Creatives and The Gig Economy: A Perfect Match

There’s no instruction manual for being a creative. No one tells you in school how to make a living doing what you love. Sure, many professionals offer advice, they give you reality checks and suggest ways to make it work, but in the end, they’re trying to figure out how to make heads or tails of the business the same as anyone.

Some folks are strict weekend warriors while others throw caution to the wind and live by their passion. The lucky ones make a living off their art, while others utilize places like Etsy and eBay to get their work into the hands who want it. Other folks who snap photos or make movies, they write books, and they’ve found ways to subsidize their hustle, but there’s always additional money that needs to be made.

They pick up side gigs, slugging away in the heat, helping a friend’s moving company for a quick $150, or working in a kitchen a few days a week just to buy paints. They pour the drinks in the bars, and a lot of times, we’re the ones designing the banners for the local businesses, or writing the copy describing that local burger joint for the newspaper but working their book after hours.


A creative career means hustling

If you’re on the outside of what the gig economy is, it’s defined that a “gig” is work that’s not beholden to a singular employer, but instead, a short-term engagement. The concept of a gig comes from musicians who typically drop in for the night for a show, collect their pay and split. Because there’s a lot of places to play music, musicians pick up gigs, and hence, the term became applicable to the short-term work environment in today’s job market.

If you know a musician, there’s one thing you can count on: many times, the band always comes first. There’s continually a gig for gas money or no money at all. But, the love of playing live is always there. For musicians, a flexible job is critical as shows are typically at night and many times over the weekend. Plus, there’s recording costs, buying new equipment, making merch, pressing vinyl, etc. Being in a band is one of the most expensive hobbies or lifestyles there is. And when it comes to pursuing that passion, many creatives aren’t against working a few side gigs for a few nights to pay for that new Fender Jaguar or Marshall half-stack.

One of the most significant factors in artists accomplishing more is the emergence of the gig economy. With its nature as a 24/7, on-demand model, the gig economy is transforming industries and redefining what it means to “go to work” as a prime driver of change. Freelancers in every sector have emerged and transformed companies because of their ability to come in and do a job with expert, exacting craft, but also that they can save full-time members from burnout.


The side-gig is the answer

Platforms for creatives to connect with clients are popping up everyday with places like Fiverr, UpWork, and Behance opening up worlds of economic viability for artists. Artists in small towns or big cities can connect with clients from around the world, which in the past was impossible. Because we’ve got smartphones, tablets, and laptops everywhere, people can connect with a Slack message or text – we have no barriers of communication. Because of this massive influx of creatives doing their thing, but on their terms, monetization is omnipresent. Creatives with specific skills can find their niche and capitalize on it, no matter how particular a need may be.

But, while there is a demand for people doing creative work on an as-needed basis, there are a lot of industries popping up that are supporting creatives when there’s no writing or signage work. The gig economy has opened up a ton of opportunities for creatives who have had to take jobs they hate to continue doing what they love.

Services like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, and Adia have popped up and are giving the power back to the people, giving workers the chance to keep doing what they love, but most importantly on their terms. While some call it a “collaborative economy” it’s a market that thrives on people picking up gigs by accessing apps and social platforms.


Finding work in unexpected places

Instead of clocking and dealing with the mundane nature of an unfulfilling job, artists can turn on their Uber app and give a few folks rides or use Adia to jump on a hospitality crew to staff up an event or a hotel. But, the heart of the argument is that workers can get paid either that day or that week, whatever the company policy. This also works because if a gig worker is just picking up a shift or two, they can get that extra set of paints or keep that cash in their PayPal account for when it’s time to finally buy the new HD camera they’ve been lusting after.

A study dropped saying that over half of millennials have a side hustle to make extra cash. What that says about the market as a whole is that people either aren’t making enough, or the opportunity to grab that extra cash is a powerful motivator to level up. Some projections even think 40% of the workforce will be freelancing independent contractors by 2020.

One of the biggest things to consider when thinking about how an artist utilizes the gig economy is that they’ve been in this game for a long time. Artists are used to struggling, to always find a way to make a dollar so their art can be seen, experience in whatever medium. By opening up the door to the possibility of making both long-term and short-term cash on their terms, this changes the complexity of the game.

A draw of reasons why people drive for Uber is that they’re attracted to the nature of service being 24/7, and this allows creatives to work on their terms. Artists have long cited through years of studies that the flexibility to create is one of the most important aspects of any job they take – even over money. So, naturally, this points to an alignment between the artist and gig worker, ideal-wise.


There’s a diverse and talented workforce hidden in plain sight

Because of the nature of the beast, many artists have experience with different kinds of jobs, maybe they’ve worked in the hospitality industry because they want cash after every shift or they know how to work on a line because the restaurant offered flexible scheduling, but whatever the case may be – workers can apply that experience to gigs needing a hand.

At the same time, this also opens the door for people who’ve held multiple kinds of jobs over time. If someone’s become a jack-of-all-trades thanks to chasing good pay and flexibility in the name of working on their writing, this serves people in the gig economy as well. If someone needs staff to help clean rooms at a hotel and the money is right, chances are, someone’s up for the gig.

Another thing to consider: artists are used to moving from job to job, it’s the nature of the environment when the will is to create. Many artists try their hardest to be self-employed rather than rely on a fixed income considering the ups and downs of the market. Because their ability to take on new tasks at will, there’s less of a fear of breaking out into a new field and seeing what happens vs. the average worker. Because the artist is used to ups and downs, they’re more apt to self-insulate against who’s hiring and firing.

If there was a true partnership, it’s the gig economy and creatives. There’s a bridge of viability when it comes to managing to keep a career on your terms, but also find ways to keep making money. As anyone who’s in the arts will tell you, you’ll always have something to buy, whether it be books, paper, canvas, or a new microphone.

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