August 4, 2021

What Is the Gig Economy & How to Thrive In It?

Anna Keizer
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The gig economy is here to stay. 

For many working in the production world, the gig economy already has been and will continue to be the norm for their professional lives. But outside of the entertainment industry, it’s only growing. 

With more people looking to non-traditional jobs – only exacerbated by the pandemic – we want to explore how best to succeed in this new working world. 

We’re asking what is the gig economy, and where is it headed?, as these answers will help reveal how best to thrive in this inevitable new landscape. Whether you’re a worker hoping to learn more or an employer exploring how it can boost the prosperity of your company, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s break it all down.

How has the work landscape changed?

Long gone are the days when someone would work as the employee of a single company for the duration of their professional life.  

On the one hand, many professionals don’t particularly find working at a single company the boon that it once was. Especially when the typical raise at that company can be eclipsed by leaving it entirely for a new opportunity.

On the other hand, while companies still generally like to see low turnover rates, they often can benefit financially from keeping their number of full time employees to a minimum. Fewer employees means fewer benefits paid out for those employees.

All that being said, the production world has long been a bastion of the gig economy with crew jumping from set to set and project to project. Even with recent law changes that have resulted in some independent contractors being reclassified as employees, the nature of the production world is still very much at the heart of what it means to work in a gig economy.

But in the aftermath of the Great Recession, other industries have gone on to embrace what has been the norm in the production world. For instance, we’ve all been witness to the ever-growing tech space over the last decade or more, which has resulted in more specialized skill sets. Not to mention, workers across all fields yearning for greater professional autonomy. 

Hence, the new gig economy was born.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is a working world of task-based labor. 

And yes, task-based labor has always been around, so gig work is not an entirely new concept. It just might have been more commonly referred to as the freelance economy or even temporary work once upon a time.

What is the Gig Economy - What Does the Gig Economy Mean - Wrapbook
What does gig economy mean? Besides task-based labor, it includes flexible work schedules, and more.

Jobs with flexible and/or temporary schedules

Gig workers often choose their own schedule, which may require only a few hours or a few weeks of labor. Of course, they can opt for “full-time” hours by being a rideshare driver or freelance coder from nine to five every week. But the crux of being a gig worker is the choice of working when they want and how often they want. 

In the production world, the job itself may not be super flexible in that a gaffer or production manager can’t choose their call times, but the gig is ultimately temporary.  

It’s project-based work

It’s also important to note that gig economy work is not synonymous with work for independent contractors. Often because they can’t choose their own start and end times, (and a variety of other factors), they are often classified as employees rather than contractors. But due to the project-based nature of the work, these employees are still active in a gig economy.

Workers with a specific skill set or task assignment

Rideshare drivers take their customers from point A to point B. Freelance programmers are not asked to also write articles for the websites they code. All to say that the gig economy is based on workers performing a very precise job for which they are getting paid. Now, as mentioned above, you can still be an employee of a company and be participating in the gig economy. An agency producer could be an employee on salary and the nature of their work is made up of various temporary projects. 

It’s these factors that constitute gig economy meaning. In short, you can define it by evaluating the nature of the work. Is it temporary? Is it flexible? Is it based primarily on a single task? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you are likely describing a gig economy job.

Employers are just as likely to participate in the gig economy as an employee or contractor. As mentioned above, it could be in their best interest to hire out workers on a project basis. 
But regardless if you’re an employee, contractor, or employer, many of your friends, neighbors, and cohabitants are likely already thriving in the gig economy, as up to a third of the workforce engages in it in some capacity.

What are gig economy jobs?

All right, now that we have a gig economy definition, what exactly are gig jobs?  What is gig work by trade?

Already mentioned - production jobs, rideshare driving, and even food delivery, but you might be surprised at the sheer number of jobs that are now part of the new gig economy.

