Joining the Gig Economy

I remember reading about people who got good jobs, worked at the same company for their whole careers, and then retired with a gold watch and a lovely pension after 40 years of service. I think it must’ve been a book of fairy tales.

Certainly, no one I know has worked for the same company their whole career. Very few have even been at the same place more than five years, and only a handful have hit the decade mark.

I’ve been thinking about all this quite a good deal the last few days, as I have, once again, become unemployed. This is the 5th time over the course of the last 12 years I’ve found myself laid off.  My penultimate (Look it up. It’s good for you) job even sent me my own job to post on their web site (they wanted someone that had more credentials and they wanted to pay that person much less than they paid me).

Of the five layoffs, four of the companies are still in existence. As befitting a geek in this age, I’ve also been part of four different dot com startups. Three of those failed. One still owes me money.

I don’t mention any of this so that I can get sympathy, or to make anyone uncomfortable.  I say it because each layoff has made me see that I’m not really wanting to jump back into that world. I’m hoping to be able to look back at this as the turning point in my life, where I’m not going to be afraid that one day, someone’s going to come in and tell me to take my stuff and go. I’m not going to have to suffer weeks of anxiety from the moment layoffs present themselves to the moment that the axe falls.  I’m hoping to turn it into an opportunity to fall on my own face. Or, maybe, be a successfully self-employed whatever I am.

And, it turns out, I’m simply joining part of the new “Gig Economy.” Increasingly, more and more people are doing this type of “piecemeal” work, multiple jobs, many different types of work, and doing whatever it takes to earn the basics of their livelihood. I listened to a discussion about this trend on NPR last week, and they said that one-third of all workers in today’s economy make their living in this fashion.

I still think the web holds an unprecedented opportunity for people to be able to build a business out of practically nothing. I’m well aware that it’s not a get rich quick environment, but, after several months of working at it slowly, the first seeds are starting to bloom, which has surprised even me.

Part of me has always craved the security of having a job, and knowing that I’ll always have a job. I’d even imagined that if I did have a job, I’d work for the same company until I retired. I’m a loyal sort of person.  Also, I really hate job hunting. Ironic, isn’t it?

My ultimate goal was to quit my job when I had managed to get a consistent revenue stream secured. No matter. There’s no time like the “living on severance” time. Here goes nothing.