard but once it settles in it will ensure you greater flexibility and an open mind to seek new and interesting opportunities an employee is oblivious to.
2. Develop skills which you can sell as a service
Or even better, skills which you can sell as a service from remote. Can you write? Paint? Teach? Then there’s definitely something you can offer others. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a real “profession” or something you’ve learned in university, just something you are good at, can deliver to other and (hopefully) charge for.
3. Find your USP- Unique selling point
This is unfamiliar for an employee, but something a freelancer knows how to articulate very well. What is it that you do that is different and better than your competition? If you provide pre-visit tips and planning services for people visiting your hometown, in what ways are you different than your competitors? Are you a foodie? Can you hook people with the coolest, under the radar restaurants? Then you’ve found your USP… now all you need to do is market it and sell it.
4. Online presence and marketing
Ahh, marketing and sales. Most people hate these aspects of business and are happy someone else in the corporate is handling these “uglier” sides of life. Guess what? As a freelancer it’s 100% up to you to market and sell yourself and your services. The marketing is easier for most- in today’s world all you really need is a solid online presence, like a blog, facebook page Pinterest profile. You need to invest resources in making this presence as professionally looking as possible and update it regularly. One tip I can provide- be very clear about what it is that you provide, don’t assume other people will guess that you are a designer just by vising your uber-cool blog. Create something like this which will make them wanna hire you on the spot:
This is a skillset most people lack. At least on the professional side, most of us don’t deal with the actual sale and even less than that- selling ourselves. But the ability to price your service, negotiate the price, bill and charge becomes critical when your income is determined by it.
I realize that what I’m talking about is scary and required time to digest. I’ve made this transition myself, knowing full well it will not be easy. But I’ve done so freely, without any outside pressure. I wanted to prepare myself for the complex future which lay ahead, and I preferred doing it on my own terms and not being pushed into it. Sadly, this is a luxury not many people will enjoy in the future, so it’s best to do and practice what you can now, and be as ready as you can for the day you step out of the office carrying a brown cardboard box and wondering what you’re going to do next…