Successfully Navigating the Gig Economy and Pursuing Your Passion
People are entering the gig economy at an accelerated rate. The reasons for this shift in how we work are numerous. For some individuals, gig work gives them an opportunity to pursue their passion. If you’re one of those people, sometimes the gig is the thing you are most passionate about and sometimes the gig gives you time to do the passion work. Whichever it is, you’ll need a solid plan to make sure your foray into the Gig Economy is a successful one.
Here are five steps to get you started on your journey as a gig worker:
Step One: Identify your passions and interest themes
If you are just entering the gig economy and are in the process of trying to figure out how to market yourself and how to build an identity, look first at your work history to help identify the work you have had the greatest passion for in the past.
Understanding what has motivated you in the past will guide you to identify what you want to do as a gig worker. Sometimes the things that emerge are themes, such as communicating care for people, public speaking, selling an idea, or talking to people about the pain points in their businesses or in their careers—there are many themes that emerge through this type of introspection. There are always themes in the work that we do. When you're figuring out who you are and how to market yourself, examine the themes that emerge to create a full picture to bring your passion into your work and vice versa.
I have worked with a number of people in the gig economy and I worked with a number of actors—given my background living in New York City. I have one friend and client who is an actor but also works in home hospice care. Her passions come together because she's an incredibly emotive person and is able to express ideas and feelings (even on demand!). At the same time, she is extremely detailed with the administrative requirements, care regimens, and directives of that home hospice care.
I have another client who is an actor and also a teacher of public speaking and self-confidence courses. There exists an incredible alignment between his two passions that is built upon his capacity to bring others into his world as a teacher and through the roles he plays as an actor. His abilities to communicate clearly, own the ideas he is sharing, teach, and follow processes are core skills he uses in both of these endeavors.
I know someone else that loves to bake. The baking is the gig and her full-time work is as a product manager for a technology company. While these two occupations seem unrelated, they really aren’t. For instance, baking is really precise and technical in nature—you can't have an extra half a cup of sugar in your muffins. That precision also comes into play every day in her full-time work as a product manager – the technology either works or doesn’t work for the user!
There are often things that—at first glance—seem completely different. But, when you start to put them in the context of the discrete elements of each, themes emerge. That alignment helps somebody understand who they are and what makes them unique. From this perspective, a personal brand begins to surface. We tend to bring things into our entire world. There are a lot of areas of alignment and synergies between people’s work lives, personal lives, passions, and career selves. Once those themes in you work and in your passion are identified and named, the next step is to find ways to communicate them to the outside world.
Step Two: Set goals
Setting goals seems like a no-brainer and most people do set some kind of goal. However, formalizing those goals based on our value proposition will insure that your efforts are more focused than they might be otherwise. Using the SMART format for goal setting ensures your goals are strategic, specific, measurable, actionable, results-oriented, and are time-bound—they may also tie back to another goal that has to be accomplished before, or as part of, the original goal.
For example, goals are often not stand-alone pursuits. They usually appear more like a pyramid consisting of a major goal followed by anywhere from two to 15 goals that support that major goal. For instance, if somebody wants to be a public speaker earning a million dollars, there are probably about 10 or 15 goals that they have to accomplish along the way to meet that million-dollar level.
For every person, there are a set of foundational goals upon which you can build the next layer of goals. Set realistic goals that can lead you on a journey to your ultimate goal—don’t set unrealistically high goals as your foundation and don’t assume you can jump to your pinnacle goal without achieving foundational goals first.
Step three: Creating a professional brand
Gig workers have some of the same branding challenges as companies and many of the same goals. Both are looking to attract prospects and gain customers. Just as companies must create an image in the marketplace, so must gig workers. That image is your professional brand and developing it takes time, effort, and targeted activities.
One thing that I love about branding is how there's been an evolution of one's brand over the last several years. Your brand isn't just a logo or a poster, it's a reflection of who you are and the value you can bring to your customers.
