I am sure that no one could have predicted what the advent of technology would do to our world. The kind of changes it would bring were then the stuff of science fiction, and no human imagination could have conjured-up the complete reinventing of the world it would bring. Economic, social, cultural, political…you name it…and technology would impact it in unimaginable and unforeseen ways. How could anyone have predicted the seismic impact that technology has had on our world? Not one area of our life has been left unaffected—and one of the biggest impacts has been on the way we do business. Gone are the days of going to work in an office and working a 9-5 business day. That approach to employment is now as dated as a pair of bell-bottoms, ‘big hair.’ or separate bathrooms for different races. The shape of our world is different now. For the moment—and that is how long it takes for ideas to become obsolete these days—the new approach to employment and work is called ‘the Gig Economy/’ We are going to spend a few minutes exploring exactly what they means in this article…in the hopes that the lexicon has not changed before it has been printed! According to WhatIs.com, A Gig Economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a Gig Economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. There are a number of forces behind the rise in short-term jobs. For one thing, in this digital age, the workforce is increasingly mobile and work can increasingly be done from anywhere, so that job and location are de-coupled. That means that freelancers can select among temporary jobs and projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than that available in any given area. Digitization has also contributed directly to a decrease in jobs as software replaces some types of work, and means that others take much less time. Other influences include financial pressures on businesses leading to further staff reductions, and the entrance of the Millennial Generation into the workforce. The current reality is that people tend to change jobs several times throughout their working lives. The Gig Economy can be seen as an evolution of that trend. In a Gig Economy, businesses save resources in terms of benefits, office space and training. They also have the ability to contract with experts for specific projects who might be too high-priced to maintain on staff. From the perspective of the freelancer, a Gig Economy can improve work-life balance over what is possible in most jobs. Ideally, the model is powered by independent workers selecting jobs that they’re interested in, rather than one in which people are forced into a position where, unable to attain employment, they pick up whatever temporary gigs they can land. The Gig Economy is part of a shifting cultural and business environment that also includes the Sharing Economy, the Gift Economy and the Barter Economy (all described below). The ‘Sharing Economy’, also known as collaborative consumption, is a trending business concept that highlights the ability (and perhaps the preference) for individuals to rent or borrow goods rather than buy and own them. The most important criteria for a Sharing Economy is that it allows individuals to monetize assets that are not being fully utilized. In the past, people discovered and shared such assets through classified ads in a local newspaper, or by word of mouth. With the advent of the Internet, pervasive computing and the ease of mobile payments (m-payments), however, that began to change. The growing number of mobile platforms that effectively connect people who have certain goods, services and/or skills with those who don’t, is making it possible for ordinary people to advertise and sell goods and services that used to be provided by full-time businesses. Perhaps the most well-known example of the sharing economy is eBay, a site that provides customers with an easy way to become sellers. Ebay is also known for its secure, easy-to-use payment system and mechanisms that allow members to evaluate trust — two other important criteria for the sharing economy. A ‘Gift Economy’ is one in which services or goods are given without an agreement as to a suitable payment or trade to be made in return. Instead of monetary gain, gift economies often rely on intangible rewards like a sense of contribution, community, honor or prestige. The idea is that although gifts may not be directly reciprocated, broad participation leads to a system in which people give according to their abilities and receive according to their needs. Gift Economies can also be reciprocity-based or may require a return of the original gift. In these cases the distinctions between a Gift Economy, a Sharing Economy and a Barter Economy become blurred. However, the concepts are not mutually exclusive and people often participate in all three simultaneously without ever really thinking about it as such. In information technology (IT), one of the best examples of Gift Economy principles in action is the open source movement. Open source software, for example, is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. It can be argued that the Gift Economy was the first type in existence. Prehistoric social groups collaborated to feed, hunt, gather and care for the young in a loosely reciprocal Gift Economy. A ‘Barter Economy’ is a cashless economic system in which services and goods are traded at negotiated rates. Barter-based economies are one of the earliest, predating monetary systems and even recorded history. People can successfully use barter in many almost any field. Informally, people often