By Jeff Smith
Part-timers. Side hustlers. Freelancers. Independent contractors. Collectively, they form what’s often referred to as the “gig economy,” comprised of 57 million American workers. While the gig economy today contains 36% of employees, it is expected to grow to 43% by next year. The shift away from traditional workplaces may be due to the increasing desire for flexible work, as one-third of the world’s professionals say maintaining a work-life balance is becoming more difficult.
Technology is a big enabler of this kind of freelance work. With the rise of apps and websites like Uber, Instacart, and Etsy, you can work from anywhere if you have a working phone. It’s never been easier to be your own boss from the comfort of your home, car, or coffee shop.
If you’re considering entering the gig economy or taking on some side hustles of your own, keep in mind that there are things that a company normally would provide that you now must take care of yourself. Take a few steps to stay on top financial matters such as taxes to ensure your credit won’t be damaged. Stay self-motivated to maximize your productivity.
Read on for more essential tips to set yourself up for gigging success.
For many freelancers, work is more than just a paycheck. A key reason they decide to leave a traditional workplace in the first place is to pursue something that aligns more with their values and interests. Having a purpose in your independent work is crucial to stay inspired and motivated. Remind yourself of that purpose when things get rocky in order to stay resilient.
Financial uncertainty is a huge reason people don’t join the gig economy. Know that while you’re first starting out, income may fluctuate. Make sure you have an emergency fund so you have a safety net for drier months. You can also look to apps like Steady that help you increase and track your income, find work opportunities, and leverage the power of community.
To combat uncertainty, it’s easy to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way — but it’s important to select your jobs wisely. Take a look at how much you’ll earn for the time you spend doing the job. No job is worth being undervalued and underpaid. That’s time that you could have spent networking for gigs that would actually pay a living wage.
Freelancing is like having several different jobs and bosses, so time management is crucial. Give yourself permission to let personal texts, calls and emails go unanswered unless you really can spare the time. To see where the hours in your day are going and delegate more time where more effort is needed, consider a time-tracking app. Due, Sighted, and TopTracker all have free options.
The benefit of being your own boss is that you get to dictate what your office space looks like and how it functions. Make sure to maximize your space to fit however you work best. Without a physical workplace to go to, it’s easy to feel rootless. Be sure to establish a physical place you can retreat to that you know you will be productive in, like a home office or corner of a cafe.
The gig economy is not for everyone. Some workers thrive in a consistent, orderly office space. Others may live in an environment that is too hectic for productive work, or not suitable for the kind of work they do. If this sounds like you but you still want to join the gig economy, try a coworking space to see if the environment better fits your needs. Companies like Impact Hub, WeWork, and Knotel have locations all around the US, although you may find a local space that better fits your needs.
Morning routines signal to your brain that it’s time to work, which can be especially helpful when there’s no physical office to go to. Routines give you time to get your thoughts together so you’re more equipped to handle whatever the day brings.
Research even shows that routines enhance the focus and performance of famous athletes, popular artists, and scientific geniuses. So take the time to meditate, go for a walk, or make a cup of tea before your day gets started — you’ll thank yourself later.
Nothing’s worse than putting in a full day’s work only to realize you’ve undercharged a client. If you don’t charge enough, you may be working all day and night just to make ends meet. Not only is this demoralizing, but it’s simply not practical. Charge what you’re worth and you may find yourself joining the 20% of freelancers making over $100,000 annually.
Whether you’re a shift worker or a full-time freelancer, you’ll be thankful you stayed on top of your finances when tax season rolls around. Be sure to keep business and personal expenses separate, save for retirement, diligently track your income and expenses, and claim all appropriate tax deductions. If you need help, consider consulting a financial advisor or trusted mentor.
A major challenge for those who are self employed or working as freelancers is finding affordable and reliable healthcare coverage. Keep in mind that under the Affordable Care Act, you must have the “minimal essential coverage.” Luckily, there are many options, and with a little planning and research, you’ll be able to find one that fits your needs. If you have a spouse or domestic partner, you may even qualify for their health insurance.
The gig economy isn’t slowing down. With 94% of workers open to non-traditional forms of work, employers are starting to increase work from home flexibility and independent contract work. Remember the purpose you established from the beginning and never sell yourself short — because when you value your work, the world will too, and you’ll start to find opportunities around every corner.
Jeff Smith is VP of Content and SEO at Self.