Making Your Own Way: Getting Started in the Gig Economy

By guest blogger: Lucy Reed, owner/blogger/developer,
If, like many people, you’ve spent the majority of your working life in a traditional office environment, the idea of starting your own gig can seem pretty scary. However, if you’re fed up with being at the beck and call of an unappreciative supervisor, getting grief when you’re five minutes late, and sweating out job security every time upper management meets behind closed doors, you’re probably ready for a change.
At some point, everyone needs or wants some flexibility, but that can be hard to come by when you’re on the nine-to-five merry-go-round. Fortunately, the explosion in the gig economy has allowed millions of hard-working but frustrated Americans to find another way, one that’s better-suited to their wants and needs. It’s not difficult to get started, and there are more opportunities to start your own gig than ever. However, there are a few points to consider before making the commitment to go your own way.
Know Your Finances, Set Your Budget
It’s common sense to review your financial picture before setting off on a solo career path. Start by determining how much you need to get by every month. From there, you can work out how many hours you’ll need to work every week and how large a nest egg it’ll take to get you started. Your financial situation will determine when it’s time to make the commitment.
What’s Your Gig?
Many people who enter the gig economy do so because they have a particular skill and/or interest they believe can provide an income and sufficient demand for that type of work. Perhaps the best-case scenario is to connect with an old client who has contract work or who can help you find other freelance work. Take advantage of your old contacts and always do plenty of networking, both in person and via social media. Talk to people who make a living doing what you love, and who can tell you what to do and what to avoid as you get started.
If you’re a sales genius, some of the best business ideas for 2018 are selling in-demand items like high interval intensity training (HIIT) equipment, wireless earphones, or phone cases. You can use well-known merchant sites, like Shopify and eBay, to move your goods, or you can start your own website and set up a PayPal account for transactions. If you’re a writer or always wanted to be, investigate the many websites that connect writers with people looking to hire freelancers, such as Upwork or Elance. If you love dogs and want to be around them, consider starting a dog-walking or pet-sitting service via your own website or by connecting with people through a local animal shelter. Whatever you choose to do, spend plenty of time searching the internet for the best means of accessing a particular clientele group. And keep an eye on gig-oriented websites like Fiverr,,, and Gigster, which cater to a vast range of gig-oriented opportunities.
Marketing & Promotions
One of the most important things to do in the beginning is to establish an online presence via a well-designed and informative website. If design isn’t your forte, look into having one designed by a professional — an eye-catching website is worth the expense, and so is a well-conceived and engaging business logo, a visual element that allows people to readily identify your business and the service you provide. If you’re comfortable going it alone, check into a free online logo maker to lead you through the process.
Tax Time
If you’re leaving the realm of full-time W-2 work, be aware that you’ll be responsible for keeping track of your tax situation as a contractor. Your best bet is to file an estimated quarterly return to avoid getting nailed by the tax man come April. Many freelancers have come to grief because they ignored or weren’t aware of this. It’s understandable, particularly if you’ve always worked for employers who withheld taxes for you. But contracting is a significantly different situation; it’s part of being your own boss.
Entering the gig economy can be a liberating experience, and it’s fun to start your own business. But there are pitfalls to watch out for. You’re responsible for staying on track with the work and avoiding distractions that can get you in trouble. Carefully consider the need for self-discipline and commitment before committing fully to your own gig.
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