In a recent survey, The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 1.6 million gig workers in the U.S. But it's proving difficult to know exactly how many people participate. Measures vary widely, with some claiming more than 25% of all workers—or nearly 60 million—engage in some way. Speculation is that the gig economy will grow appreciably over the coming decades—and for good reason.
With the emergence of freelance apps and the ever-pervasive college debt crisis at its peak, gig work is becoming more desirable and accessible for a tech-savvy millennial generation.
In fact, estimates by NPR, FreshBooks, and Intuit predict gig workers to make up nearly half of the workforce by 2020, with 42% likely being millennials.
Waves of social media buzz make a strong case for the profitability of the gig life. Case in point: those who participated in the 2017 Flip Challenge popularized by influencer Gary Vaynerchuk boasted earnings of over $20,000 in a mere few months.
While generally not a hotbed of dream jobs, the current gig economy has given millennial workers unprecedented financial and personal freedom. This may force companies to adapt in several ways.I personally know students who have DJ’d parties, dealt blackjack for a casino entertainment company, delivered food for five different online services, tutored grade schoolers, and sold an unthinkable amount of unused clothes and household items. The kicker? All of this was made possible through apps like Facebook, DoorDash, Care.com, eBay, Poshmark, and LetGo.
Freelance work is meeting the demands for freedom that traditional employment is not.
- FINANCIAL freedom. Whether as a main stream of income or a supplement to a stable job, gig work can help current and recently graduated college students pay for their daily expenses and reduce their loan debt.
- PERSONAL freedom. We all have bills to pay. But a growing number of millennials are not willing to pledge to a 9-5 to do it. Freelancing provides income while also allowing time to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions.
It would be wise for companies not to underestimate the current and untapped power of the gig market and its pull on today’s millennial workforce. As such, preemptive action is the best action. When considering workforce strategies to attract and retain this key demographic, companies can succeed by marketing the social benefits of working with their team, as well as emphasizing the value of professional development in a stable work environment. It also wouldn’t hurt to offer higher pay incentives for quality output.
About the Author
Kenneth Vesey is a global marketing intern for Lee Hecht Harrison. He is currently an undergraduate at Fordham University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Marketing. With a background in Irish music and competitive forensic speech, Kenny is deeply interested in creative expression as a means to empower individuals in the workplace and transform companies at scale. Connect with him on LinkedIn.