When I first started traveling and working remotely, I assumed that all the people I would meet would work as computer programmers. But I quickly learned that remote working is truly the next wave, and a wide range of jobs can be done from a distance. It also became clear to me that the digital nomad community frequently overlaps with the gig economy.
The “gig economy” refers to the increase in people working either part-time or as freelancers. Last year, the Department of Labor estimated that 35% of US workers are independent contractors and that number is only expected to go up.
Like most things, the gig economy has positives and negatives. Proponents of this type of working point to the freedom and flexibility they have. They set their own hours and only take on projects that they choose. Satisfied gig workers claim that this flexibility allows them to more carefully cultivate a brand and do work that really matters to them.
But there are also downsides. Many gig workers do hourly and piecemeal jobs like driving for Lyft and Uber or shopping for groceries for Instacart. Critics say that these kinds of jobs rarely provide adequate compensation and move the burden of financial risk onto the individual workers rather than on the large corporation. And independent contractors generally don’t receive health insurance or retirement benefits, making it difficult for them to save money plan for the future.
Many experts believe the gig economy is here to stay, for better or worse. Fortunately, the way to thrive in a gig economy is not that different from the way to thrive professionally in general. Successful and happy freelancers point to a need for flexibility in both their types of work and in their roles on a given project. They also emphasize the value of finding work you feel enthusiastic about, whether for the creative satisfaction you get from it or for the lifestyle that work enables you to have. The only certainty is that the way we work will continue to change, and the best way to prepare for that is to stay engaged and adaptable.