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.
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.