5 ways to survive in the gig economy

3 min

First appeared in The Cusp.

If you’re a freelancer, muso, artist, driver – anyone who undertakes contract work in exchange for money, you’re part of what’s called the ‘gig economy'.

A gig economy is an environment where temporary positions are common, and organisations contract independent workers on a short-term basis.

Contract work has become more and more popular as a result of digitisation. As technology has developed, it has become increasingly easier to work from home, remotely and on your own terms. It’s a valid work setup that has plenty of perks, however there is a flip-side to this and may leave you asking ‘How do you budget when you’re paid so infrequently?’, ‘How do you ensure job stability?’ and ‘How do you motivate yourself when you’re more or less your own boss?’

Here’s how to survive or even thrive when you’re a contractor in the gig economy.

1.  Don’t be afraid to seek professional advice

If you’re ever unsure of something, it’s best to seek the advice of someone who is, otherwise it could cost you. Have a chat to a financial planner, who could help with things like budgeting and what to do with anything you can save and put aside.  A tax professional can also help you to find out all you need to know, what you need to plan for and what you need to pay before tax time ends.

It may also be worth talking to a marketing professional to discover the best way to get your name out there. Just because you’re working solo doesn’t mean you have to tackle this whole thing on your own. Find someone else that’s in the same shoes as you and have a chat to them. You might even find yourself a mentor.

2. Treat yourself like a business

In the gig economy, it’s important to approach your gig work the same way you would if you were the owner of a small business. Create an invoice template to send clients and order some business cards to get your name out there.

Be sure to network too. While the thought of networking may seem scary, it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as searching on social media to find some connections that do the same thing as you, or identify some potential clients. Contact them and ask them to go for a coffee to get information on the industry.

3. Make yourself a schedule and stick to it

The nature of contract work often means that you’re flying solo. This means there’s nobody around to ensure you’re being productive, or that you’re doing any work at all. It can be tempting to take lots of breaks, start late or finish early. So if you’re not the most motivated person, be sure to make yourself a schedule and stick to it. If you’re still struggling, ask a friend or family member to check in on you.

4.  Don’t work for free

Unfortunately, granting favours doesn’t pay the bills, so try your hardest not to work for free.

You may be in the financial position where you can give out favours, however if it gets to the point where you’re struggling and still giving your services away for free, it’s time to stop.

5. Learn to budget

When you’re paid infrequently, in varying amounts and aren’t certain when your next job’s going to be, remaining financially secure can be a struggle. The best piece of advice is to take the time to sit down and set out a monthly budget. Look back at your transaction history to find out what you’re spending your money on, and then determine what changes you can make to boost your savings and reduce unnecessary spending.

While being a contractor in the gig economy may seem scary at times, there are ways that you can take control of your situation and thrive.

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Article prepared by The Cusp and reused with permission. Information current as at April 2018 and may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs having regard to these factors before acting on it.