4 Ways to Thrive in Tech’s Growing Gig Economy

You don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the on-demand workforce to find yourself impacted by the rise of the gig economy. Experts predict that the fast-growing movement will disrupt all tech workers, regardless of employment status, in positive and negative ways over the next few years.

With 44 million (or 29 percent) of all U.S. workers performing some degree of “contingent work” in 2015 (a number that’s surely risen since then), how can you go from surviving to thriving in an increasingly crowded environment? Here’s a look at the potential impact of the gig economy on workers in tech-related fields, and the adjustments you may need to make to come out on top. 

Take the Initiative on Independence

If you’ve dreamed about becoming your own boss, there may never be a better time to hang out your digital shingle. The explosion of on-demand staffing platforms offers unfettered access to new markets and an array of freelance opportunities, line managers, and tools for creating proposals, contracts, pricing strategies and so on.

“Top talent has a choice on where and how they work and how much they earn,” explained Marion McGovern, entrepreneur and author of “Thriving in the Gig Economy.”

Many contractors with hot skillsets are not only eliminating the agency middleman, they’re charging flat rates for projects based on value, or retainers and payments based on the attainment of predetermined milestones, McGovern added.

Indeed, the 10 highest-paying gigs of 2018 were all in tech, according to an analysis of popular websites by FitSmallBusiness.com. Top-paying skills included A.I./deep learning, blockchain architecture, robotics, ethical hacking, Bitcoin specialists and developers proficient in AWS Lambda. 

Become Your Own Talent Agent

Freelance platforms also provide companies and staffing firms with greater access to global talent, as well. For independent tech pros, that just creates more competition. Unless you respond quickly to inquiries and take steps to distinguish yourself, you could be treated as a commodity, warned Olga Mizrahi, gig economy expert, speaker and author of “The Gig Is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs Are Obsolete and Freelancing Is the Future.”

“You need to over-communicate and really understand the scope of work to bid on projects when you don’t have a relationship with the client,” she advised. “Suggest additional services or offer to throw in something extra for free to set yourself apart – and be sure to showcase your soft skills and personality.”

Bottom line: You need to develop a unique value proposition, and demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond, in order to secure a steady flow of contract work without the help of a recruiter.

Join Private Clouds

Tech pros who choose to represent themselves in the gig economy need to become proficient at navigating complex talent supply chains. For example, some freelance platforms use a combination of technology and humans to vet or screen the talent they offer to clients. Once you make it past that hurdle, you may encounter third-party staffing managers and compliance processes, especially when it comes to working with large companies.

Also, enterprise companies are creating their own private talent clouds or networks. To be considered for freelance opportunities, you’ll need to wrangle an invitation to join their exclusive “club” and complete the onboarding and approval process.

Seize Opportunities to Grow

On the positive side, the hunt for career-enhancing side hustles has gotten a lot easier, thanks to the proliferation of portals and websites listing all kinds of gig and contracting work.

“There are ample opportunities to accelerate your learning process by working on side projects that you wouldn’t have known about before,” noted Andrew Hermann, president of CorSource Technology Group. “Plus, the practice has gained acceptance. Even tech professionals who work full-time have two to three gigs going on the side.”

Moreover, the growth of the gig economy may further disrupt traditional full-time employment. For example, an Upwork report indicates that 80 percent of large corporations are planning to increase their use of freelancers, which could ultimately impact full-time staffing levels.

Many companies are already struggling to manage teams of distributed technical freelancers and SOW contractors who come and go over the course of a project, Hermann noted.

Of course, every challenge contains seeds of opportunity and growth. In this case, the gig economy is not only fueling the demand for project managers, it’s creating opportunities for professionals who have the ability to integrate on-demand workers and oversee their performance. So if you’re interested in becoming a PM, team lead or IT manager, the growth of the gig economy provides endless opportunities to hone the people skills that will needed for the jobs of the future.

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3 Responses to “4 Ways to Thrive in Tech’s Growing Gig Economy”

  1. at 63 I am glad I am out. Worked in IT for 40 years starting at Burroughs and many 55 hr weeks but worked in office in structured environment, able to see some kids activities, company paid for MIS advanced degree at night, allowed to monitor/work from home. Medical paid for everything with deductibles that were fair. Today’s person must constantly sell their skills to get paid,, learn new skills night and weekend, fund own medical(Obamacare is OK, doing now at 63 for 2 yrs at 400/mo family), and hope it works out. Does not seem like a good way to live.

  2. I am also 63 and was layed off after years at the same company. However I can not afford to retire. As the previous comment mentions, the IT world has change to nearly 100% contractor (gig) work. This does force people to re-educate as they go along. After 10+ at the same company, I suddenly found the company had stagnated as the industry marched forward. I no longer qualify for my job title, even when the SR. is removed. I spend my time trying to learn new skills but I am as a college grad looking for the nebulous or non-existent “entry level” type positions because of no ‘work experience’ in the new skills. Dont stay at a company more than 2 – 3 years.

    • I understand but what am I supposed to do, spends thousands on Cisco or Hadoop “boot camps” for weeks on end and beg for a 50k entry levell job that they will never give me(anymore than Tim Duncan or Brett Favre will be signed as a backup). Better to get my social security and pensions(small) get to 32k base(new standard deduction means hardly any taxable), Obamacare and work at Home Depot and teaching at community college to get it to 50k. House paid, kids through school, fairly ok 401k and that is my plan and for 3 months I am actually living.