Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Got Gigs? The New "Gig Economy"
Today on NPR's radio show Talk of the Nation, Tina Brown discussed what she calls "The Gig Economy." She is referring to people who work several jobs at once, doing several different types of work at once -- as opposed to having the old-fashioned and quickly vanishing "career" with full-time job, one boss, paid vacation and health insurance. Brown herself is a veritable "gigonomist" -- she runs her own online magazine and blog, wrote a bestselling book on Princess Diana and has edited a whole host of fancy magazines.
"Now that everyone has a project-to-project freelance career, everyone is a hustler," says Brown on her blog.
While I would prefer the term "multi-tasker" over "hustler", I have to admit that my own life seems to epitomize this idea. I am one of those industrious people who are always working on some task or another -- some paid work, some volunteer, some hobby.
Each week, I teach online classes in international politics, I teach writing for another university, I co-teach healthy cooking classes, write for 3 blogs, and then I volunteer tutoring Hispanic kids and cooking for the homeless. My newest "gig" is a travel course where I'm taking my university students to Turkey for two weeks.
In my spare time, I swim nearly every day, do yoga weekly, travel to 2-3 new countries per year and couchsurf around the US -- but of course, I'm never really on vacation and my laptop gets lugged around between beaches and train stations like a ball and chain around my wrist.
In Talk of the Nation, questions were raised as to whether free-wheeling freelancers like myself are:
1. Exploiting ourselves -- Endangering our futures by not getting employer-paid health insurance, unemployment coverage and the like.
2. Exploiting others -- "Spreading ourselves too thin," so to speak, and thus sacrificing quality for quantity in our work.
3. Simply products of our environment -- a downsizing economy, a multi-tasking culture
Personally, I tend to agree only with the third conclusion. I am certainly a product of my environment, but I'm not complaining. The freedom I gain from being 100% in charge of my time makes up for any false sense of security I might get from getting a 9-to-5. No job is 100% secure, just as nothing in life is 100% certain, and once you accept that, I find that there is little to gain from having a full-time job.
As for health insurance, HSA's are great ways to buy your own health insurance and get tax breaks for doing it. In fact, when you work as a freelancer, all kinds of things are tax deductible. When you think about it, you can find everything you can get from the highly touted and overrated full-time job from other sources quite easily.
On the other hand -- Not being trapped in an office all day long? Priceless.
What do you think about these fly-by-night part-timers? Vote now!