By JPS Kohli
The world economy is rapidly embracing the gig approach to work. For some, that’s empowering, and for others it’s daunting. However, with the right attitude, gig work has a lot to offer businesses and professionals. And it will be the canny gig worker who invests in their own upskilling, rather than the employee who depends on their employer to foot the bill, who will double their income year on year.
If you’re thinking that is just hyperbole, rest assured it isn’t; there’s compelling logic behind the statement. The gig was around before 2020, of course, but the pandemic poured rocket fuel into its engine. Statista has forecast that 50% of the US workforce will be involved in gig work by 2027.
Given India’s scenario, the gig economy is boosting at a fast pace. According to the NITI Aayog report, it currently has 7.7 million gig workers, and by 2029–30, the number is predicted to rise to 23.5 million. The idea of working independently and following passion contributes to the rise of the gig economy. Having said that, the gig economy is still in its infancy as it is expected to account for about 4 percent of India’s total workforce by 2024. Additionally, about 47% of the gig work is in medium-skilled jobs, about 31% in low-skilled jobs, and only 22% is in high-skilled jobs.
Now, with the crippling tech skills gap still growing, organizations are struggling to find talent with the specialist skills they need. Already, the prerequisite of a formal degree is disappearing as college training proves unable to keep up with the advances in fast-moving tech. Instead, skilled gig workers are cashing in on businesses’ insatiable appetite for up-to-date skills, and ‘gig’ is proving to be a win/win for professionals and businesses alike.
But is it as simple as supply and demand? Or is there more to it on a granular level? Being a gig worker brings several benefits to the individual. First off, you gain flexibility. This type of work allows you to choose what you work on and when and where you work, so your work-life balance gets a boost. It also enables professionals to earn money on their terms, which can be especially beneficial for those who have difficulty finding salaried employment because of domestic commitments or a disability. Plus, the work often involves a wide range of projects and clients, so you can develop diverse skills.
Then, looking at the other side of the coin, businesses are gaining in many ways too. An Economist Impact survey sponsored by SAP in 2022 found that 50% of the surveyed organizations plan to increase their use of external workers globally. Research by Deloitte also established that a gig workforce is critical for improving operations and time to market, not to mention a company’s bottom line. And all of this suggests organizations are now very inclined to outsource certain job roles that involve specialist skills.
This should come as no surprise, though. Gig workers are typically hired on a project-by-project basis, which allows businesses to scale in response to changing needs quickly. They also enable a business to pay only for work performed, without the burden of benefits or other costs associated with full-time employment.
So, what is the key to success for gig workers who want to ride this wave? Already, platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr make it straightforward for businesses and gig workers to connect. However, while it’s easy for professionals to put themselves forward for projects, it isn’t the shine of their smile that wins them the gig. Businesses can quickly see what skills and experience a freelancer has, and this is where a person’s verified abilities come to the fore.
Certifications, skills, and experience are the differentiators. With stronger skills and more experience, a gig worker can not only win more work but also charge more per hour. And this is the crux of it. Where the employed rely on the budget and appetite of their employer to provide training, the gig worker can sort that out for themselves. During quieter times, they can invest in upskilling and quickly hit the market with more up-to-date and relevant skills that command a higher rate.
The theory is simple, and it isn’t hard to put into practice either. if you have access to the right training. With enterprises struggling to find talented professionals with the human skills, cutting-edge tech skills, and practical experience they need, that’s the offering gig workers should look for from a training partner.
This means choosing an ed-tech platform that provides more than just technical content at a low price. Instead, ambitious freelancers need a training provider that concentrates on delivering industry-backed content, hands-on practice, and real-world capstone projects. And to ensure you skill up quickly and effectively, you’ll want fully mentored support available when you have questions or get stuck. You see, turnaround times will be everything, because gaining enhanced skills in the shortest time will equate to higher income opportunities, and time is money as they say.
So, to quote Sheryl Sandberg, ex-COO of Meta Platforms, “To thrive in the gig economy… upskilling is the key to staying ahead.” And that’s truer now than it’s ever been.
The author is founder, CEO of SkillUp Group. Views are personal.