participate in barter and other reciprocal systems without really ever thinking about it as such — for example, providing web design or tech support for a farmer or baker and receiving vegetables or baked goods in return. Strictly Internet-based exchanges are common as well, for example exchanging content creation for research. Because barter is based on reciprocity, it requires a mutual coincidence of wants between traders. This requirement complicates barter, but in a sufficiently large system traders can be found to supply most wants. According to proponents, the mutuality fosters a sense of connectedness and community among traders. In recent years, barter has enjoyed resurgence as a means of countering economic insecurity, unemployment and worker exploitation. The nature of modern-day work, the pervasiveness of the Internet, and the rise of social networking, have all contributed to its spread. Other examples of alternative economic systems include Gift Economies, Sharing Economies and Time Banks. These alternative systems are not mutually exclusive, and all can operate within a predominantly capitalist system. However, because these systems operate in terms of reciprocity rather than profit and growth, there are concerns (or hopes) that they could undermine the current economic system. Investopedia adds and expands upon the above definition and description: In a Gig Economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A Gig Economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career. Breaking-down the ‘Gig Economy’ Due to the large numbers of people willing to work part-time or temporary positions, the result of a Gig Economy is cheaper, more efficient services (such as Uber or Airbnb) for those willing to use them. Those who don’t engage in using technological services such as the Internet tend to be left behind by the benefits of the Gig Economy. Cities tend to have the most highly developed services and are the most entrenched in the Gig Economy. While not all employers tend toward hiring contracted employees, the Gig Economy trend often makes it harder for full-time employees to fully develop in their careers, since temporary employees are often cheaper to hire and more flexible in their availability. There is a wide range of positions that fall into the category of a “gig.” For example, adjunct and part-time professors are considered to be contracted employees, as opposed to tenured or tenure-track professors. Colleges and universities are able to cut costs and match professors to their academic needs by hiring more adjunct and part-time professors. What Factors Contribute to a Gig Economy? America is well on its way to establishing a Gig Economy and it is estimated that as much as a third of the working population is already working in some sort of gig capacity. This number is only expected to rise. In the modern digital world, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to work remotely or from home. This facilitates independent contracting work, as many of those jobs don’t require the freelancer to come in to the office to work. Employers also have a wider range of applicants to choose from, as they don’t necessarily have to choose to hire someone based on their proximity. Additionally, computers have developed to the point that they can take the place of the jobs people previously held. Economic reasons also factor in to the development of a Gig Economy. In many cases, employers cannot afford to hire full-time employees to do all the work they need done, so they hire part-time or temporary employees to take care of busier times or specific projects. On the side of the employee, people often find that they need to move around or take more than one position in order to afford the lifestyle they want. People also tend to change careers many times throughout their lives, so the Gig Economy is the reflection of this occurring on a large scale. Examples of sustainable startup businesses that have grown out of the sharing economy include Zipcar, a car-sharing service that allows members to rent vehicles by the hour and Airbnb, a peer-to-peer marketplace for lodging. Freelance Economy A Freelance Economy revolves around hiring self-employed workers to undertake specific, short-term jobs in return for an agreed upon wage. These jobs typically are too small or infrequent to hire a full time employee or would be too expensive to contract out to another firm. Freelancers are the individuals who make themselves available to be hired for such temporary work. They may find temporary work through classified ads, online, or through temporary staffing agencies. The Internet has made freelancing a more attractive pursuit for many individuals in the fields of writing, journalism, design, artistic pursuits, editing, multimedia, consulting, computer programming, and many more. After consuming this information, we are left to consider where WE fit into all of this? What is your industry, your profession, your age, your goals, your lifestyle…and how can we adapt to the new ‘Gig Economy’ to best benefit us…or even prevent it from impacting us in a negative way (are you in one of those professions being adversely-affected by the Gig Economy)? Digest this information and then consider your options for growth and prosperity within the new framework of how we do business in 2017 and beyond. Be FLEXABLE and willing to adapt to new circumstances and environments. Use this information to PROSPER! Good luck! Ready to take-off to parts unknown? Fasten your seatbelts (and put your dive-masks on!)…because we are getting ready for a deep dive…