7 Discoveries About Becoming a Gig Economist
July 6, 2020
Late 2019 brought a lot of changes into my life. I left an organization I loved and had poured my heart into for over ten years. After years of believing my husband, Brooks, and I should never work together, we agreed that I would come to work for his construction company, but not actually get a paycheck. I turned 40, which in and of itself was traumatic and probably should have resulted in a month-long spa vacation. For the first time in all my 40 years I was not self-sustainable and did not have a regular paycheck for which my parents had instilled a great value.
Fear of the unknown crept in daily as I neared the final days of my secure full-time job, challenging me to back down from the decision I knew in my heart was the step I needed to take. Although I had no idea what the future would hold, I knew I had to close my eyes and leap. This was not a step or a jump, but an arm-flailing, full body thrust off a cliff into the wild world of the gig economy.
Prior to 2019 I barely knew what the gig economy was. A multi-hyphenated life was what I thought younger Millennials were all about, but not for the practical, educated Gen Xers. I had always had a full-time job, excelled at what I did and typically found myself in stable industries and on a predictable path of upward movement.
Then the tables turned.
Since January of 2020 I have taken more risk in six months than I have my whole life. I’m dead serious. So much risk. I put myself on social media in ways that make my armpits sweat just mentioning it. But I’m sort of addicted to the risk now. I love challenging myself to stretch my boundaries and abilities.
I started coaching a few small nonprofits (absolutely the love of my life).
I took on a gig to do PR and marketing strategy for a public speaker.
Then I lost both of these areas as COVID-19 ramped up in March.
I am a VA (Virtual Assistant) for a podcaster.
I do contract marketing work for a nonprofit in the Midwest
I’m overseeing the launch of two websites
I still help Brooks with some admin for his construction company
And oh yeah, I podcast and blog as a creative outlet.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a ton this year and we are only halfway finished with 2020. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from gigging (not to be confused with frog gigging, if you’re from the south).
I remember working until 9 or 10pm some nights in my early thirties and when my boss would ask why I stayed so late, my quick response was that I could get sooo much done when everyone was gone. But I was working for a collaborative organization and over the ten years I spent there I came to value a team approach to work more than my little introverted brain thought possible.
Now that I spend 80% of my days working solo, I realize the importance of brainstorming ideas, have different perspectives, and being able to banter and laugh throughout the day, even if it’s at stupid mistakes I’ve made.
When I first dropped my full-time status at my old job, I was piecing together jobs and projects that were 10-15 hours per week. Do you know how many of those you need to have to earn a sustainable wage?
While I have proudly labeled myself as a multitasker in the past, juggling more than three employers is not for the faint of heart. Brooks doesn’t understand why I get frustrated when I’m interrupted. It’s just just because I lose my train of thought, but I schedule very specific blocks of time throughout the day to focus on each employer. I want each person’s projects to get my full attention and I can’t do that if I check every text message and answer every phone call, especially when it’s to tell me you need toothpaste the next time I’m at Target.
When you work for a company, whether in-person or remotely, you have common goals with the people around you. You speak the same language, you know all the insider acronyms and abbreviations, and you geek out over industry discoveries and developments.
Guess what? Brooks doesn’t give a rat’s ass that I just got an advanced certification in Google Analytics and I can tailor his UTMs to give the best feedback on the ad sets I’m running. (What is that jargon?!) My neighbor across the street doesn’t want to talk about the impact of the changes Instagram made to their algorithm on my projects.
I miss having someone integrated into my life who speaks the same language and who is already a part of my daily rhythms.
The gig economy is great for trying a lot of new things in a short amount of time. Because most people have multiple skills they can step into a variety of situations and find success in what they do. Yet, just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you will enjoy it.
I don’t love research. I’m the one who believes if you can’t find it on the first page of a Google search, maybe you don’t really need it. At one point early in our relationship the podcaster I work for asked me to do some research for one of her businesses. I did it and I invested genuine effort into finding the best information for her. However, I didn’t enjoy it and it showed. This podcaster and I almost parted ways because it created a tension as I tried to live in an area that sparked zero joy for me.
Once I moved back into my lane of email marketing and content creation for her, we were fine and have been working together for seven months now.
As soon as I mentally released my full-time position, my head and heart were fully open to all the things. Not that they are all right for me, but I can consider so many different things now. Brooks and I talk about different ventures we want to get into, one of my best friends and I are constantly throwing around ideas to serve and support women, and another friend who is deep in the throes of grad school has promised to keep an open mind about some type of business venture together when she graduates.
When you have nothing to lose in your life (no money, no title, no organizational health at stake), it no longer feels like there is any reason to say no before you try.
When I worked in a specific industry, my networking targets were also specific. I had a fairly narrow focus on who I should spend time with. Debating whether or not to stay in that singular industry, I ultimately decided I wanted to work within a broader spectrum. Almost immediately the type of people I began interacting with changed and included an array of industries. My priority shifted from an industry to meeting cool people who are interested in exploring opportunity and possibility as much as I am, regardless of their unique niche.
For the love, people. Twelve months ago you couldn’t have paid me to stay home two days in a row. Now I’m home every. single. day.
The lovely Corona helped with that a little, but I would have reached this point anyway, because as I said earlier, it’s difficult to juggle multiple employers, but even more so if you work with someone local who wants to see your face weekly. That’s just not efficient, so thank goodness everyone universally accepts Zoom meetings as the norm now.
I have had to stick with routines not just because I’m a creature of habit, but because if I don’t schedule quiet time in the morning for reading and exercise I will roll out of bed into my desk and park my butt there for the next ten hours. These rhythms look different than they did in my pre-gig lifetime, but I take mini walks throughout the day and I do mid-day yoga on the patio to get fresh air. Brooks built a rad pub table for the patio and although I complain about the evening sun in our west-facing backyard, it’s the ideal setup for working outside all day, shaded until mid-afternoon.
It’s still strange to bid on gigs with dozens of other freelancers, like a virtual cage fight for the chance to write an email marketing series and clean up a Wordpress site. My word for 2020 was ‘adventure’, in the sense that every day was going to be an adventure. That has proven to be the perfect word for the year and I look forward to waking up to every tomorrow and see what the day brings.