How I Measure Success in the Gig Economy

Alternate title: “Velvet’s Treaty Of Gig Economy Gold Standards”

coined by Ariane Barnes (Different Women Project)

The term may be relatively new (and new terms are already on the rise), but the gig economy is one avenue for people to create income for themselves, based on their energy level, ability, and access to the marketplace.

The gig economy gets its name from each piece of work being akin to an individual ‘gig’ – although, such work can fall under multiple names. It has previously been called the “sharing economy” — mostly in reference to platforms such as Airbnb — and the “collaborative economy”.

Wired, 2017

The pandemic continues to negatively affect every industry. Disabled people, and other marginalized people, are systemically and disproportionately impacted by economic changes and often left without full-time work. Some people, like myself, have had an opportunity to create gig opportunities for ourselves.

While this current mode of working is healthier for me, it isn’t without stress. Even as opportunities came in, I scramble for the next contract. To alleviate that stress, I try to remain mindful of the successes along the way. I learned that from listening to social rights advocates talk about reducing their burnout.

Ten (10) measures of success helpful to your gig economy journey:

1) Engage clients with a collaborative spirit

Not every opportunity will be an exact fit for all parties.

Some friction arises from unclear expectations of the workload or timelines. Sometimes I’ve been ineffective in communicating my availability, boundaries or needs. The more you share communication styles and actually communicate, the easier it can be for everyone… except those who devalue discussion.

Collaborating on the outcomes with a clear communication of expectations will be a win before the project launches.

2) Other gig workers treat you like community not like competition

Being part of a collaborative community is a lot less stress than the competitive communities I’ve experienced in the past. I have found that I’ve referred those who connects with kindness over those who have more reputational status.

3) The cheque is actually in the mail (or e-transferred immediately)

Many organizations have billing cycles — a delay between doing the work and getting paid for it, like you’re a temporary employee. Better organizations mitigate the delay by communicating that information ahead of time. However, the best organizations take care of their gig workers by paying within a day of doing the work.

4) Awaiting multiple cheques AND having food on the table

Being able to survive day-to-day (without feeling desperate) in that period between completed contracts and getting paid for them is new for me. I’m looking forward to experiencing this more often.

5) Being proud of your output

Sometimes you take work that you can do but doesn’t inspire you. Another success is the ability to take on work that that expands your knowledge or skill or intrigues you.

6) Beyond being rehired, being brought on for new projects

In some corporate cultures, you are admonished if you don’t maintain a very focused skillset. It is wonderful to be brought in to consult or develop work in multiple areas of interest.

7) Knowledge and experience sharing is respected as an act of labour

It is exciting to be heard, respected and paid for your knowledge sharing. Since starting in the gig economy, I’ve had fewer requests for free advice and no instances where my advice was ignored, the situation got worse, and I was forced to clean up the mess.

8) Being able to set time boundaries within an opportunity without losing the opportunity

Just like project managers protect projects from scope creep, you can protect yourself from “just one more thing” small task work outside your contracted time. Not internalizing their stress due to time mismanagement is a matter of self-care.

9) Being able to say no to an opportunity that doesn’t feel right for you

You don’t owe everyone access to your expertise. It is a conscious act of self-care to protect your time and energy boundaries in a world that prefers productivity over people.

10) Being rested and prepared for the “right time, right place” opportunities

Hey friends, do you know what it’s like to have a night’s rest and to not have work dreams? Self-care means not putting in extra stress and labour in your rest periods. If you have work dreams, consider ways you can change the priorities or timelines for projects. And if they cannot, find other ways to give yourself down time.

Capitalism has us comparing ourselves to other’s successes — the money in our wallet; the comforts we’re able to access; branding reach; a myriad of other measures that suggest our value to society it also devalues our mental health. Even if my list doesn’t meet your measures, I hope it helps you contemplate ways to celebrate your successes

How are you measuring your success beyond what’s in your wallet?

Published by thedukers

Velvet Duke is a Black autistic queer entertainer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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