As digital technology enables an increasingly mobilized workforce, the number of remote contractors, "alternative workers" and freelancers is at an all-time high. Depending on who you ask, between twenty and thirty percent of U.S laborers - around 41 million people - are independently employed, and that figure only goes up every year.
Suffice to say, there are lots of opinions on this trend, ranging from bleak to optimistic. But one thing cannot be denied: the so-called “gig economy” has disrupted the status quo for organizations around the world, leading to both challenges and benefits. In this article, we’ll look at the big picture, and what it means for the field of marketing.
What is the gig economy exactly?
The term “gig economy” has come to be associated with a narrow range of companies that offer flexible ways to make money through low-skilled odd jobs, usually with the aid of a mobile application. Popular examples include Uber, Instacart and Airbnb.
But while these manifestations are well known, the gig economy is much broader, encompassing anyone who depends on a series of temporary positions to meet at least part of their economic need.
Gig workers range in skill from jobs that most people can do – such as driving a car – to highly-specialized fields, such as accounting, translation, and software engineering. Similarly, the amount of money made by gig workers varies widely, and generalizations rarely account for this diversity.
When thinking about the gig economy, it’s useful to start with high-level attributes which separate it from an economy comprised by traditional jobs:
- Gig workers have greater flexibility in terms of the hours they work, who they work for, and how much they take on than traditional workers
- Gig workers typically work on contract and may be paid per project or on an hourly basis. They will not receive a salary, and employers are often not required to provide them with traditional benefits
- The gig economy enables organizations to employ talent from around the world, opening access to a much larger labor pool
- Because gig workers move from job to job, they are usually assigned functions that can easily be transferred to another worker with the same skillset
Whether viewed in a positive or negative light, the gig economy emphasizes strictly-defined roles that can be filled by anyone with the right talent; individuality therefore takes a backseat to function.
Impacts on Marketing
Marketing comprises many different roles, tasks and functions which have been transformed by the gig economy. SEO consultants, web designers, and social media marketers frequently work on a contract basis through freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
Whether they are hired directly by marketing agencies or organizations with an in-house marketing team, contract marketers present the marketing workflow with distinct advantages and challenges:
- Scalability: by outsourcing roles to gig workers, a marketing team can easily bring on more when necessary and downsize without ordeal. This makes gig workers an asset for growth.
- Reduced cost: gig workers frequently offer competitive rates, enabling a dollar to go much farther.
- Increased talent pool: because they work remotely, gig workers enable a marketing team to contract specialized talent from almost anywhere in the world.
- Flexibility: gig workers may have increased availability compared to traditional employees and may be more willing to work odd hours.
- Reliability: Because gig workers are technically self-employed, they may prove to be less reliable than traditional employees who are overseen on a day-to-day basis.
- Brand consistency: Because gig workers often walk through revolving doors, brand protocol must be reinforced with each new hire. In some roles – especially creative ones – differences in personality may translate to inconsistent output.
- Communication: Since gig workers often work remotely, it can be difficult to communicate with them on a day-to-day basis or relay spontaneous changes of plan.
- Lower wages: Although some gig workers are earning big bucks, statistics show the majority are struggling to get by. Lower wages may translate to lower life-satisfaction which can impact work delivery.
Best Practices for Hiring Gig-Marketers
When it comes to hiring freelancers or contract workers, there’s no one-size-fits all answer for a marketing agency. The advantages and disadvantages must be weighed on a case-by-case basis.
When a marketing team decides to bring on gig workers, there are – however – simple strategies that can lead to better outcomes:
- Create a style guide: when bringing on a new freelancer, ease their integration with a style guide that reflects your branding, procedures and expectations. Analyst Jeremiah Owyang suggests that thirty-minutes to an hour of preparation time is the sweet spot.
- Schedule regular meetings: technology has made virtual conferencing easy. By calling or video-calling remote employees on a regular basis, you will have the opportunity to increase their connection with your team and communicate about issues.
- Don’t outsource critical roles: a tiny number of “virtual companies” in the U.S are entirely comprised by remote employees. In general, however, your management and core talent form a backbone that sets the tone for your products or services. They should stick around for a long time.
- Use project management platforms: using a service with project management features such as HubSpot will make it easier to transfer jobs when a gig worker leaves, and also makes up for the communication barrier. Keeping assignments in one place ensures that gig workers will stay productive and in-the-know.
As 52 percent of executives in a recent poll indicated their intentions to hire more contract employees, it’s clear that the gig economy will continue to have an impact on organizations for the foreseeable future. In the meanwhile, tension between gig-workers and traditional employees can be eased with a solid foundation for integrating them into your workforce.
Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR