#5onFri: Five Ways the Gig Economy Can Work for Creatives

by Indiana Lee
published in Community

“I remembered my New Orleans days, living on two five-cent candy bars a day for weeks at a time in order to have leisure to write. But starvation, unfortunately, didn’t improve art. It only hindered it. A man’s soul was rooted in his stomach. A man could write much better after eating a porterhouse steak and drinking a pint of whiskey than he could ever write after eating a nickel candy bar. The myth of the starving artist was a hoax.” – Charles Bukowski

Whether you think it’s a fact or a myth, the idea of the starving artist has been around for a very long time. Creatives have gotten a stigma thrown against them that suggests they would starve for their art. While having an intense passion for your work is essential, it doesn’t mean you will not be able to make ends meet. As Bukowski suggested, taking care of yourself and being able to eat can actually help you to stay focused and produce better work.

Working a day job or even a few part-time jobs to make a living can take away from your creativity and even cause you to burn out. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many artists are struggling to diversify their portfolios because they’re having difficulty showing or selling their work. What can you do to ditch the “starving artist” stigma and find lucrative work while still producing the art you love?

The gig economy could be the perfect solution. Let’s find out why.

1) There Are Many Options

The Federal Reserve reports that there are over 75 million gig workers in the U.S. One of the reasons that number is so large is because they accept a very broad definition of what the gig economy really is.

Simply put, the gig economy is made up of freelance workers, independent contractors, and side-hustlers who work in temporary jobs on a gig-by-gig basis. Gigs are short-lived, and once you’ve completed the job, it’s over. Breaking into the gig economy typically means finding multiple gigs to keep you busy and to financially sustain yourself.

One of the best things about the gig economy for creatives is that there are so many options so you’re less likely to get bored or risk doing the same thing over and over. Some of the most common gig options include the following:

  • Rideshare driver
  • Freelance writer
  • Graphic designer
  • Social media manager
  • Instagram marketer
  • Photographer

2) You Can Set Your Own Schedule

Because you work on a gig-by-gig basis, you can essentially choose when you want to work and how much work you actually do. The average freelancer in the U.S. works about 36 hours a week, but your schedule should reflect your creative and financial needs.

For example, you might want to work more if you’re waiting on your book to get published and sold, but if you’re an artist with several pieces in the works for sale, you might want to work less and focus more on your artwork. 

3) You’ll Have Creative Freedom

As a creative, you might not thrive in a traditional workplace setting like an office. Working in the gig economy gives you the freedom to work from anywhere. You can even make money while traveling if your gigs can be done remotely or online.

Working this way can help you to stay inspired so you can feel motivated to work on your art, design, writing, or music without being confined by a specific location.

4) It’s a Great Way to Network

Networking is extremely important for most creative careers. It’s not always enough to have a great piece of artwork, a brilliant book, or a catchy tune. Sometimes, it’s about who you know and the connections you have that can get you noticed.

Depending on the gig job(s) you work, you can meet people who might be able to have a positive impact on your creative career.

Working as a freelance writer, for example, can trigger conversations with marketing executives or publishers who can promote your work. If you pick up some graphic design jobs, someone might notice your skills and want to purchase your personal artwork. Don’t be afraid to have conversations as you network and offer information about yourself and your creative background. You never know who could help you get your career as a creative off the ground.

5) You’ll Avoid Burnout

Because gig economy jobs don’t last long and you’ll be working on different things all the time, it’s less likely that you’ll experience burnout. Because you can choose to work at your own pace, you can give yourself time to relax and de-stress as often as you need. That will help to keep your creative juices flowing so you can stay motivated toward your true passion.

As with any type of job, there are certain drawbacks to consider within the gig economy. With more traditional jobs, you’ll usually receive benefits and perks including health insurance and paid sick time. In the gig economy, those are luxuries you typically won’t find. Most freelancers and independent contractors have to buy their own insurance and oftentimes work through sickness.

In these times of uncertainty, the benefits of the gig economy can strongly outweigh the potential drawbacks. You don’t have to be a starving artist or give up your creative freedom just to pay the bills.

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time she enjoys hiking with her two dogs. You can follow her on twitter @indianalee3, or reach her at indianaleewrites@gmail.com

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