Today's tech professionals: Here's how to thrive in the gig economy

Known by many names – freelancing, the gig economy, the open talent economy, contracting – contingent work is booming, especially in the tech industry.

We’re on the road to the gig economy, and we’re not turning back anytime soon!

An estimated 7.9 million Americans will be ditching traditional 9 to 5 jobs for the contingent workforce by 2021, up from 3.8 million last year, according to an Intuit and Emergent Research forecast.

That’s a ton of 1099s!

What's the gig economy?

The term “gig economy” refers to a work environment that embraces short-term employment. It differs from traditional employment in that jobs are not permanent. Gigs vary in length, involvement and scope. Gig workers capitalize on the gig economy for supplemental income, flexibility and variety as they work, according to Steven Soares, Kforce Strategic Accounts Executive.

"For those working in the gig economy, this lifestyle provides more flexibility in that those working a 'gig' can work where they want, how they want and when they want," Soares told Business Daily. "This appeals to many, including our large millennial workforce."

Companies are also reaping the benefits of the gig economy. Work, in general, has become project-oriented, which lends itself to a contingent workforce. Gig work is conducive to organizations that operate on agile models that require specialized talent for short-term, strategic projects. Disruptive technology has also enabled employers to efficiently collaborate and communicate with contingent workers in and out the office with the advent of mobile applications, digital platforms and more.

The gig world continues to rise in popularity across the board, especially in the field of technology. There’s even a growing trend of tech workers making a career out of gig opportunities. If you’re looking to make the big leap into contract work as a career, use these tips below to ensure success.

Here's how to sustain a career in the gig economy1. Become an entrepreneur.

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t just about starting a business, it’s a mindset. Working in this gig economy requires resourcefulness, flexibility and agility. Thinking like a boss will get you far in taking charge of your tech career and being successful in the challenging freelance market.

Let’s be frank. Finding a single job is cumbersome for many people. Imagine the difficulty and work involved in finding multiple gigs within a single year. This niche career field is made for an individual that is a self-starter since you often will be faced with uncertainty during your search for steady income. There might even be times when gigs are abruptly cut short due to funding or completing a development project ahead of schedule. Flexibility is a necessity because work and client needs are always changing. It’ll be up to you to be agile and responsive to this ever-changing work environment. Your pay check and livelihood depends on it.

 2. Network and repeat.

There’s always a need for networking to keep your professional career on the rise; the need doesn’t stop in the gig economy either. Networking allows you to meet and build rapport with like-minded people that can often place you in front of new opportunities of which you barely dreamed.

By mingling in network circles, you’ll get the chance to rub elbows with potential employers and put your skills front and center. More so, making connections might be your best bet in standing out from the crowd when applying for a gig. A stellar referral can easily get you to the top of the candidate list.

In this digital age, don’t forget that networking also includes your activity on social networks. Your professional brand has never been more critical to your career success. Websites like GitHub, Stack Overflow and LinkedIn are prime destinations to show your professional portfolio and background to peers, employers, recruiters and hiring managers. Leverage this step-by-step guide here for tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile.  

While networking helps build connections, it’s also a perfect way to learn and practice critical business skills like communication, relationship building, and more. Remember networking equates to opportunity and no one likes missed opportunities.

 3. Build your skills.

When looking for contract work, highlighting your talent is critical. It is always in your best interest to ensure your skills remain marketable in this competitive and evolving tech space. Learning a new coding language or algorithm can be a defining factor in winning new contract work.

To create a daily habit of improving your skills, carve out time each day to devote to personal development. Check out these additional ways to hone your skills below:

Lastly, Karissa Sachs, VP of Digital Strategy at Kforce, also stresses the importance of developing soft skills that are a requirement in any industry.

“If you’re working in the gig economy, it’s all about re-skilling. Developing a core portfolio of portable skills and deep subject matter expertise is critical, but that’s not all. To truly capitalize on this gig economy, we can’t discredit soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and foresight.”

Don’t forget building skills is simply about making investments in yourself. Although it may appear like more work, remember the goal is to remain useful in your craft for the long term.

4. Befriend a tech recruiter.

Finding a continuous flow of projects to take on can be taxing. Recruiters work daily with clients to fill jobs with great people like you. Partnering with a recruiter can make the job hunt process much easier and get your talent noticed faster by employers.

Additional perks for you:

  • Free of charge
  • Expanded network for your job search
  • Access to hidden job markets
  • Candidate advocacy
  • Salary negotiation

When looking for a tech recruiter, your online presence should accurately showcase your talents, and your resume should always be up-to-date. Recruiters source candidates online, and you want to stand out when they’re sourcing for roles or building their next pipeline of candidates. Recruiters are like any of us – short on time and attention! Ensure that you include your differentiators across your digital footprint to grab their attention.

 4.5 Take initiative.

You’re probably thinking this tip is a no brainer but let this be the last reminder. You must take the initiative in defining your tech career in contract work. None of this is possible without doing so. You are your own business, your mentor, your HR department and your boss. Only you can take your career to the next level!

Being proactive in the gig economy requires diligence, and this isn’t a habit learned overnight. It also isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re a hustler and self-disciplined, then a tech career in the gig economy might be for you.