gig economy

Will New Tax Laws Mean More Independent Contractors? It Depends.

By Kristen Harris

Recent changes to US tax law have started a whole new round of conversation about independent contractors. The line of thought is that some of the provisions will cause many more people to leave their jobs and work independently. Is that true? Maybe. Like most things, it depends. 

First of all, let’s be totally clear...I am not an attorney, accountant, or tax law expert of any sort. This is purely my opinion and reaction to recent conversations and articles.

Now, back to the topic. Will these changes to the tax law create a whole new wave of independent contractors? While some provisions may seem to encourage it this trend is already happening, and I believe it will continue with or without government involvement.

When the Affordable Care Act was first proposed there was a similar level of conversation about how it would push many more people into being independent contractors. The theory was, if people had access to healthcare on their own, they would be much more likely to work for themselves instead of an employer.

The conversation around these tax changes is similar. One provision allows sole proprietors (in most industries) to deduct 20 percent of annual revenue from their taxable income. Some people believe these tax savings will entice employees to go out on their own. 

And, for some people, it might. For a certain person saving on taxes could be the tipping point, the last little thing that encourages them to start something on their own instead of being an employee. But, just like the ACA healthcare issue, I believe that someone who makes that choice was already considering it anyway. 

Rather than forcing people to become independent contractors, these tax law changes are just removing one more barrier that may have prevented someone from making that choice. I don’t believe it’s suddenly creating a flood of people starting their own independent businesses who never considered that option before. Starting and building a business is hard, it has to be something you actually want to do. And there are still other tax considerations, like tracking expenses and being responsible for both the employer and employee portion of the federal payroll tax. 

There has been a consistent shift to people working independently for years and that trend is likely to continue. Three key factors are driving this shift–employer choice, employee preference, and access to information–and they’re not going away.

Companies are evolving the way they build their workforce, and most use some percentage of non-employees (independent contractors, contract workers, SOW firms, etc) allowing them the flexibility to manage work in the way that is best for their business. On the other side, some people prefer to work independently for a variety of reasons–the ability to work on a variety of projects, flexibility in schedule and location, work/life balance, family considerations, or the ability to build a lasting business–just to name a few. The catalyst that has helped bring the employer and employee sides together is access to information. Many people can work anywhere, anytime.

Even jobs that involve some level of physical work or presence may have the ability to be independent due to information access (ride-share drivers, for example).

So, while the changes in tax law may make it easier or slightly more attractive to be an independent contractor, might encourage someone to go ahead and take that leap, I believe the trend towards more independent work will continue with or without government involvement. The more access we have to information, the more possible it is to have and be an independent worker. My two cents (earned independently).

Hiring and Employment: Change is Here

By Kristen Harris

Growth is one of our company values at Portfolio Creative – we are always learning, improving, and adapting. In the spirit of growth, I recently attended the American Staffing Association’s Staffing World Conference. It’s important for us to stay on top of employment and hiring trends so we can provide the best possible service to our clients and talent.

Here are the highlights of what we heard at this year’s conference.

Top Five Trends:

  1. Gig Economy and Free Agency. Depending on which report you read, something like 30-40% of the workforce today is “independent” or part of the “gig economy.” While there is not a clear definition of these terms, we can all agree that the era of having a job at the same company for thirty years is long gone. Most people in the workforce today think like free agents, choosing their work opportunities based on what interests them and where they can best deploy their skills. Technology is enabling a sea change in how and where people work. More than ever people are able, interested, and willing to work independently. This may mean finding work through an app or platform, having multiple less-than-full-time jobs that feed different interests or taking on contract roles and projects that leverage their skills.

  2. The Robots are Coming. There is some fear around robots “replacing” humans in jobs, but the reality is probably less dystopian. Yes, robots and artificial intelligence will become part of the workplace. Actually, it’s already here–you’ve probably used a self-checkout station at the grocery, ordered lunch at a kiosk, or know about driverless cars currently doing test runs. What they can’t and won’t replace are the types of work that require what truly makes us human. Work that is creative, innovative, emotional, or requires decision making and problem-solving. Some of us remember when graphic design required hand-drawing graphics and rubbing down perfectly space type; now we have computers to help us execute our creative ideas, but they can’t create the idea for us.

  3. The Millennials Are Here. Honestly, I don’t like categorizing people solely by their birth year, and Millennials are pretty much tired of everyone talking about them like they are alien beings; but the reality is that the balance of our workforce has shifted. There are more Millennials entering the workforce and more Boomers retiring daily. The Millennials, being such a large generation, are literally changing the workforce and society. We are in one of those rare eras where older people are becoming more like younger people, instead of the other way around.

  4. Google and Amazon – Part 1. We live in an Amazon and Google-driven world where there is quick access to products, services, and information 24/7. Quick access used to be novel and exciting; now it’s becoming the norm and soon will be an expectation. Amazon’s ability to provide near-immediate access to products and Google’s dominance in gathering and utilizing data will drive how business is done across most industries. To a large extent, life is happening on a smartphone. These two behemoths are re-shaping expectations of how services are delivered, how work gets done, how jobs are found, and how people are hired. Not to mention the impact they have on the communities where they are located (238 cities put in a proposal to woo Google’s HQ2 to their city), and it’s clear the impact Amazon’s facilities have had on hiring in Central Ohio.

