Due to its flexible nature, many students are opting to work on a freelance basis. As a result, we are seeing the emergence of what is referred to as a ‘gig economy’ within the global labour market. In this article, we discuss exactly what that means, what impact this might have on you and what you can do to put yourself in the best position possible.

What is a ‘gig economy’?

An environment in which organisations contract individual workers over short-term engagements. These are often based on the length of a project, an individual piece of work, or a short period of time (ie. one month).

It is forecast that by 2020, freelance workers will account for over 40% of the US workforce. In Australia, during the financial year 2014/15, 32% of Australian workers had freelanced. Temporary work is becoming more and more common each day – and there are good reasons for this.

In today’s digital heavy world, the workforce is increasingly mobile, so much so that location no longer limits connectivity. Freelance workers now have the option of selecting from a range of different jobs. Equally, employers now have a larger pool from which to select their talent.

What type of jobs are available?

While theoretically all industries will be affected by freelance working, it is the project-based organisations within the tech and creative industries that are currently most affected. Roles in copywriting, graphic design, photography, web design and account management are the most common freelance positions.

While food delivery is a common ‘gig economy’ occupation, the need for short-term employment stretches from junior administration roles right up to highly skilled designers and executives.

How can you benefit from these roles?

Flexibility is often the biggest incentive for many freelance workers. As these roles are often performed individually, you will have the luxury of completing them in your own time. Work-life balance can often be more easily achieved here than in full-time occupations.

Whether you choose to maintain this lifestyle or join the 9-5 workforce after graduation, working on a range of projects can be immensely valuable. You have the opportunity to work with various organisations, learn new time management skills, accept feedback on your work and enhance your network.

What are the drawbacks of a freelance lifestyle?

Maintaining constant work and feelings of isolation are two key areas of concern for many freelance workers. Especially when starting out, the lack of consistency can be difficult to manage and it is important to remind yourself that your hard work will pay off.

Look to friends for initial work (even if you do it for free) and build up your portfolio and contacts. The more people you engage with and the more successful projects you’re involved in, the more viable you make yourself to potential employers.

How to get freelance work

A good place to start is to set up a profile on a few websites. You can administer the accounts to notify you when new jobs are posted that match your skillset.

The Loop

Upwork

Freelancer

You will also need your own ABN (Australian Business Number) as the companies treat you as an ‘independent contractor’. We have a great article on setting up your own business here.

As more people, especially Generation Y, become disenchanted with the traditional 9-5 style of work, and organisations become more flexible, the ‘gig economy’ will continue to grow. While freelancing may not suit everyone, it is becoming more important to be aware of the opportunities it presents.