A few gig economy examples are:

  • Adjunct/part-time professor
  • Computer coder / IT workers
  • Construction worker
  • Freelance writers
  • Game engineer
  • Mortgage representative
  • Online goods salesperson
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Project manager
  • Virtual assistant
  • & more

And the aforementioned…

  • Food delivery person
  • Production professional
  • Rideshare driver

While the answer to “what is gig work?” can span multiple industries from information technology to higher education to administration, all of these gig economy examples still have the commonalities of being flexible, sometimes temporary jobs defined by very specific tasks being performed by those gig workers.

Gig work job trends

More than 150 million people across North America and Western Europe are gig workers.

Generally, gig work breaks down 50-50 between men and women, though some differences are seen in terms of thriving in the gig economy according to gender. In short, men typically gravitate towards gig economy jobs that have a manual labor aspect to them, whereas women opt for less physically demanding work.

Gig work often translates into full-time jobs for many professionals. For instance, construction workers and freelance writers are essentially considered full-time gig workers. But the rise in the gig economy also includes those who look to their gigs as mere supplemental income, (as is frequently the case with rideshare or food delivery drivers).

Gig jobs have seen a significant uptick in remote work. This has been the case ever since the internet became a fixture among the global population, and the subsequent jobs that have followed. But especially with the changes necessitated by the pandemic of the last year, even many more people are thriving in the gig economy from the comfort of their homes.


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What does the gig economy offer?

How is the gig economy shaping the landscape of our workforce?

More economic dollars

The gig economy is first and foremost a system that generates money. Yes, sometimes that means in lieu of potentially higher paying, full-time jobs. But at the same time, the gig economy isn’t always taking away those full-time jobs, but instead, adding to them.

Think about it this way. While someone might be able to make a living solely through selling their arts and crafts on Etsy, it’s just as likely they’re working a full-time job and using this as a way to make some additional cash on the side. More money all around.

Greater job variety

The gig economy means greater diversification of the work landscape, which can be good for both gig workers and those who hire them.

For workers, it’s the chance to explore another professional avenue regardless of whether it becomes a full time job. Instead of jumping ship and foregoing the security of their full-time income, they can pursue that side hustle on nights, weekends, or whenever it’s convenient. If it finds enough success to replace their original job, great, but it can prove worthwhile even if that’s not the final outcome.

For employers, it’s the chance to bring on the necessary crew or hires for a temporary amount of time without being committed to the legal and fiscal responsibilities of having full time employees. And with more people getting into the gig economy game, it also means a larger gig worker pool from which employers can source and select according to their needs.

Heightened professional freedom 

A gig economy provides flexibility and autonomy for both workers and employers.

As mentioned, a gig worker can pursue that side hustle on their terms. Likewise, an employer can bring them on only when the work demands it. Both sides of this coin are hugely attractive to workers and employers who want more control over their professional lives.

What are the gig economy pros and cons for workers?

What is the gig economy for workers… The good and the bad? 

Let’s talk about it.

Gig economy pros for workers include:

1. Schedule flexibility 

Many people find that the traditional Monday through Friday, nine-to-five way of working does not in fact work for them. Maybe they have family commitments. Maybe they’re just night owls. Maybe they want to take a long, leisurely lunch with a friend and not be worrying about all of those email notifications while still at the restaurant.

Whatever the case, the true essence of the gig economy is largely based on workers doing what they want when they want.

2. Professional exploration 

Let’s say you’ve built a career but now think your true calling lies elsewhere. Back in the day, you likely would have had to take that proverbial leap of faith and just quit your job to pursue that passion full time. Not anymore.

Part of the gig economy definition is being able to work on that pursuit for as little or as much as you want all while you maintain the security of your job.

3. Pay rate control 

Trying to negotiate your salary is often a fruitless proposition. They might have a standard introductory number, a percentage increase each year, or that occasional salary bump if you exceed certain goals.

But working a gig job often lets workers have the final say in what they’re getting paid precisely because they’re moving from project to project and so they don’t have a fixed salary or rate. And while a potential client can walk away if the price is not right, you too can decline a job if someone isn’t willing to pay your worth.

The cons include:

1. No benefits. 

Remember when we were just talking about what it means to be a salaried employee? While it has its drawbacks, one thing that it does offer is benefits.

No health insurance. No paid vacation. No 401k plan. If you define gig economy as your sole way of making a living, then you’ll have to figure out all these matters – including what you can or can’t go without – on your own.

2. Sporadic pay

While you may have more control over what you make and when you work, there is a flip side.

When it’s been a slow week at the office, you know you’re still getting a paycheck for it. But gig jobs often translates to a noticeable ebb and flow of finances.

If it’s a slow week of selling your Etsy products or picking up rideshare customers, that’s a sizable difference in your checking account. For this reason, gig workers must budget carefully to be able to ride out those days, weeks, or even months of slow business.

3. Work-life imbalance

What is the gig economy? It means in a sense that you are your own boss. You set your hours. You set your rates. While that can provide a great deal of freedom and contentment for many workers, it can also quickly jeopardize work-life balance.

When you’re the only one looking out for your professional security and success, it’s understandable that you might spend considerably more time chasing after those goals because no one else is going to do it for you. And because there’s no clocking in and out at predesignated times or the satisfaction of knowing that you’re going to get that paycheck every two weeks. Burnout is equally associated with how we define the gig economy.

What are the gig economy pros and cons for employers? 

All right, what does gig economy mean for those on the other side of this work equation?

Pros for employers:

1. More hire prospects. 

Are you an employer of gig workers? Question: When’s the last time you clocked someone’s home address or phone number area code on their resume?

While in-person and local gigs do exist, another considerable part of gig job meaning is remote work. Even if you’re located in Denver, the best coder applicant might live in Baltimore. You’re in Chicago, but that freelance writer you want to hire is in Santa Fe. This isn’t a problem.

Which also means that when looking for the right gig worker, you don’t have to limit yourself to your own city or town. You can cast a wider net and have an improved chance of finding the candidate that is truly the best fit for your needs.

2. Lower employment/payroll costs. 

Do you run your own live event company in Minneapolis? If you take only local jobs, odds are that a good six months of the year are considered your “slow period” due to inclement weather and all the other joys of winter.

But what does the gig economy offer employers? The opportunity to keep payroll costs low by only hiring when there’s an event on the horizon. And when you don’t have any jobs on the calendar, you also don’t have to keep paying full time employees while bringing in no income.

The truth is that part of gig job meaning is seasonal work. Or at the very least, inconsistent work. And many employers simply cannot afford to keep employees on payroll during those times, making the gig economy a vital lifeline for them.

Cons for employers:

1. Weaker vendor-customer relations

Many types of jobs have a customer-facing element. Unfortunately, gig economy meaning often involves having workers who simply are not as well-versed in what the company is all about or invested in portraying the company well. And when that involves customers, it could be less than ideal for employers.

The crux of it is - workers are not only your workers. They might be splitting their time between a half-dozen different jobs. That frequently translates into a worker knowing just enough to successfully produce what they need to do for you and nothing more.

Workers could potentially fail to see the bigger picture of your company. And potential customers could pick up on that lack of loyalty and expertise.

2. Greater onboarding investment of time and energy 

Speaking of loyalty, with gig jobs, there often isn’t any! And that’s not to disparage gig workers. They have their own agendas and needs, and if they find a gig that’s going to provide better hours or more pay, that probably means the end of your working relationship with them.

In short, high turnover. So when it comes to the cons of what does the gig economy mean for employers, it’s typically a lot of time and energy put towards finding and replacing high-quality workers who you should expect to leave on a frequent basis.

3. Cumbersome gig worker tracking.

The numbers – and paperwork – quickly add up when it comes to using freelance type workers.

Even if you have relatively low turnover, it’s still a lot of pay rates, taxes, and contact information to keep organized and separated from that of your salaried workers. And that doesn’t even take into account the additional tracking required when using gig workers in different states, overtime laws, and wage minimums.

What is the Gig Economy - Track Overtime - Wrapbook
Employing freelance workers has its benefits but when trying to pay compliantly, you need to think of many factors. Try software that does it for you.

