Should you go freelance? Here’s what you need to know about the gig economy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Anna Bruce-Lockhart, Editorial Lead, World Economic Forum, Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Being your own boss might look like an increasingly attractive option. But what are the downsides to going freelance?
  • This animated video explainer by TEDEd and the World Economic Forum explores what it means to be a freelancer – and weighs up the pros and cons.

Beside a pool. In a log cabin. In your pyjamas. Working wherever and whenever you like can seem like a very attractive option.

And businesses are increasingly relying on these ‘on-demand’ workers to bring in key skills while being flexible with contracts in an uncertain economy.

But how do you work out whether dipping your toe into the gig economy is the way to go? If the life of a freelancer is the one for you?

Start by watching this video explainer, part of the Economics Explained series created by TEDEd in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. It will not only surprise you as to where the word ‘freelance’ originates from – it also outlines three of the main things you’ll need to succeed.

Digging deeper into the gig economy

For more information on going freelance and what it means to be part of the gig economy, dive into the articles, videos and podcasts available on workforce and employment on the World Economic Forum’s platform. You can also find a long list of animated videos on the world of work and jobs on TED-Ed’s Economics Explained minisite.

This explainer article outlines exactly what the gig economy is and what you can expect if you sign up to be a gig worker. It also runs through McKinsey’s four types of independent worker, from the free agents to the financially strapped.

For those of you with more time, this panel debate at Davos earlier this year delved into what happened to gig workers during COVID-19 – and what the future may hold.

Your gender and where in the world you live may impact your decision to go freelance – as this video on the gender gap in gig-worker wages in Australia explains. Meanwhile, in Africa, the rise of digital commerce promises to benefit 80 million young people.

The promise (and peril) of platform work

With the so-called platform economy growing, what does it promise and what are the challenges? For in-depth answers, read the Forum’s Promise of Platform Work: Understanding the Ecosystem report here.

By the end of 2023, the flexible economy is expected to represent $455 billion in global activity, according to Mastercard. But gig economy workers lack the financial safety nets enjoyed by full-time employees.

The good news, the company’s Europe President Mark Barnett says, is that “a growing number of the companies that depend on flexible workforces realize that providing a safety net gives them a competitive advantage – particularly as demand for flex workers heats up”.

Looking after yourself when you work for you

The pandemic has seen many people quit their jobs to go freelance. But when you’re setting your own schedule, you might be a harder task master than your previous boss, so make sure you give yourself a break.

In this article, three experts share their tips on how to protect your well-being when you’re self-employed. They include learning to manage the stress of running your own business, how to establish routines and give up unhealthy pressure.

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum improving working conditions in the gig economy?

The World Economic Forum is working with Cabify, Deliveroo, Grab, MBO Partners, Postmates and Uber to improve working standards for the tens of millions of people who earn a living or top up their incomes through digital work/service platforms.

The chief executive officers from the six companies have signed The Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work, committing to ensure that platform workers receive fair conditions, treatment, benefits and training opportunities.

By collaborating with partners, the Forum is developing a comprehensive approach to provide clarity on platforms’ responsibilities to the workers who use their platforms, empower platform workers, promote their dignity and well-being, while supporting flexibility, innovation and the value offered by the platform economy to users and clients.

The Forum is looking for platform companies, regulatory bodies, workers’ organizations and independent experts globally who are committed to advancing working standards in the platform ecosystem, to collaborate on the next stage of the Promise of Platform Work initiative. Contact us to learn more.

Economics has had a huge impact on the world we live in – and understanding the key factors at play in these massive, interconnected systems can give us insight into how to make them better, stabler, and more equitable.

To find out more, dig into a new series of quick and compelling explainers from TED-Ed and World Economic Forum at ed.ted.com/worldecon. A great many articles, videos and podcasts to answer all your economic questions are waiting for you at weforum.org/focus/economics-explain.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the resources! I feel there are still a lot of things for me to learn about it even though I have been freelancing for more than 5 years by now. I would recommend Insolvo as my favourite platform.
    You can use my promo code for a subscription discount (fp267108). I would be so happy 🙂

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