Work Life

Is it time to make the leap into the gig economy?

Photo of Holger Reisinger
February 19, 2018
Reading time
4 minutes

Tired of the 9-to-5 corporate grind? You aren’t alone. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to slip the shackles, become a “digital nomad” and stake out your spot in today’s growing gig economy.

While toiling away at your job, have you ever caught yourself musing “I’d give anything to be working from a beach today?”

Who hasn’t?

After all, who wouldn’t want to trade a noisy, open-office space for a warm, sandy beach? Or exchange the corporate attire for a pair of shorts and flip flops?

The good news is… it’s easier than ever to do – if we’re willing to make a few sacrifices.

So if you’re in IT, marketing, sales, customer service, web development, graphics, media, accounting or just have an entrepreneurial bent, you can join tens of thousands of others who’ve cast aside the corporate life in favor of working from virtually anywhere. And I truly mean anywhere – whether it’s your kitchen table or somewhere exotic, like a beach in Chile, along the Danube in Hungary or maybe in the mountains of Peru.

Joining the ranks of the so-called “digital nomads” isn’t nearly as daunting as it was in years past. All you need is plenty of drive, a dose of flexibility, a good internet connection and a willingness to forego some of the creature comforts you may be accustomed to enjoying.

Escape the Corporate Grind…

Digital nomads typically have been 20-somethings with little interest in the big-company grind: 40-hour workweeks, mind-numbing commutes, corporate-mandated hardware and software, compulsory team-building sessions, you name it. They’re willing to trade the relative safety of a single employer for the freedom to choose projects that suit their fancy.

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They’ve been around for years – usually at the fringes of the corporate landscape – but their ranks are quickly expanding to virtually everyone regardless of age or occupation. The rise of the on-demand workforce they represent has exploded from 17 percent of U.S. workers 25 years ago to 36 percent today, and is expected to reach 43 percent by 2020, according to tax-software provider Intuit.

It’s easy to see why their ranks are swelling. The notion of getting a job, working at the same company for the next four decades and then retiring is a relic of the past. Plus more and more workers who make the trek into the office each day are losing interest and getting burned out. According to Gallup, 16 percent of U.S. workers actively disengaged at work, while 51 percent are just plain disengaged – and the numbers are similar across the globe. That points to a whole lot of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

Workers need something to get passionate about, and on-demand work helps provide a solution. Let’s face it: working from a beach, toes in the sand, sure seems worth getting up for in the morning. That explains why gig workers are flocking to services like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, Gigbucks and other online resources in search of projects that interest them. From there they design websites, write sales materials, coordinate logistics, design systems and networks and do lots of other cool stuff that was once done from an office.

The advantage to gig work is obvious: You work when and how you choose. That affords plenty of flexibility to set your own hours, choose your own projects and enjoy free time to, say, travel, pursue a passion or indulge an urge to volunteer.

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… But Look Before You Leap

Of course, a carefree career working from a remote beach or panoramic overview comes with some serious fine print. For starters, the lifestyle isn’t for everybody. If your tastes run toward the champagne side – or anything close – the gig economy likely won’t be a good fit; you won’t be living like Richard Branson, I can guarantee.

When it comes to pay, don’t expect to earn a premium for your services. In many cases you’ll compete with plenty of others for the same jobs, thus driving down how much companies will be willing to pay. Plus the hours are uncertain, business may be inconsistent and your earnings probably won’t come close to what you’d earn doing similar work in a corporate environment.

But if you’re able to find a locale that offers a low cost of living, even a modest amount of earnings could net you enough to make a go of it.

So the next time you dream of working somewhere far-flung and exotic, maybe it’s time to follow the advice Fiverr hints at in its motto: “Don’t Just Dream, Do.”

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