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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