Don’t look now, but the entire job market is in a bubble.
Freelancers and otherworkers now make up a staggering 35% of the entire job market. And don’t tell anyone, but that number is only going to get larger. Those of us who earn a living in ways that aren’t a traditional 9-5 job are growing by about a million per year.
The Future of Alternative Work
It isn’t telling tales out of school to say that tech is on the rise. But while we may think of the future of hi-tech as being robots who serve food and flying cars, there’s another angle to consider. Simply put, technology is enabling more people to earn a living in ways that don’t require an expensive college degree or a brick and mortar business.
Take YouTube as an example. While most YouTube creators do not earn a living off of their videos, a small percentage do. Twenty years ago if you had wanted to make money off of videos, you’d have had to send them into America’s Funniest Home Videos and hope to win. Alternately, you could have booked time on public access television and broadcast your “show” to the 15 people still watching at 3:00 am.
Graphic design is another example. Thirty years ago, making a living in graphic design likely meant working in a print shop or in the art or marketing department of a larger business. Now, graphic designers make up a significant chunk of the growing freelance economy.
Still, there are unconventional ways people are adapting the traditional business model. Twenty years ago, a mail-order subscription service for razor blades would have seemed ludicrous. Now, there are a handful of such companies. Ditto food, wine, cigars, cologne, socks, ties, laundry detergent, and just about anything else you can think of.
Debunking the Myth
We hear a lot of talk these days about how American jobs are being disrupted by lopsided trade deals or the rise of automation. To be fair, there’s truth to both of those statements. However, the reality is that even fixing those trade deals or hampering the rise of automation would not change the inevitable shift away from traditional employment.
A notable example, often cited, is the rise of ATM machines and how they were going to decimate bank employment. The truth, however, is that they had the opposite effect. This is not to say that no bank teller lost their job because of an ATM. I’m sure they did.
However, the overall effect of ATM’s went something more like this:
- Banks become more efficient
- Employee time was freed up to shift to other areas.
- Banks began to offer more services and needed human employees to manage those services.
- ATM machines required installers and maintenance personal. Now, whole companies that employ thousands of people are now devoted solely to ATM maintenance and repair.
- Armored car companies needed to expand their service offerings to accommodate ATM collections
- Private, for-profit ATM companies began to emerge. These are machines such as you might see at gas stations or convenience stores which aren’t owned by a particular bank. These companies are privately owned, employee hundreds of people, and make their money off of the transaction fees.
And so on. The point is, technology facilitates more work, different work, other work, in far greater ways than it takes it away.
The New Reality: Alternative Work
Overwhelmingly, the nature of employment is shifting from traditional employment solutions. Everyone knows a freelance photographer, an Uber driver, or someone who has rented their home on Airbnb. And it doesn’t stop there. I know a fellow who makes money by picking up dog crap. Literally.
There are individuals who are creating magnificent products through crowdfunding on sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Websites such as Patreon allow the public to support content creators, academics, and online news programs directly, without needing a big mainstream news network, a college, or an expensive studio.
The point is, the world is changing. More people are harnessing their passions and talents to create an income stream than ever before. Sometimes it’s freelance web design, sometimes it’s creating a home-based business. Both are easier and more profitable than ever before.
What Should You Do?
Harness your talent. What are you good at? What can you make money by doing? Can you write, design logos, or pick up dog crap? Then you can be an other worker. More businesses are looking to outsource certain tasks than ever before. It makes sense for them from a financial standpoint to do so. Jump on it.
You can create a website and print business cards for less than $100 by going through services such as Squarespace and Vistaprint. There are freelance marketplace websites such as Upwork and Freelancer. Even more, sites like Etsy allow you to sell your wares without needing to break the bank on web design.
There’s a whole new world out there for people interested in making money in alternative ways. So get creative. Start thinking about what abilities you have that could be making you money.
Pump the Brakes
Fair warning: we may be making it sound easy, but it isn’t. It’s still work. Hard work. Whether you’re picking up dog mess, launching an online business, or becoming a freelancer; you are entering into the realm of entrepreneurship. This may be the most difficult thing you ever do.
It requires hard work, dedication, drive, ambition, thick skin, and just about every other thing you’d read off a motivational poster. It is said that entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week so that they can avoid working 40. If that makes sense to you, if you just smirked and nodded a little bit, you’re mind is on the right track.
The employment landscape is changing. So is education. More information is now at your fingertips than any other period in human history. If you want to learn it, it’s there. Often for free. If you want to become better, it’s there. Often for free.
The online world is your oyster. Go be an other worker.