Long gone are the days of graduating college, finding a suitable desk job, and retiring after 30 years of working at the same company. The Recession of 2008 forced many professionals out of the corporate mold, demanding them to rethink what the road to success could be. The rise of online networking and smartphones paved the way for a new marketplace for employment: the gig economy.
The gig economy refers to the idea that you can make all (or if not, most) of your income on freelance opportunities and side-jobs. You may have heard it called permalancing, the share economy, or alternative work. In the production industry, many professionals find working this way allows them to have more creative freedom and find projects that align with their passions and goals. Whether you pick up a project or two on the side or go completely rogue, there are a lot of draws to breaking away from the traditional 9-to-5 jobs many of us are accustomed to.
The American Dream doesn’t look the same as it did 40 years ago. It doesn’t even look the same as it did 10 years ago. Many professionals today have different values than their parents and grandparents do — they focus more on the love of their craft and chasing new experiences rather than achieving a high status or the corner office with a view. Princeton and Harvard researchers found that the percentage of workers seeking a non-traditional source of income rose from 10.7 percent in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015. The employment in traditional jobs rose by only 0.4 percent during the same period. The gig economy allows self-starters to cultivate their own idea of the perfect workplace, which is why many production pros are ditching corporate life to go into business for themselves.
The gig economy is nothing new to the film and video production industry. The nature of productions is already set up on a gig economy because a majority of the work is short-term and contracted during the duration of a project. Film shoots, live events, and other productions require outsourced help from freelancers and the industry wouldn’t survive without them. Because of the rise in mainstream popularity of the gig economy and growth in online tools and resources, it’s much more feasible for professionals to find work and build a successful freelancing business in today’s workforce.
When you become a full-time freelancer, you no longer have a security net to protect you. With the right online marketing strategy and a healthy dose of self-discipline, you can find success in the gig economy. There are a few tips to help you get started off on the right track.
1. Know what your services are worth.
It can be uncomfortable to talk about money, but when you’re armed with market data and research, you’ll know exactly what your day rate should be. Research what other people in your field with a similar level of experience are asking in your area so you can remain competitive and make sure you’re not undervaluing your time. Online resources, like the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor and rate calculators, will help you understand the market and how much you should ask.
2. Test the gigging waters before completely going off the corporate grid.
If you’re considering becoming a full-time freelancer, try taking up some freelance projects on the side of your 9-to-5 job for a few months. This allows you to get a feel for the freelancing life and start building your client list before totally throwing caution to the wind and abandoning the traditional work environment.
3. Create a schedule that works for you.
When you don’t have to worry about punching the clock or time sheets, it’s easy to let your day get away from you. Figure out what times you’re most productive and establish “office hours” for yourself when you’re not on set. Try using time tracking tools like Toggl or Harvest to hold yourself accountable.
4. Don’t forget work-life balance.
It can be difficult to separate your work life from your home life when you don’t have an office to go to everyday from 9-to-5. A good solution is to physically separate work from home. When you’re not on set, try working in a space that isn’t usually where to go to relax, like your bedroom. Create a home office for yourself or try working in a coffee shop or a coworking space.
5. Your professional network is your greatest advantage.
Past clients, friends-of-friends, your grandma, you name it. They can all potentially need your services in the future. Keep your social media presence active and make sure your website is up-to-date with your most current work to make sure you stay top-of-mind for when that time comes. And on that note...
6. The Internet is your best friend.
Do not underestimate the power of Google. Make sure your website follows SEO best practices so it will show up in a top position on the search results page. Search the services you offer and use terms a potential client might use to find you. If your website isn’t appearing at the top, invest in a professional listing on a credible industry site that does rank to gain more exposure and attract new clients.
While flexibility is the main perk of full-time freelancing, the major reasons why professionals are hesitant to take the plunge are job security, low wages, and lack of benefits. Relying on freelance opportunities can be scary because you’re not 100% sure where your next job is coming from and how much it will pay. Many professionals are opting to keep their full-time or part-time employment status to retain their benefits since the future of affordable healthcare is unclear.
Online platforms, such as ProductionHUB for the video and film production industry, make freelancing opportunities readily available to those looking to cut cords with corporate life. Other platforms, like Upwork and Freelancer.com, serve industries outside of production, including marketing, design, and web development. The growing popularity of freelancing is influencing more legal protection for freelancers, like New York City’s new Freelance Isn’t Free Act. With the right resources and preparation, it’s easy to see why so many content creators are taking advantage of the growing gig economy and going into business for themselves, despite the perceived risks of living gig-to-gig.
To many, the gig economy means freedom. It’s your freedom to decide where you work, when you work, and what you work on. It’s much easier to be creative and productive when you care about the project and can complete it beyond the confines of an office. Getting to be your own boss allows you to have control over your work environment. Can’t concentrate sitting in a cubicle next to the sales department working the phones all day? When you work for yourself, the world is your office.