If that sounds like a payroll nightmare (because it is!), the good news is that help is available. When working with a software solution like Wrapbook, all of that contact information and all of those pay rates and taxes are collected and compliantly handled for you. Easy peasy.

What does thriving in the gig economy mean for workers?

What is the gig economy is one thing; how workers can thrive in it is quite another.

If a traditional nine-to-five lifestyle does not fit into your professional needs or wants, give these considerations a try.

1. Establish a pay rate that can financially sustain you

Thriving in the gig economy means setting up a financial foundation that can propel you through good times and bad. Calculate what you need to earn to not only pay the bills and indulge in the occasional splurge, but also account for your taxes and any unforeseen emergencies.

2. Set up clear work schedule boundaries 

For many, this kind of lifestyle translates to living to work instead of working to live.

Especially if you have a remote gig job, it’s important to establish a work schedule and stick to it so that it doesn’t bleed into every other aspect of your life.

3. Institute traditional job benefits 

What does the gig economy offer when you don’t get automatic health insurance or paid vacation days? Sure, it’s one of the drawbacks of gig work, but that’s the tradeoff for a flexible schedule and a self-established pay rate. 

That being said, don’t forego these perks of full-time salaried work. Health insurance in particular is critical for your well-being and that of your household---if you’re able, set money aside for it. And even if you love every minute of your gig job, it’s important to prevent burnout - take more than just the occasional night off to replenish.

Employers: thriving in the gig economy

We generally look at the question of “what are gig economy jobs” from the perspective of the worker. But it’s just as important to consider how this part of the work landscape can benefit employers and how they can best set themselves up for success. with it.

1. Create a wide network of potential workers 

As mentioned, it’s a common occurrence for gig workers to walk away when a better opportunity presents itself. So if you’re an employer, you need to be prepared for this worst case scenario. Don’t get too comfortable with who you have currently staffed – even if everything’s been running smoothly and they appear to be happy.

Always be networking with new potential candidates and keeping a rolodex – or the 2021 version of it – in case you need to hire a replacement on short notice.

2. Make it worth it for gig workers to stick around 

What does the gig economy offer for employers? The chance to keep payroll expenses low through not only onboarding of workers, but also the retainment of them. Turnover is expensive. And while you’re not obligated to provide traditional benefits for your workers, it’s still important to create a working environment that fosters contentment and hopefully loyalty.

Pay them a fair rate. Listen to their concerns and complaints. Make them want to stay as long as possible or come back the following season.

3. Use payroll software for your gig workers

We’d be remiss to talk about what is the gig economy without mentioning the time-consuming and oftentimes confusing payroll system that goes along with it. From varying employment laws in different states to alternating pay rates for crew members to additional payments for meal penalties and kit fees, there’s a lot to think about and compliantly manage. 

But you don’t have to tackle this all-important aspect of gig work on your own. Wrapbook's mission is to increase the prosperity of the gig economy---that means creating a system that benefits both gig workers and the people who hire them, like you.

What is the Gig Economy - Employers Use Payroll Software - Wrapbook
Thrive in the gig economy  with solutions built to serve it---stay compliant with your workers' payments, taxes, & more.

With our all-in-one suite of services, you can rest assured that you will stay payroll compliant with all gig workers. Plus, with Wrapbook you’ll always be prepared for that next gig with our startwork solution and film crew rolodex features.

Wrapping Up

There are ample resources out there to help you navigate this ever-changing landscape---from easy onboarding solutions for both the worker and the employer, to intuitive payroll software that handle complicated payroll taxes, laws, and payment types. 

With these resources, you can sooner than later take advantage of all the many unique benefits that the gig economy offers. If you’re interested in payroll services, don’t hesitate to reach out to a specialist today. 

Last Updated 
August 4, 2021


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Anna Keizer

Anna Keizer originally hails from the Chicagoland area. After receiving her B.A. in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago, she moved to California and finished her M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University. She has also graduated from UCLA’s Writing for Television Professional Program and is currently in post-production on the short She Had It Coming, which she wrote and is executive producing.

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