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Why the gig economy just makes good sense

Though it's been much-maligned, the gig economy actually presents a wealth of opportunities for businesses, says Mycare managing director Mark Jeffries.

Being a freelancer with a steady supply of work is something which can work particularly well for a wide range of people in different life situations. Think about it: mothers can spend time with their children while still earning and contributing to the household budget. Students can supplement their income and gain experience in the working world. Older folk can ‘semi-retire’ and achieve a balance between leisure time and the stimulation of work.

Or, just generally, you can break away from the routine of nine-to-five and operate on your own schedule.

That’s the appeal of the so-called ‘gig economy’, where you work from one small job to the next. Recently the McKinsey Global Institute released a report showing that up to 30 per cent of working age people in the USA and Western Europe are engaging in independent work, with 70 per cent of those doing it out of choice, due to time and flexibility.

And where, traditionally, freelancers have included the likes of graphic designers, photographers, journalists, actors, and translators, the types of freelancers today have become far broader. It includes professional people like doctors and accountants. Thanks to technology, the list of potential freelance industries becomes more diverse every week – enabling a two-way marketplace exchange and putting the power back into the user’s hands.

Services like cleaning, plumbing, electrical work and even in-home caregiving have increasingly become a part of the gig economy. New Zealanders are benefiting from ready access to jobs which are available where the individual lists their services at any given time, rather than having to find work ‘at the office’ or through expensive advertising channels.

That’s the magic of modern technology. One of the reasons that marketing and advertising play such an integral role in business is that while there is a ton of work out there, connecting the jobs with those who can do them has always presented a major problem.

Technology today plays that broker role, of connecting those who need something done with those who can do it. For example, if you’re looking for transport, simply open Uber. Interested in accommodation during your travels? The online platform Airbnb connects users directly with each other, giving those with spare room the chance to help those without a roof over their head.

These days, almost anyone can take part in the gig economy. Of course, there’s value in building your own profile and developing relationships. The online marketplace Etsy gives users a digital space to sell their products, which are often more niche and unique than what you find in other major online retailers.

The platform facilitates and encourages the growth of a community, where user-generated reviews and feedback systems give people the confidence to engage with other reputable users and experience a higher quality consumer experience. This is an important element to consider when the barriers for entry into the gig economy are so low.

Once you begin using available technology, you can effectively break away from the grind. Why not go live at the beach for a while and learn to surf, while still pulling in the occasional job? Typically, you’ll earn more per hour for each gig than you would in full-time employment (and it’ll cost your customers less). Manage yourself smartly and you could earn more in less time, thereby achieving the ultimate balance of having a bit of money and the time to enjoy it.

This extends to those looking to wind down from working life and ease themselves into retirement. Despite the retirement age being 65 in New Zealand, studies by the Commission of Financial Capability has shown that when most Kiwis become pensioners, they’re still willing and able to work – and may even be financially dependent on additional income.

Digital platforms like Mycare have found that those in the 65+ age bracket can offer their services for at-home support while winding down, working fewer hours, and maintaining a flexible schedule.

Work hard and work well and the gigs will keep coming – remember that despite the technology connecting your skills with those needing jobs done, you’re only as good as your last assignment.

Mark Jefferies is the managing director of Mycare.