While remote work gained popularity and social acceptance during the pandemic, working from home is far from a new concept. In fact, over forty years ago, IBM had 2,000 remote workers. And its popularity has continued to grow from there. Freelancers and digital nomads are enjoying the benefits of the gig economy and will ensure remote work is here to stay.
Businesses that encourage remote work are benefiting as well. They can cut operating costs associated with rent and utilities, and they’re able to foster more productive and inclusive work environments. Additionally, remote work can improve the recruiting process, as it opens the door for more applicants, and it’s been proven to significantly reduce turnover.
Despite these benefits for employees and businesses, some companies still focus on the challenges within the gig economy, especially regarding employee engagement. Leaders question how they’ll be able to monitor performance and drive productivity for employees they rarely — if ever — see in person. I spoke with Wayne Goshkarian, the Founder and President of Dylan Consulting, to understand more about his views on the gig economy.
Jeff Fromm: The gig economy is exploding. What is the appeal for people to work in the gig economy rather than the typical nine-to-five?
Wayne Goshkarian: Independence is the primary appeal for working in the gig economy.
In a traditional setting, employees have expectations they must live up to and a boss they must answer to. Gig workers have the freedom to choose their schedules, select work that interests them, and complete tasks in their own unique way. This sets them up for a better work/life balance.
Gig work can range from being an independent contractor (i.e., driving for Lyft and Uber) to establishing a shop on Etsy. Many see it as a simple, easy, and affordable way to generate a supplemental income, which turns into a full-time gig for many. These types of workers may be following a passion or may just enjoy the privilege of choosing their own jobs. Either way, gig workers have an entrepreneurial heart and tend to be very driven.
It also appeals to a wide variety of individuals. Single parents, for example, can either use gig work to balance their kid’s school schedules or as supplemental income to pay for childcare. Gen Z, who have grown up with technology, also see the great income potential they have at their fingertips. The internet and smartphones enable the gig economy to thrive today, and many individuals can create and promote a business venture quickly.
Fromm: What are the benefits of employers hiring gig workers? And how do these workers benefit from being classified as gig workers?
Goshkarian: There are many benefits to hiring a gig worker. They are considered independent contractors, which means you can hire them based on your needs. Employers can manage workload by ‘on demand’ needs, which reduces the cost of goods and services. It can also be very cost effective, since you do not have to provide employee benefits such as 401K, health insurance, paid time off and so on, for each gig worker you hire.
Gig workers are like entrepreneurs and reap similar rewards. It’s much easier for them to design their lives how they see fit. They benefit from this classification because they can make up their own hours and have the flexibility to work on fresh projects that intrigue them. They don’t have to worry about being fired when they are their own boss.
Fromm: How does the Association for Entrepreneurship USA support gig workers?
Goshkarian: Gig workers do need support. Since they don’t get the same perks as a full-time employee, it can become costly to obtain benefits. AFEUSA has mass guaranteed insurance products from companies like MetLife, Zurich, Chubb, Equitable, Crum & Forster, and Prudential — just to name a few. AFEUSA also built an ‘Amazon-like’ online enrollment system for these members to access these programs.
AFEUSA provides education, networking opportunities, and resources to give entrepreneurs fundamental tools to help grow their business. For example, we are partnering with Dylan Consulting in March for our annual focus group event in Pebble Beach. There, we will talk about how the exploding gig economy needs to be addressed in the health insurance industry.
The AFEUSA website features informative articles to help entrepreneurs thrive in business with guides about how to properly plan a marketing strategy, advice for picking up gig work during the holiday season, and how to generate relevant and consistent leads. AFEUSA guides entrepreneurs in how to get a domain, set up an LLC, and other basic steps to get their business up-and-running.
Fromm: What do you predict the future of gig work will look like?
Goshkarian: The gig economy is here to stay. Gig work provides people long term flexibility to generate income ($500-$2,000 per month) with little to no investment. After The Great Resignation many people are wondering where the workforce is going. The answer is that a lot of workers are switching to gig work. According to a study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, a majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2027.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, people have learned how to work from home and enjoy flexible schedules. Now, the world has become our office. You can work for a company in the United States, while traveling in Europe. Many people, like myself, have opted to take up residency in multiple locations because our work allows us to. As technology continues to advance, there will be more opportunities for people to work remotely.
Also, although gig work may be perceived as something for the younger generation, it can also be great supplemental income for those who are at retirement age. With inflation, many retirees are getting into gig work to afford their lifestyles. In the future, even more retirees might be doing gig work to boost their fixed income.
I predict that the workforce will trend toward more gig work, small businesses will continue to thrive, and many will opt to work for themselves.