  5. Google and Amazon – Part 2. In this Amazon and Google-driven world everything (and to some extent, everyone) is being rated. How many stars do you have? How many reviews? How many Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, or Instagram followers? When you’re doing a good job and creating quality, take the effort to get credit for it. People pay attention to both the quality and quantity of online ratings, crowdsource information and referrals, and judge others by their online presence. Creepy? Maybe. Unfair? Perhaps. But this is the world we live in, so learn how to participate in a way true to you and your values.

The biggest threat to any industry, business or career is inaction. If you are not creating, innovating, and developing new ideas, rest assured someone is. Don’t fear being disrupted, be part of the disruption.

Side Hustles: It's Not Just About the Money

By Kristen Harris

Nearly a third of workers have a side gig, according to recent research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder(1). This statistic caught my eye because I know a lot of people who do extra work on the side in addition to their regular day job. It’s pretty common in the creative industry.

The research had other interesting findings, like more women than men have side hustles (35 percent vs. 28 percent), and those under 35 are more likely to have a side hustle than those over 35.

I don’t agree with the headline framing the motivation for this side work as purely economic. “Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men”, they say.

That may be the case for some workers, especially at the lower end of the pay scale, but the study also found that 25 percent of workers making more than $75K and 19 percent of those making more than $100K currently have a gig outside of their full-time job. I don’t buy the premise that these people are doing side jobs purely for the money. Especially when other research has shown that about $75K is the “happiness plateau” where a higher household income doesn’t have much of an impact on emotional well-being(2). Interesting, huh?

Consider common roles cited as side gigs – babysitter, chef/baker, dog walker, blogger, DJ – along with less-common roles like face painter, soap maker, and rapper. Yes, some people may do these side jobs purely for the money, but these also sound the type of side work that people may choose to do because they like it. Side gigs can be a creative outlet, utilize a skill or fulfill an interest that isn’t used in the day job, or a hobby that starts earning money.

Creative people like what they do, and often do even more of it in their off hours. They may do freelance projects in the same field as their day job, or something totally different. Maybe a graphic designer also really likes photography does it as a side hustle, or an attorney is also a skilled writer who works on freelance articles and editing in her free time.

Creative people like variety and opportunities to flex their creative muscle or learn new skills, all of which they can gain with side gigs. Top that with the fact the 35-and-under generations also are quite entrepreneurial. They don’t believe that just one type of work, one occupation, or one field defines them. In general, they want the stability of a day job, but also find ways to weave other types of work into their life.

The statistics in this research are interesting, but I think they missed the boat with an overall conclusion that the only motivation for side gigs is to “close the pay gap.” That may be true for some, but people also have other motivations to take on side gigs or build their own side hustle.

What do you think? Are economic factors the reason so many people have side gigs? What motivated you to start a side hustle of your own?

  1. Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men;          Aug. 10, 2017

  2. Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?; September 6, 2010 



 

Your Job is Really a Gig, and Why That’s a Good Thing

By Kristen Harris

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about ‘gigs’ and the ‘gig economy’ lately, but may have thought it doesn’t apply to you. Here’s the deal–gigs aren’t just for Uber drivers and musicians anymore. We're all working in the gig economy. All jobs are becoming gigs. 

Work has been impacted by the Information Age, becoming more flexible and transient than ever before. For more information on gigs, jobs, and how the gig economy has evolved, check out the previous article Job vs. Gig: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters.

So, the gig economy is here, what does that mean to you?

First of all, your job is really a gig. While it may be salaried, Monday through Friday, 40ish hours a week, it’s still a gig. Why? Because all work is just-in-time, as-needed, and constantly evolving with company, industry, economic, social and political changes. We live in a highly connected international world, and that impacts all business and work.

This shift to an information-based world of work means that all jobs are based on current projects and needs. Those projects and needs constantly change, impacting the size and type of workforce needed. Which affects how companies hire, and how people manage their career.

Don’t despair, for people in the workforce this is a good thing! Skills and talents are valued, and opportunities are no longer (solely) based on seniority. Yes, someone with more experience may have different opportunities, but based on their level of knowledge and skill (read about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule), not just because they’ve been at the company longest.

There are very few industries left where seniority is the only consideration for promotion (ahem, airline pilots). Generally, your skills, talent, and willingness to learn leads to new opportunities. This means individuals can find new ways to apply and grow skills, gain new experiences, pursue interesting opportunities, and be paid in a way that equates with the value of what they bring to the table.

If there’s a downside to this whole gig economy, here it is–it’s harder. Finding your own way, blazing your trail, building your skills and promoting them to others is all harder than finding that one job right out of school and staying there for 30 years. This new world order requires more hustle than before. You’ll probably change employers more often, may have multiple careers, and will often find self-employment or flexible work arrangements to be the norm.

