It’s crazy to think how the meaning of words can change over time. I’m no linguist, but off the top, I can name a few words where its associated meaning has changed. Technology ushered a new, more commonly associated meaning to cloud – storage and connectivity rather than the cumulus kind of cloud. Fitness trainers have trained us to associate core with the torso muscle group over the center of an apple. And thanks to Twitter, tweeting is not just for bird-kind, it’s now a common human social interaction. Same is true with the word gig, which has had many transformations over many decades. In the 60’s gig became a popular phrase for bands and acts booking shows and concerts. In the 80’s gig transformed its associated meaning to a temporary job with no real commitment. Today, gig might have made its most valuable transformation yet, representing a new way to earn a living working on-demand. The gig economy as it’s referred to could be the industrial revolution of our time.
So what is gig economy?
I would describe gig economy as the intersection between people looking for freelance work and technology. Probably the best way to explain it is by example, and the biggest example being Uber. Uber connects drivers and riders through their app. Beyond the seemingly obvious of what Uber is, it’s the employment niche Uber’s carved in society – providing the opportunity for people to work when they want or need to – for those who want to make a living as a driver, or simply moonlight as one. Uber-like companies have since spun up in rapid numbers over the last couple of years. Chances are if you need “it”, there’s is an Uber for it. TaskRabbit is an Uber for… tasks. Bellhops is an Uber for moving services, Roadie is the Uber version of package delivery, at Baroo pets get their take on pet care Uber-like services. There is even an Uber for manis and pedis thanks to Manicube!
What does the gig economy mean for workers?
Fueled by income potential and flexibility, the gig economy is revolutionizing the way people work. The once seemingly hopelessness of job insecurity doesn’t seem so bad anymore. The gig economy offers workers something the industrial revolution didn’t – the flexibility to work when and where they want, as much or as little as needed. No more dreary office for 25 years while waiting for a gold watch to show for it. Be your own boss, work on your schedule virtually anywhere. Pay off the college loans a little quicker, take that trip to Belize, moonlight as a photographer, be a free range human. While this phrase made me gig-gle, the possibilities for work / life flexibility is no joke. It seems the appeal of full-time has shifted to the on-demand contractor.
What does the gig economy mean for the Uber-like companies?
The UberX’s know their conundrum all too well – elastic scalability. If demand is high, UberX needs to an army of contractors or risk losing customers. One no-show experience is all it takes to turn a customer into a lost one. On the flip side, if there’s not enough demand, on-demand workers will go elsewhere. Then there are the fees UberX needs to take off the top for operational costs. If the take is too high, workers will also go where the fees are more favorable for them. Being able to feed the need at a moment’s notice, with qualified and reliable on-demand workers will be critical to sustaining the gig economy.