Gig Economy Traps

Working in the gig economy came with an offer too good to refuse. Escape the 9-5, work anywhere and join the new rich. I remember my first thought when I read this propoganda was, “Shut up and take my money”. Any excuse to leave the rat race.

International gig economy

I will admit, I feel for all the lines. However, it seems the only ones getting rich in the new world of work are the platforms inviting you to bid against freelancers from countries with no comparable minimum wages (See how much Upwork, Freelancer.com and Fiverr are worth). Then, it’s often a race to the bottom, where the lowest bidder wins the job.

When you see details of your payment, you realise there must be some mistake. There is no sick leave, annual leave or superannuation in the gig economy. Now it is your responsibility to factor your rights into your fee. No mistake. This is the job.

Employers love it

Employers love it because they’re no longer repsonsible for your rights. You are less likely to have a claim for overwork, injury, unpaid wages or any of your protections. They are your client and the agreed price is just that. No more, no less. Are you starting to feel like you fell into a trap?

Platforms love it

Then, the platform you won the job on is probably going to take 20-30 percent of what you charge. Not once, not twice but an infinate number of times. In fact, you never really own the client because every time they choose to “hire” you, the platform will take 20 percent. So, for 5 jobs of equal value, you get paid for 4.

Now, the gig economy is really starting to suck. You won the bid by going lower than you would under normal circumstances, you needed to include your own holiday and sick leave, then the platform took 20 percent for this job. And the cream on top is, you have no way of reaching out to that client for repeat business… unless it’s through the same platform that will take another 20 percent.

Freelancers draw the short straw

If by some miracle, you make enough money to support your family in the gig economy, there’s tax. Remember? Income tax that your employer used to pay from your wages. Not to mention the GST you need to charge if you’re an Australian service supplier. Did you manage to keep that money aside?

Hey, maybe at this point you’re wondering if I got out on the wrong side of the bed. I seem to be grumping a lot. Well, you might be delighted to hear I actually love the new world of work. Only, there has to be a better way than people with the skills always drawing the short straw. Greedy platforms are trading on your skills and taking a hefty chunk of your money to thank you.

Is there a better way?

What if there was a better way? Oh, I’m so happy you asked.

Start by creating your own brand image, logo and sharing your contact details outside of the traditional freelancing platforms. When you build your own brand, you might do a good job and attract repeat business from satisfied clients. Maybe, if you really bend over backwards to please them (don’t worry, that’s a metaphor), they will refer new clients to you.

Raise your personal profile by going to local networking events, spruce up your LinkedIn or create a “Google My Business” profile and invite satisfied clients to review your business. Make a name for yourself. Better still, register a domain name for yourself.

This brings me to my next point. Create your own website. Websites can be created and hosted for a flat, low fee. You’re in control of your own brand and you can sell fixed price services, take orders or even arrange bookings if meeting with clients is required to deliver your service. Best of all, you will never pay commissions when you have your own website. HINT: Go Solo Startups can help you with a free e-commerce enabled website and a professional profile.

All that’s left is finding new leads. Engage with people in the right groups on social media, attend local events, join a co-working space and optimise your website to be found in search engines. You will find there are dozens of ways to find new leads. Maybe even consider creating a free “lead magnet”, such as a download in exchange for contact details on your website.

Maybe “escape the 9-5” wasn’t a lie. So, if we want to leave the rat race, we all need to get back in control of our own work and ultimately our earnings. If we leave it up to the “freelancing platforms” to take care of us in the gig economy, we might end up with big dirty rats who keep what’s ours.

Rant over.

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