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3 Challenges of Working in the Gig Economy and How They Can be Overcome

3 Challenges of Working in the Gig Economy and How They Can be Overcome inploi Team | 16.08.2016

Breaking away from the 9-5 can be one of the most rewarding decisions you will ever make, but deciding to work in the growing gig economy can turn out to be just as demanding if a few potential pitfalls aren't properly addressed. With many articles in recent times focusing on either the benefits or the disadvantages of working in this industry, this one takes a dual approach: it highlights the challenges, but also provides practical advice on how they can be overcome.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is the employment sector in which people increasingly take on part-time or short-term work assignments (so-called gigs) as opposed to being involved in full-time work from one employer. Individuals in the gig economy are often referred to as freelancers, with sharing economy apps (such as Uber) that increasingly facilitate transactions between the self-employed and their clients. According to Intuit 40% of the American workforce will be independent contractors by the year 2020 (1). The growth of the technology sector and ease of access to the internet, often give those active in the gig economy the opportunity to work from anywhere, and whenever they want.

The following are some of the main challenges freelancers often experience:

Lack of an adequate routine:

Working full-time and from a specific workspace each day, more easily enable you to work according to a set routine. Although this could be a reason to quit 9-5 (especially if the routine is enforced with little room for manoeuvring), it has the advantage of bringing some much needed predictability to your day. Overdoing predictability, however, can stifle creativity. Therefore it is important to balance the need for both flexibility and predictability.

Possible Solutions:

1. Decide at what time you would like to start your day. If you decide to start later in the day, establish an awesome morning routine: eat a healthy breakfast, make a journal entry and do some form of exercise. According to Hal Elrod from Amazon bestseller The Miracle Morning, there are six things you need to do as part of a morning routine, included in the S.A.V.E.R.S principle which consists of Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribe. Elrod explains this principle in more detail in his Podcast The 6 Life Savers of a Miracle Morning.

2. Ensure that you take breaks, and break often. Freelancers, especially those in the creative industries, can get into a state of 'flow' where they exhibit high levels of creativity and productivity. Although these states can bring about bursts of wonderful creative thought and outputs, the downside of it is that it can drain energy levels needed for later in the day. Spending time away from the computer screen by going for a walk or making a cup of coffee can be a source of much-needed alternation.

3. Work in a cowork space, rather than from home. Cowork spaces are popping up everywhere and are great sources of collaboration, networking and socialisation. Working from home can be a too lonely undertaking. The success of your cowork experience, however, depends to a large extend on yourself. It is important that you make the effort to get to know others in the cowork, discuss potential synergies and exchange business cards. A study conducted in 2015, found that 87% of coworkers are happier working from a cowork space, with 83% feeling less lonely (2).

Planning and Time Management

In the gig economy you often don't have a direct supervisor (or supervisor at all) who guides you towards what to do. This can create the challenge that you don't always know what to do with your time, even in cases where there are large amounts of work that needs to be done. Planning and working according to a strategy are therefore critically important. Although your planning and strategies need to have elements of flexibility (to enhance creativity and benefit from not working 9-5), don't misunderstand a lack of supervision for a laissez faire approach to your work. In a sense the gig economy places a higher premise on strategy and planning, since you have to manage your own work day.

Possible solutions:

1. According to time management expert Julie Morgenster you should plan your next day at the end of the day, and the next two days thereafter. That according to Julie "gives you the necessary perspective to adjust your balance as needed and mentally prepare for the upcoming days." (3)

2. Create some sense of desired outcome for yourself, based on the time that you are giving yourself to do a specific task. This will enhance your productivity and brings a sense of accomplishment within your day. 

3. Write a list of the three main things you want to accomplish in a day - and work towards that. This will greatly increase your speed and efficiency. Scattering your day across multiple tasks, will only divide your attention and lead to frustration. It's important that after the end of each day, you feel you've worked towards concrete outputs.


A common mistake that freelancers, often in the early stages of their career make, is comparing a normal 8 hour workday to 8 freelancing hours. Remember that you're running your own business, with certain hours regarded as unbillable such as doing research about the latest trends in your industry, the marketing of your business, seeing clients and updating your own social media accounts. Even accounting for the above difference, overcommitment can be a challenge because of simply taking on too much work.

Possible solutions:

1. Don't work every day and schedule enough free time within your day and week. When you take time off, refrain from answering (or even opening) your e-mails - or just answer the very critical ones. Get away from the computer and spend more time in nature.

2. Ensure that you properly calculate your freelance rate - given the knowledge that there are various non-billable hours in your workday. For a detailed distinction of billable vs non-billable hours, click here.

3. Say no to some work. Taking on too many clients at once, may lead to compromising your work for your current client(s). Prioritise quality over quantity, and factor that in your rate.

Addressing these three challenges are indispensable for a successful career in the gig economy. Although the focus of this article focused mainly on those in the digital industry, many of these principles are also applicable to non-digital industries. Although having a freelance career can be an exciting undertaking, ensure that you address the above to stand the best chance of making a success of your business and fully leverage the benefits that freelancing can offer.

Want more tips on how to succeed as a freelancer? Check this out: Working as a Freelancer: Create, Consume and Communicate 

About the author: Malan Jacobs is Communications Manager of inploi.

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