The American economy is changing. Full-time, salaried positions are disappearing. They’re being replaced by one-off projects and short-term work contracts -— the kinds of jobs that make up the “gig economy.”
The idea of a gig economy can feel scary, especially for workers who like the security of a traditional nine-to-five desk job. But when I worked in the gig economy, I discovered that a freelance work model can also open the door to a more spiritually rewarding way of life.
How big is the gig economy?
The gig economy is big and it’s getting bigger every day. According to a recent Forbes report, there are currently about 53 million workers in the U.S. gig economy. By the year 2020, it’s estimated that 50 percent of the workforce will earn at least a portion of their income through freelancing.
While some of the people that are being added to the gig economy work low-paying seasonal jobs (like Amazon warehouse jobs during the holiday rush), others are year-round professionals with expertise in design, coding or (in my case) writing and content marketing.
Why is the gig economy growing?
There’s no denying that the gig economy offers a more cost-effective labor model for employers. In addition to reducing the cost of benefits, companies now have the flexibility to hire more workers during busy periods and fewer workers during slow ones.
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But employers aren’t the only ones clamoring for freelance opportunities. More and more workers — including scores of millennials — actually prefer contract work to traditional employment because it gives them the freedom to create lifestyles that accommodate their personal, professional and even spiritual needs.
3 ways the gig economy can be spiritually beneficial
Financial security is a concern for freelancers. But in some ways, the gig economy actually protects workers by providing income from multiple sources. If one employer disappears, you still have several other employers to fall back on.
But just as importantly, the freelance work model can provide several important spiritual benefits:
1. The gig economy forces you to engage in community.
At first glance, freelancing seems isolating. Many freelancers work from home and don’t have the kinds of daily interactions that exist in a traditional office setting. But successful freelancers know they can’t survive alone. They have to participate in communities (online and face-to-face) of like-minded freelancers to find gigs and professional support. These communities aren’t unlike spiritual communities — they require openness, selflessness and mutual respect to thrive.
2. Non-traditional work schedules are no problem.
Combining spiritual routines with traditional work routines is no easy feat. From morning prayer and meditation to volunteering and community interaction, spiritual activities are tough to squeeze in when you have to punch the clock for eight to 10 consecutive hours a day. The gig economy allows workers to create their own schedules and work routines. If you want to serve lunch at a soup kitchen or meditate from 10:00 to 10:30 each day, you can. It’s up to you whether you work in the morning, the afternoon or the evening. And if you want to take a few days off to travel or go on a retreat, it’s no problem, provided you can afford to miss the work or take your work with you.
3. You have to exercise faith and trust.
Traditional employment scenarios create a false sense of security. If you’ve worked at the same traditional job for several years, it’s easy to believe that it will always exist. But in reality, the company could downsize, get acquired or go out of business with little warning. Freelancers don’t suffer from those illusions. They have to constantly exercise faith and trust: faith that their next gig is just around the corner and trust that God is somehow looking out for them.
Non-traditional work routines aren’t for everyone. But as the gig economy grows, there will be even more opportunities to create your own work life — a life that’s big enough to accommodate the spiritual activities and commitments that matter to you.