There are a couple of ways to get your name out in the public eye. In marketing we call these channels earned media and owned media. Earned media are those opportunities to contribute a bylined article or provide a comment on an article being written by a journalist for a publication your audience is already reading. To be successful in the earned media space, you must understand what reporters are interested in hearing about. They want information backed up with facts, they want commentary on trends, and they want to be able to publish something unique.
One of the major tips that I can share with people looking to join the gig economy is that when they're reaching out to media outlets or when they're creating content or ideas to interest the media, create a hook. You have about 3 seconds to grab the attention of these very busy people, be sure to show your value in the subject of your email. It might be something like, "Hey, would your listeners be interested in eight ways to succeed in the gig economy?"
Ideally, your proposal to the media companies and reporters is really specific. Structure your responses to them in ways so that they can pull out snippets of ideas and publish them and credit them to you. Getting media attention and earning a spot in an article or a publication develops a level of trust and authority with your audiences that your own blog or website can’t provide.
On the owned media side (i.e. ideas and information you publish and have full control over), a blog is probably one of the first stops people make on the train of marketing for themselves. Creating a blog is not a bad idea, as long as you can commit to creating content on a regular basis—minimum one blog a week. It can be hard to think of ideas for a blog and to make sure your writing about your area of expertise without giving away the farm.
Remember that the goal of a blog is to provide help to your audiences and to establish you as a trusted expert. Your expertise cannot be given away with a little advice, even if it mirrors the advice you would give in person. What you provide to your customers is so much more than that.
While the ideal length of a blog used to be 500-800 words, the popularity of blogging has changed the game, somewhat. Now, instead of looking for short, snackable comments, people are looking for blogs that take a bit of a deeper dive into the topics they state in the title. The new SEO best practices recommend that blogs be no shorter than 1,200 words—some of the best ranking blogs are as long as 2,000 words. Don’t be intimidated by blog length. If you’re an expert in your field, you’ll have lots to say.
The idea with creating content is to pick a topic that you can drill into a little bit, while leaving some aspects unsaid. This allows you to show your expertise without writing an instruction manual for your idea. Provide enough information to lend integrity to the idea and show you are a subject matter expert, but don’t feel you need to say everything.
Need ideas on what to write about? One way to generate a blog topic is to enter a keyword into this website called answerthepublic.com. Once you do, the website will populate all the ways people are searching for information about your keyword. Use one of these questions in your blog title to drive more traffic to your blog. Be sure that the blog addresses the topic fully—don’t use the title as clickbait without satisfying your audiences with relevant content.
Step four: Developing content
Once you’ve taken the time to create a blog, think about ways to divide it up. Make it into two videos or three videos. You can record the videos using your iPhone by using a selfie stick or a tripod and then post your video to YouTube. Now, you're an expert with not only a blog on your own website but you are also somebody that has a channel on YouTube providing expertise to others. Be sure to promote your blog, your video, and your vlog on your social channels. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are common channels for businesses. Instagram is becoming the go-to social network for products for consumers. The idea is that you're using content that you do create in multiple ways both so that you can be efficient but also so that you can reach multiple audiences.
Step five: Taking action
Getting advice about entering the gig economy is easy enough. There are conferences and websites and blogs—like this one. The challenge for many people is to committing to action. Once you’ve gathered lots of advice and ideas, choosing which ones to act on can be daunting. The worst thing you can go at that point is to get into a frenzy of random activities. That's not going to get you anything. One idea is to look at all the ideas you've written down and categorize them:
- Which ideas are best to get started?
- What will you do as part of your ongoing efforts?
- How will you incorporate some of these ideas after you get some footing?
- What resources do you need to execute your chosen ideas?
Some resources are going be easy. For example, you might need to do a little bit of research online to get an answer and then you can take off on that idea. Other ideas might require something more such as reading a book ahead of time to dig into a topic or interviewing a few different people.
Make sure that the ideas you're considering acting on are categorized appropriately and realistically. Finally, go back and set some SMART goals related to those actions to keep yourself accountable to the timeframe you've committed to accomplishing those actions.