We are now part of the ‘hustling class,’ always looking for work, evaluating and updating our skills and value, and staying aware of potential future opportunities. – Diane Mulcahy, author, The Gig Economy

Today more than a third of Americans are working in the ‘Gig’ Economy – mixing together short-term jobs, contract work, and freelance assignments.  Recent surveys show nearly 70 million American workers, 43% of the total US labor force, work independently to some degree. Nearly 50 million do it by choice.

No surprise here, workers freed from the constraints of office life report higher levels of satisfaction and greater productivity.  For the brave souls who chose this lifestyle, life has never been better as it offers more freedom, flexibility, and work-life balance. For others, the work is risky as they struggle to cobble together sufficient ‘gigs’ to survive and seek self-funded insurance and retirement options.

Succeeding in it starts with a mindset of owning your own career trajectory.  Next is leveraging your skills, knowledge, and network to create a portfolio of gigs. Workers who possess strong technical, management, leadership, or creative abilities are best positioned to create a working life that incorporates flexibility, autonomy, and meaning.

Up for it?  Start with building a portfolio of gigs – It’s easier if you have a full-time job or a significant contract assignment to anchor your portfolio.  Not every gig has to pay, they can be volunteer positions that allow you to explore an interest, learn a skill, or pursue a passion.  Here are four types of gigs:

  1. Gigs to get your foot in the door – Not sure how to break into a new field? Find a part-time gig that offers the opportunity to begin the process of meeting and collaborating with people in a new industry or sector.
  2. Gigs to experiment – Use gigs to test opportunities, either continue to invest more time if it’s successful or move on to something else if it’s not.
  3. Gigs to learn by doing – Learn on the job, at your own pace, in lower-risk situations to gain practice and be comfortable enough to smoothly transition to that role.
  4. Gigs to do what you really want to do – Pursue what you’ve always wanted to do to avoid the deferred life plan. The deferred life plan refers to focusing on things we ‘should’ do while deferring the things we really want to do until…someday (which may never arrive).  There’s a significant chance that we’ll get so caught up in the trappings of life (the title, the compensation, the position) that we’ll later find it difficult to step away to pursue the dream.

The ‘Gig’ Economy is here folks, growing quickly and showing no signs of reversing.  It will continue to grow according to employer surveys as talent scarcity, readily available part times, automation and robotics, and global workforce alternatives become even more prevalent.  Independent work and services will be in higher demand from both individuals and employers.

Good news, the new American dream is evolving in a way that allows people to access the lifestyle they want focusing more on a quality of life consisting of time and experiences rather than a quantity of stuff.  If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, start hustling now, build your portfolio and pursue the career and lifestyle of your dreams.  Speaking from experience, it’s so worth it!

This was adapted from “The Gig Economy:  The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want: 2016 Diane Mulcahy

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