About 1.1 billion on-demand gig workers exist worldwide, and 2 million new gig workers emerged in the United States in 2020 alone. With benefits such as schedule flexibility, the ability to set your own rates, and the ability to work from anywhere, choosing to enter the gig economy can seem like a no-brainer for many. However, gig workers can also face a variety of challenges as well. From the stress that comes from feeling lonely and isolated to how you can be your own advocate, here’s just a few insights on how you can successfully navigate the gig economy.

The role of networking

Freelancing and gig work might allow individuals to “become their own boss,” however, there are a few drawbacks in doing so. Feeling lonely or isolated is just one matter that can leave many missing the social aspect of a traditional job — including team meetings, collaboration, and even simple small talk. According to one Inc article, there are a variety of ways that one can remedy such a situation — such as grabbing a desk in a co-working space, connecting with colleagues online, or even by joining local business groups via the chamber of commerce, which offer educational resources and opportunities to socialize with other business owners. Networking via social platforms online can be another great way to stay connected when a part of the gig economy, and can play a role in not only finding clients, but can prove to be a great asset in asking questions or gaining insight from other freelancers.

Becoming your own advocate

Feeling undervalued is yet another hurdle that many may face when choosing to become part of the gig economy. Disabled workers, for example, may find challenges in the form of inaccessible apps (like those that aren’t hearing aid compatible). The fact that most gig work is paid at a ‘piecemeal’ rate, which can leave many with disabilities with lower pay (as certain tasks — like getting in and out of a car to make deliveries — may take longer for those who experience a disability vs. able bodied individuals). Understanding your legal rights in the gig economy is just one way that disabled gig workers can go into such a field as prepared as possible. While working in the gig economy won’t prevent you from receiving disability benefits, understanding the complicated nature of gig work and how it can affect such benefits is important — for example, in some instances (such as if you’re on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)), then your job is subject to hours or earning caps.

It’s important to note that becoming your own advocate is also necessary when entering the gig economy, particularly when it comes to feeling valued and preventing issues like burnout. Making it a point to outline your boundaries, working conditions, and hours when taking on a new client are all essential when being your own advocate. Due.com notes that knowing your values can help, with the post explaining that having an understanding of your values and your mission can help when standing firm in your decisions — such as saying ‘no’ to taking on extra work, or tasks that aren’t a part of the agreement.

Entering the gig economy can be an excellent choice for individuals who are seeking flexible working hours, a variety of different work, or the concept of becoming one’s own boss. However, it’s also vital to recognize the potential drawbacks involved, and how to manage them by efforts such as networking to prevent isolation, and knowing your boundaries (and enforcing them) to prevent feeling undervalued.

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