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|Many people are cobbling together part-time jobs or juggling free-lance contracts for a full-time paycheck. The drawbacks include a lack of benefits and a lot of uncertainty. The benefits include working at home, making your own schedule and answering to yourself. It's dubbed the "gig" economy and some think the new workstyle will stick around even after the economy picks up.|
In today's economy, more people are combining multiple part-time jobs or free-lance contracts in exchange for a full-time paycheck. It's known as the "gig" economy. |
The benefits include working at home, making your own schedule and answering to yourself. The drawbacks include a lack of benefits and a lot of uncertainty.
But some believe the new style of work will stick even after the economy picks up.
Media research consultant Beth Lester said flexibility is one key reason why.
"What we're seeing is that more and more people are doing not one, not two, but three or four jobs in a number of different industries," Lester said. "And so that really gives people flexibility and an opportunity to pursue what they're interested in doing."
Not always a matter of choiceMary Reynolds, a job search counselor for the Huron County Jobs and Family Services department's mobile unit, works part time with the mobile unit and part time in the communications department at the Norwalk hospital. Like many gig workers, Reynolds developed the hybrid after losing her full-time job at a manufacturer.
"I worked there 17 years," Reynolds said. "I worked my way up to management. I was in the office, I made the patterns. And then I helped ship them to China. And then they got rid of us."
Reynolds said her experience losing a job and finding new ones makes it easier for her to help others do the same. But there are downsides; neither of her jobs provides health benefits.
Reynolds said her husband provides the healthcare at the moment, but she worries what would happen if he lost his job.
It's happening at the higher paygradesConsultant Lester said for people at the lower end of the economic scale, there's nothing new about working multiple part-time jobs to make a full-time paycheck. What's different in this economy, she said, is that many higher-income earners " $75,000 and above " are freelancing for multiple clients.
"People are having to hustle in a way that they just never expected to, at least this group didn't," Lester said. "These sort of upper-class Americans say they want multiple projects. Sixty percent of them say they would rather work on a lot of things at once, instead of just one. But this is not what they had in mind."
Lester's Washington, D.C.-based market research firm, Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, conducted an internet poll of 500 gig workers in January. She said many of the respondents in the poll reported feeling stretched by trying to juggle multiple projects for different employers, each with its own set of deadlines. Most of these jobs were in writing, analysis and information technology.
Chris Harvan, a web developer who works from a basement office in his home in Cleveland Heights, said his company -- Skipstones Media -- is doing well. But it comes at a cost.
"I'm in a unique situation in that the market that I'm working in is kind of falling apart in terms of the big purveyor of such services of web development," Harvan said. "The big agency can't compete with small guys like me who partner with other people who do different aspects of it. And so, there's this loose network of people who are interacting and providing enterprise-level services at a quarter of the cost."
Harvan said he doesn't have to hustle to find new contracts " they find him. However, he does have to spend a lot of his time learning new code and keeping up with web design. Some weeks he puts in 80 hours but can only bill for half of them.
"It's not every week, but it happens, especially when there are a couple hot and heavy projects going on at the same time," Harvan said. "If there's a big push, it is around the clock, it's stopping to sleep occasionally. But the idea is to try to get away from that as much as possible. I mean, I think I'm too old for that."
For some, the change is permanentLester believes that once the economy picks up, many of the people who are now working gigs will go back to full-time jobs. And for many companies, there's a downside to workers who aren't in the office every day and able to follow through with clients or projects.
However, Lester thinks that some workers will choose to continue working multiple jobs, but predicted it will be years before gig workers see workplace changes that support their new work style. That would include benefits that follow the individual and not the job.
"Forty years ago, the idea that you would have even more than one or two jobs in your lifetime, was sort of a big, new idea," Lester said. "Twenty years ago it was, 'All right, we're all going to have a bunch of different jobs, but we're not going to have them all at the same time.'
"And now I think what we're seeing with the gig economy is that more and more Americans want or are being forced into jobs that are much more flexible, much less predictable and sort of require a level of hustle. And I don't think that's going to change."
The Daily Beast: “The Gig Economy” The Daily Beast: “The New American Hustler” The Gig Economy Poll Gigonomics: Lawyers at $35 an hour The News & Observer: The Gigonomics Gauge Workforce Management: The Freelance Flood Newsweek: The New American Job Miami Herald: As full-time work gets harder to find, more people freelance Freelancers Union Freelance Folder