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  • Diana Schneidman

The gigonomics of freelancing

I just learned a new word: gigonomics. The word is used by Tina Brown, former editor of the New Yorker, in her Daily Beast blog entry on Monday (1/12/09).

Specifically, gigonomics refers to an economy in which substantial proportions of the workforce piece together full-time incomes from multiple temporary and part-time assignments, or “gigs.”

The writer points to a new poll conducted by The Daily Beast and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates that reveals a third of respondents are working multiple jobs or as freelancers. Anecdotal evidence (or in other words, the personal stories of Brown’s acquaintances) bears out the data.

According to Brown, corporate America is saving money but losing excellence and continuity in getting the work done. It’s as though corporate America is “on a permanent maternity leave.”

A thought-provoking article—and potentially scary—depending on how you interpret it. The negative interpretation is obvious: there’s a boatload of people competing for freelance work and companies can get away with paying peanuts. I’m sunk!

Let’s look for the plusses

But there’s plenty here to support a variety of positive, or at least balanced, interpretations. Let’s try out these perspectives:

  • Everything is in such flux that companies are always open to new freelancers. Workers come but they also go since they’re always open to better opportunities. Even those who are technically present have scattered thoughts and calendar conflicts. Looks like there’s a need for true professionals.

  • The sad souls she discusses are “college-educated Americans who earn more than $75,000 a year.” Not shabby. And if we are really going to microanalyze, she doesn’t say how much more than $75K they earn. Maybe a lot more. They may be working gigs, but they’re hardly down and out.

  • Brown’s people are all busy, all the time. No one in her world is home on the sofa watching TV. That’s good.

  • This is a small part of the economy, more than likely the New York City magazine community. Brown doesn’t speak for the whole country.

What does this mean for freelancers?

Even from a glass-half-empty perspective, there are a lot of people making money as freelancers and consultants. So the answer is to get an assertive marketing program going and claim your piece of the action.

Undoubtedly this article can stir up our fears, leading us to manage the info barrage. Certainly, one way to deal with reality is to intentionally ban all media from our homes and stick our fingers in our ears.

On a more positive note, let’s not subject ourselves to bad-news overload. Instead, we can actively process what we hear to identify trends and even opportunities in the marketplace.

As freelancers, we create our futures every single day. We have no internal struggles between the known and the unknown. No debates over whether we should stick where we are—for supposed safety—or strike out in a better direction. We are always free to make the phone calls and other contacts to find better work.

Check out the full story at Then scroll through some comments.

Isn’t it interesting how differently people can interpret the same story? And how a significant share of readers see the scene much more positively than Brown?

Originally posted 1-14-09

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