My article on ‘Jump on the Remote Gig Wagon’ was published in The Tribune, a leading National Daily in India, on Sunday, 30 August 2020.
“Boom Time for Gig Workers!” Screamed the headlines of the economy section tucked away in the middle of the newspaper. Looking at it as he sipped his tea after breakfast, Ravi smiled. The only gigs he had ever had were the music gigs that he and his college band used to book at good old Trincas in Park Street, Kolkata.
As the CEO of an analytics firm, Ravi sure knew a lot about gigs. Just yesterday, he was discussing with his team how they could leverage free lancers for their projects without compromising on security and ownership of the product. The key now was to go beyond the obvious and get many more first timers also on the gig wagon. People who had the expertise and the fire to achieve. With large scale layoff’s, talent was no longer afraid of trying out gigs to survive.
For quite some time, the gig economy had been thriving. Ubering, moonlighting as a DJ, event management, Baking, Photography were popular gigs. Social Media had created many roles like Digital Marketing, Influencers, Page Management and so on. Blue and Grey collar jobs have also latched onto online platforms like Urban Clap.
2020 had become the year of remote work. Interest in remote working search has peaked on Google (source: Statista). He thought of his college friend Devesh, who had been recently laid off and was looking for an opportunity. His daughter Aisha was trying out various gigs as she had just finished college. What could he tell them?
1. Identify Your Skills: Focus on your strengths. What interests you? What service bundle can you offer to a prospective customer? Don’t be limited by your education. Skills aided with certifications can go a long way in boosting your confidence.
Aisha with her strengths in communication, passion for fitness could perhaps acquire some relevant certifications and offer fitness classes. She could also use her diligent writing and research skills to work on reviewing dissertations for students or edit journals.
Devesh is great at number crunching, He could perhaps consult young startups on the business plans. He could also consult MNC’s looking to set up a footprint in India or industries looking to start afresh. A great coach, he could also consider webinars and one-on-one coaching for young managers.
2. Research the Available Jobs: Research is always a combination of internet search and networking with people. Popular platforms for gig opportunities are upwork, guru, fiverr, flexingit, gignow, tapchief, remote.co and remoteok.io. You can also find gigs on job posting websites like naukri and indeed. Make a profile and search projects which were posted in the last 30 days. Evaluate them for what they pay and skills required.
When networking, you need to have clarity on your USP’s (Unique Selling Proposition) so that your contact knows your strengths and what you bring to the table. Try and tap into your contact’s network also. Use the informational interview technique.
Ravi’s firm hired a lot of IT workers for servicing their cloud projects, and specialized IT coding skills. They also banked on the services of a freelancer for their marketing collateral. As his assistant was going on maternity leave, Ravi was considering hiring a virtual assistant from one of the common gig platforms.
3. Be Ready to Work for Peanuts Initially & Intern: Be open to doing short proofs of concepts or take on projects which pay peanuts initially to learn the ropes. This route is a short cut to framing your platter of offerings, sharpening your skills and building useful networks. Your initial set of gigs may seem like rather low end and beginners work. It doesn’t matter. It is all about being curious about the market and learning by doing. They give you the confidence to apply for the next job and help build up your reputation.
Caution: You need to know how to increase your price for the offering, and what to do so that you can command premium pricing. A lot of freelancers fall into the “Doing a Job for Peanut” trap and are never able to get out of it. Let your customers know upfront that this is simply an introductory pricing and the rates will increase after the initial month or three months.
4. Have a Marketing, Customer Acquisition & Customer Referral Strategy: You definitely need to learn the ropes for having a basic marketing strategy. As you work, you will see what kind of customer to focus on, and accordingly refine your strategy. Make sure you are able to create a portfolio of your work so that you can showcase it to prospective clients, without compromising on confidentiality. Build a website to showcase your work and thoughts. Leverage the power of social media and use the channels which best work for you to acquire customers. Learn the art of curating your social media. The best customers always come from referrals of satisfied clients. Be sure to take recommendations and update your old customers of your achievements.
Imp: Don’t go overboard on your marketing budget. Typically, not more than 1-2% of your revenues should go into marketing your gigs. Keep 10-15% for educational investment in yourself or buying subscriptions etc.
It sure takes a while (I reckon usually a year) to get the freelance gigs rolling to a point where you can earn a decent, sustainable income from them. Lawmakers are awakening to this reality, and even though gig workers don’t get any benefits right now, there is an effort to ensure that at least for platform-based gig workers like those working for Zomato and Swiggy, medical coverage under ESIC will be provided as part of the Social Security Bill, 2019 introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The Goal is Freedom: With that in mind, I urge you to embrace remote gigs. You decide your terms and it is definitely more sustainable for the planet with reduced commutes. Don’t lose sight of your financial freedom on the way. Enjoy the journey to re-inventing yourself.
– Nimrata Kapoor, HR Advisor and Career Coach (www.nimtalkingtalent.com)