But upside of opportunities and control over your own career outweighs the downsides. Plus, the gig economy is here, so we all might as well figure out how to make it work. Hustle, and build the career you want. Your future is in your hands!

Job vs. Gig: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters

By Kristen Harris

We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘gigs’ lately, along with the ‘gig economy’, and you probably have some questions. What exactly IS a ‘gig’? What’s the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘gig’? Is one better than the other? Most importantly, why should I care? How does it affect me?

Let's start with a few definitions. 

Job - A job is work done for pay. Jobs may be piecework, hourly, salaried, task-based, project-based, and many other options. When we hear the word ‘job’, we typically think of a specific role in a company that you do regularly with the expectation that you’ll return every day indefinitely.

Gig - A gig is a job that lasts a certain period of time, often the life of a project or as long as the company has that specific need. It can be short-term and specific in length, or long-term and lasting as long as the need continues. All gigs are jobs, but not all jobs are gigs.

With gigs, we often think of the music and entertainment industry, but in today’s world this term can be applied to all types of industries and roles. It’s especially common in the creative, IT and technology fields because of the flexible employment model that accompanies the gig economy.

So, back to those initial questions...why should I care, and how does it affect me? Because the world of work has shifted over the last 20+ years, and is continuing to change rapidly. Work looks different, and people think differently about their work.

All work is becoming more ‘gig’-like in nature, regardless of the employment structure. The traditional concept of being in one job for life is inflexible, outdated, and as rare as a unicorn. Because it’s what both people and employers want, jobs are starting to look a lot more like gigs. A gig can turn into long-term employment if that’s what both parties want, but with the (perhaps unspoken) understanding that both parties are committed to each other as long as it makes sense but with no expectation that will be forever.

People want new challenges, fresh ideas, and different opportunities. They no longer stay at one company, or even in one type of career, for their entire work life. An individual may pursue a variety of different types of work, concurrently or one after another. They move companies frequently, and expect new opportunities even if they stay at the same company. This is what a gig mindset gives them, whether the work is packaged as a salaried position or some other option.

Experts predict that by 2020 as much as 40% of the workforce will be contingent (not salaried employees of a company). We’re already working in the gig economy. It’s here. How will you make it work for you?

How the New “Gig Economy” is Going to Help Business

By Catherine Lang-Cline

I am sure that you have been hearing a lot about the new “gig economy.” But what exactly is it?  As a former graphic designer and someone that has created a business based on workforce solutions, I can tell you that this way to work has actually been going on for quite a while and it has been a very successful way to get work done. I can tell you that when I worked as a contractor, I loved it. I knew I could bring my best game, my strength, to any project and really enjoyed each experience. As someone who has also hired freelancers and contractors, there really wasn’t anything more exciting than hand selecting and working with people that were the best in their field, or at least far better than me.

A “gig economy” defined by WhatIs.com is “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.” This is actually something that graphic designers, writers, illustrators, etc., have been doing for years because they find their jobs in marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising departments of all sizes have always ramped up talent as needed as part of their business model. They have always found people with special talents for special projects as they needed them. They have also always sent them away when they were longer needed. This has been an accepted model for many, many years and now the rest of the workforce is mimicking this idea and with great success.

This model can work quite successfully in business for a number of reasons:

Flexibility & Freedom

Today’s workforce is wanting more and more flexibility. What better then to have people work as needed and not pay for the downtime? They have freedom, you have less overhead.

Temporarily Fill Skills Gaps

You have access to all of the talent out there without having to officially add to your staff. This kind of flexibility in a company can save a lot of money if a surge in business is temporary. If you are a small business or start-up, this is a really great way to build your business by just having someone help out hourly as needed in areas that are not your strength.

Save Money

With that said, an hourly rate or project rate can sound intimidating, you actually are saving money by not having any costs to onboard, to contribute to worker’s compensation, and of course, benefits. No phone line, no business cards, etc.

Optional Employee “Trial Run”

Millennials are wanting to experiment more with different jobs. You can both check each other out without any kind of deep commitment. But with luck, in time, you could find out that you can’t live without each other. While they are freelancing or contracting with you, you get to understand their skillsets and their work ethic. You both get to find out if there is a culture match.

You can hire specific skills as needed. There is no expense in having to train staff if you can just bring the talented people for a specific project. For example, you need someone to rebuild your website or write new content. This is a task that only needs to be done once. Hire the specialist and when the job is complete, they move on to the next gig and you have a stellar new website.

Keeping #4 in mind, always make sure that this “gig employee” is set up in an actual company. Get a W-9 on file. If they don’t have W-9, you are leaving your business exposed from a tax standpoint. One option to avoid this is to start a great relationship with a company that specializes in temp workers. Find one that you really like working with and really understands your company's needs. That way you are just one phone call away from finding the best talent at the price you can afford. Another option is to ask for references and build your own database.

A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. How might that number change your business model? Even if you are opposed to the idea, this is the way the workforce is wanting to work today. This is how the best talent is going to be available. Think about how this could work where you are. Because the “gig economy” is here and if you are open and ready, it could be the best thing to happen to your business by having access to the best talent available, only when you need it.