This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. More info

What Is the Gig Economy? Experts Explain the New Frontier of Business Opportunity

illustrated hands on a laptop working on an assembly line

If you’ve listened to the language coming out of Silicon Valley in recent years, you’ve likely noticed there’s a fixation on the idea of “disrupting” an industry. Taxis, hotels and grocers have all witnessed a significant change in the landscape of their industry due to technology-based solutions that often base themselves on the foundation of a “gig economy”.

But what is the gig economy exactly? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “a gig describes a single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.” The gig economy is made up primarily of remote freelancers in a variety of markets who work on a project-by-project basis. Whether you are looking for a simple gig driving for a car service, or a more specialized project in a field like graphic design, the opportunities are vast.

From 2002–2013, the gig economy grew tremendously. The BLS reports that during that timeframe, all industry sectors experienced growth in non-employer businesses. A recent Upwork survey found that freelancers made an estimated $1 trillion in 2016, with 55 million workers making up 35 percent of the total American workforce.

How are all these freelancers finding work? An article in BBC reports that contractors have the internet to thank:  “Thanks to the rise of on-demand talent marketplaces, the so-called ‘gig economy’ is fast becoming a reality. Cloud-based platforms are making it easier for firms to find the people they need from a global talent pool, and for freelancers to advertise their skills.”

The gig economy is making waves across several industries. We asked professional freelancers about what their work is like, and how both businesses and freelancers can benefit from this business arrangement. Here’s what they had to say about being successful in the gig economy.

Focus on what you do well

The biggest appeal for freelancing is the ability to work remotely, on your own schedule. Rather than swiping their time card at a 9-to-5 daily gig, freelancers can work whenever and wherever they want. But these perks come with some challenges. Though you can charge more hourly as a freelancer, you will be responsible for all your own overhead. You will also have to manage administrative tasks you may not be interested or skilled in.

Freelancer and consultant Naresh Vissa recommends outsourcing some of those tasks.

“As a contractor, you are responsible for all your housekeeping. They can be a huge pain, so get an accountant to handle it all,” Vissa says. “It's well worth the money, especially since accountants will find ways to save you money on taxes. Don’t waste time. You should be focusing your efforts on delivering value to your clients.”

Bring unique skillsets to the table

Vissa says that when it comes to freelancing, you’ll have less competition when you offer more specialized skills to clients. Some companies prefer to outsource more basic work to save money. Offering a specialized skillset like computer programming, Google AdWords or copywriting or editing will likely mean less competition for you on the front end.

Build relationships

Matt Hensler, owner of Hensler Integrated Marketing, says freelancing offered him the ability to build relationships with companies or clients you want to work with and weed out those you don’t.

“[Freelancing] gives you the opportunity to test a company. I’ve worked with some not so great companies on a full-time basis and felt stuck, but as a contractor, you have a little more control of what projects and companies you want to work with,” Hensler says.

What’s the best way to get repeat business with a company you enjoyed working with? Much of it comes down to professionalism. Hensler says that being proactive and meeting deadlines is the best way to develop a long-term relationship with any company.

Embrace technology

According to freelancer Mindi Rosser of Mindi Rosser Marketing, technology is what keeps the gig economy growing.

“The systems, the support and the technology have evolved to the point where it's completely normal to hop on Zoom to chat with a client and skip the face-to-face meeting altogether. Online networking and personal branding allows freelancers to connect with their target audiences, no matter where they are in the world. Social media is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but an essential tool to attract clients and get gigs,” she says.

Consider all your options

Writer Suzanne Delzio says spending time working a traditional 9–5 job before you dive into the freelance world can strengthen your skills and help you down the road. She says, “I think it's important for new grads to spend 5 to 10 years working for someone else. Consider it a post-graduate program.”

Since the gig economy can be unpredictable, you can use that time to set money aside. “It took me a good three years to get my feet under me in this new business,” she says.

Start with a “side hustle”

If you’re already working a traditional career and want to get into the gig economy, it isn’t too late. Vissa says you can start a side project in addition to your other work to gain clients and grow your portfolio or experience.

“Keeping the rising demand for freelancing in mind, aspiring independent consultants should always start with a side business. That's what I did when I got my first client in college,” Vissa says. “By the time I was in grad school, I had nearly ten clients under my belt. When I went out on my own for good, I developed enough relationships to make my consulting business profitable from day one.”

How does the gig economy impact businesses?

The rise of short-term contract work and sharing economy-based business models can cut both ways. Some established businesses face increased competition from enterprising workers who now have easy-to-use platforms to sell their services with. This competition isn’t just for professional services like design or business consulting, entire industries can be upended or challenged as new competitors like Uber and Airbnb embrace business models that allow people to meet customer demand in a decentralized way.

But there are also some clear benefits to the gig economy for businesses. Businesses who see spikes in demand or infrequently need specialized services may find short-term contract workers as a more financially prudent option. While independent contractor positions are not at all new, workers may be more willing to accept short-term positions as gig-based work becomes more common.

Talent matters

With this growing trend, you may be wondering how all these professionals are finding these gigs. While some are certainly facilitated by apps and technology, there’s still plenty of gig and contract work sourced the “old fashioned” way—through a recruiter. These employment specialists know what it takes to seek out talented people and lure them into mutually beneficial business relationships.  Learn more about what it takes to successfully match people with the right jobs in our article, What Does a Recruiter Do? Insiders Identify the Traits of the Industry’s Best.”


Ashley Abramson

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She also works as a copywriter for a creative agency and edits an online magazine where she enjoys connecting with others through the written word.

female writer

Posted in General Business

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-healthcare-management 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE Start Here MASTER’S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR’S DEGREE End Here MASTER’S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsb 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsd 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 181 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsjs 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-rsn 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 91 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 181 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-developement icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-national icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-camera icon-filter icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-share-square-o icon-spinner icon-tag ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-bank icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-mglass icon-scales icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-testimonial-quotes icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-button icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-button icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x