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The Growing Trend of Side Gigging – What Does It Mean for Our Economy?

No matter what media channel I pursue today, whether TV, radio, print or the Internet, I am constantly hearing about growing trends in people who are side gigging.

The glaring difference I am seeing today however is that the people talked about by the media channels are the successful ones with already a steady paycheck rather than the stereotypical starving artist, musician or stand-up comedian that you might have read about a few years back.

The trend is certainly changing, and side gigging is increasingly becoming the common norm.  Tina Brown, founder of coined the phrase “Gig Economy”, a phenomenon that has widely spread and been talked about in popular media channels such as NPR.

The Cocktail Conversation Question

To add some perspective to the premise of this post, I want to share how my experience at mixers have evolved over the last few years.  The simple and common question “so, what do you do?” used to take most people less than 10 seconds to answer.

Today, some answers are long enough to carry an entire one way conversation without much back and forth.  It’s hard for someone wearing 4 hats to easily respond to that question.  My answer varies depending on who asks me the question.

I make it a point to provide an answer that is true and that also appeals to what the person may be looking for (that is why I make it a point to learn more about who I speak to before speaking back to them).  I later get into all the other details if time and mutual interest provides for it.

Unfortunately, I just cannot cover everything in less than a couple minutes.  Of course I tell them that “I do absolutely nothing at all” when I don’t feel like being social, and then simply walk away.  How rude…

Side Gigging is Becoming Popular

Although many have been juggling multiple side gigs for years, the trend is increasing and becoming more “mainstream” today.  The old perception of those who used to side gig was rather negative.  Those people were viewed as not so qualified or credible individuals who were struggling in their own fields.  Many were perceived as uneducated and low earnings folks with no defined career path. Heard of the phrase “starving artist”?

Today however, successful and well paid individuals are also riding the side gigging bandwagon.  Successful women in Corporate America are teaching Yoga classes in the evenings, and men are coaching soccer games for pay.  Others are working for personal clients as freelancers.

I don’t have any concrete data as I write this post, but I have seen one survey result after another that supports the premise of this discussion.  I am willing to bet you can prove it out by searching the internet for survey results that show a growing side gigging trend.

What Makes Side Gigging Popular?

There are many reasons why the trend is increasing.  For some it is not an option, rather a necessity to make ends meet.  For others, side gigging is a means to establish alternate streams of income due to fear of job loss, accommodate rising standards  of living while wages not catching up, early retirement, extra money or activities that are simply fun to do!

Another factor to ponder over is that the younger generation doesn’t believe in sticking around with the same company all their lives.  In fact, jumping ship from one company to another is one of the faster ways today to climb the ladder and earn more in salary.

There is no job security in the world we live in today, and therefore no employer loyalty.  There is no pension to entice employees to stick around, and most don’t care for the gold watch or the fountain pen you get after toiling away 30 years of your life.  The younger generation prefers to be more mobile, flexible and free to explore.

Contingency Planning

Side gigging is a great way to hedge against future uncertainty.  Because of the reasons mentioned above, today’s generation prefers to take things in their own hands and control.  Having your own portfolio of clients and customers on the side ensures that you will have an alternative stream of income in the event your primary runs dry.

Many successful freelancers and side business owners do not fear layoffs, and many who were affected during the past couple years didn’t feel the effects of it as bad as someone who solely depended on income from their full time jobs.  For those that stay engaged on the side with or without a full time job, statistics such as economic growth and unemployment don’t mean much.  Evaluating my personal situation, I can agree to that 100%.

People who are increasingly side gigging today understand that unemployment income barely covers rent, let alone supporting a full family.  Finding a new job can take months.  Last I heard, it takes 1 month for every $10,000 of salary that one makes (example: a job paying $120,000 will take 12 months to find).  Gosh at that rate I will NEVER find a job 😉

It’s unfortunate to sometimes observe those that lose their jobs to see that they do nothing else but try to find another job that will likely lay them off again down the road.  Everyone needs a contingency plan, and that is one of the reasons I am an advocate of starting a side business in your spare time even if you have a full time job and feel like you don’t need one!

By contingency plan I don’t mean a reserve or rainy day fund.  Sure, I recommend that everyone have one of at least 6 months if not more, but what do you do after that runs out and you still don’t have a job?  Sure you are going to continue to look for that next job, but you should also look beyond that and contemplate putting your knowledge, skills and experience to work on your own.  You simply can’t rely on external factors that you can’t control.

How can you leverage your skills and experience to make money?  Read my discussion on What Entrepreneurial Venture You Should Pursue. Everyone has something to offer to this world.  You may be surprised how many out there are looking for exactly what you know or can do for them.

Just Do It Attitude

Some jump in right away, some contemplate hard before taking the dive, while others contemplate all the way to their graves. I say what Nike says, just do it!  What is there to lose?

For some, job losses have left very few options for them, often none for many.  A job loss is a blessing in disguise for those that have the capability to do well on their own but often shyed away from starting a side business because of numerous reasons.

Many others have dreams to start a business, or to apply their skills and passion toward a profitable activity.  However, a comfortable job with a steady cash flow is hard to walk away from.  I discuss this in detail in my post titled Why Most People Feel Stuck in Theirs Jobs.

A part of me was stuck in the not so bad situation just like this a long time ago, and that is why I recommend starting a side business while maintaining a full time career.  Many people don’t want to give up what they have.  It is the goal of companies to pay just enough to keep people around :)  Unfortunately, often times comfort leads to complacency and boredom, not to mention that you stop learning and growing as a professional.

For those in this situation, a job loss is definitely (at least partly) a blessing in disguise.  If your job was keeping you away from your true passion and your dreams, now is the time to do something about it.  The choice to let you go from your job was made easy for you by your by your employer (hopefully a nice severance package came with it too).

It’s worth exploring other options, if not solely then at least in parallel to a full time job (or job search).  The upside is just tremendous, while the downside doesn’t exist.  What is the worst that can happen?  That’s right, nothing at all.  You can always go back to a job and get right back on track anytime you want.  But definitely try side gigging before cancelling it out.  Work will never be the same as you see it today – I promise!

You can read my additional thoughts on side gigging despite having a successful full time job here.

Plugging Away

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