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The New “Gig Economy” is Driving a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

How people live and work has changed dramatically over the past decade, thanks to technology.

Today there are more ways to make (and spend) money than ever before, including picking up a “gig” or temporary work engagement. The gig economy is driving a new generation of entrepreneurs.

So what’s next?

Eric Nalbone is Head of Marketing at Drum. The company connects businesses with “Drummers” who function as a gig economy sales force.

Q: As the gig economy continues to grow, why must both freelancers and companies adjust? 

Even when individuals have steady full-time employment, almost everyone has skills, abilities and assets that could be valuable outside the bounds of that job. Teleconferencing software, cloud collaboration tools (i.e. Trello, Asana, GSuite) and messaging platforms make it easier than ever for people to do use those skills on their own time. The missing piece has been how to connect freelancers with companies, which is the genesis of many of the freelance / gig economy platforms that we’re seeing come to market, including the platform we’re building, Drum. 

The beauty of freelancers for businesses is that it makes it possible to engage high-quality help for tasks or functions that need to happen faster than you can recruit and onboard an internal resource or are unstable, irregular, or unique enough that the time and expense of internal recruiting doesn’t make sense. 

That said, both sides need to adjust in order to thrive in this new gig-enabled world. Freelancers need to be intentional about skill & portfolio-building, learn how to market themselves in a competitive environment, and carefully manage the financial realities of contract/freelance work. Companies need to rethink how & when they hire internally, find ways to compartmentalize activity into single-project deliverables, and get very good at quickly providing context & support to individuals who have subject-matter expertise but lack specific business context.

Q: Please give 2-3 tips for freelancers on how they adjust to the modern economy.

  1. Get good at showing off your skills quickly and digitally – think actions like building portfolios for designers and writers that can be shared with companies that are interested in your services. You shouldn’t be expected to do sample work for free, but the ability to quickly demonstrate to companies that you understand what they’re after and have the right set of skills to deliver is imperative. You need to stand out when businesses are scanning freelancer profiles or portfolios. 
  2. Get good at requirement gathering – it helps to know in advance, before you do any work, exactly what needs to be delivered. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a project and realizing that what’s delivered doesn’t match requirements, and it’s usually avoidable. It’s a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and time invested on the front end to make sure you’re off on the right track is never wasted. As the project goes on, make sure you’re leveraging those collaboration tools to stay tight with the client.
  3. Develop a system to meticulously track what you’re doing, for whom, and how you’ll be compensated. Whether you need to stay on top of sending invoices, tracking hours, or managing deliverables, you’ll need to have records of what you’ve done and for whom. It’s important to make sure you’re delivering what businesses need, that you have support and documentation for your income when it comes to tax time, and that you’re being compensated fairly.

Q: Please give 2-3 tips for businesses on how they adjust to the modern economy.

  1. Get good at explaining detailed requirements – this is a two way street. Over-communicate, and provide business context. Making sure that these sometimes short-term (and often hastily arranged) marriages between freelancer and business start out on the right foot with clear project specs, timelines, and deliverables is key to both the success of any one project and to the likelihood that a one-time arrangement turns into a fruitful, long-term collaboration.
  2. Make sure you have the process figured out. Be systematic about identifying what you believe is a sustained & substantial need for an internal hire or whether you can accomplish specific tasks with freelancers. Make sure you’re organized, and you know who you’re working with to accomplish specific tasks. Lastly, make sure you’re compliant – understand that freelancers will need to be treated as vendors and the tax requirements for paying freelancers will vary from the requirements for paying employees. Consult your finance department, accountant, or bookkeeper to make sure you’ve got the paperwork in order. 
  3. Remember they’re part of the team. Especially when a one-time engagement turns into a longer-term, regular relationship, we sometimes forget that freelancers are part of the team. Freelancers often have become critical components of how organizations I’ve worked in function, but they don’t get invited to the holiday party, they don’t get shout-outs in team meetings, and they don’t get recognition from leadership. A little bit goes a long way, and remembering to include and recognize freelancers where it’s possible and appropriate is a pretty easy act that will build a lot of trust & engagement.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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