Millennials in the gig economy |

Millennials in the gig economy

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A “gig” is no longer just a cool thing that your musician friend says when he or she has a show. These days, the word can mean any kind of job from driving for Uber to photographing a wedding. Gigs are seen as anyone doing contract or freelance work and, boy, are there a lot of us.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’ve all probably interacted with the gig economy in one way or another in our professional lives. Perhaps you’ve hired someone for a short stint as a contractor or maybe you’ve been the one to take a temporary job to gain a bit of extra cash. Either way, the freelance culture that is highly prevalent in our country today is not going anywhere and will, most likely, become more common.

A recent Marketplace-Edison Research Poll showed that a quarter of American workers are participants in the gig economy. Intuit, which is the owner of TurboTax, estimates that it’s even higher than that at 34 percent.

Millennials (those who adults who are between 20 and 36) are a big part of the gig economy. In fact, they may be the largest part. A recent study by FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting company, and Research Now found that we will add nearly 27 million contract workers by 2020, and 42 percent of them will be millennials.

I’ve always had side hustles that have added some extra padding to my pocket, but since graduating from college I’ve mostly had one employer that took up the majority of my time and provided me with the majority of my earnings. There were a few short months that I tried the freelance writing gig, working assignment to assignment, pitching stories and hoping editors would like them enough that they would pay me to write them. It was an incredibly difficult few months. Not only was it uncomfortable not always knowing where my next paycheck was coming from, I also didn’t like working on my own very much. I tend to be a very group-oriented person. I get my energy and motivation from collaboration and teamwork, so riding solo in the job realm made me feel sluggish, even entirely lost, at times.

On the other side of that, my boyfriend has freelanced for almost four years and he loves it. He gets to work from home and create his own schedule, two things he values immensely. Freelancing also helps him have autonomy in his work, which as an artist can be incredibly important.

Although I don’t have any number to support this next claim, I would guess that our valley has a higher percentage of workers participating in the gig economy than the country’s average. That’s because we have many service industry-related jobs that often change with the seasons.

I come across valley residents of all ages who freelance, and many of them really value how much flexibility the lifestyle gives them. For some, it allows them to spend more time with their kids. For others, it gives them a flexible schedule so they can travel in the offseason. And really, all gig economy participators, who are also valley residents, enjoy getting to ski and hike when they see fit.

The freelance lifestyle works really well for some and is not as sustainable — or enjoyable — for others. Either way, the gig economy is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Barbara Platts doesn’t mind a good gig, but she also loves a decent salary. Reach her at or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.

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