It’s an oft-cited statistic, but one that bears repeating: By 2027, more than half of the U.S. workforce will be gig workers. People are branching out in greater numbers than ever before to leverage their skills as independent contractors, both full-time and part-time. Many factors have contributed to this expansion; namely: a post-pandemic landscape where remote work and greater flexibility reigns supreme; a craving for better work/life balance; the potential to earn more on one’s own terms; and a new generation of workers interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. Our own Gig Payments Report found that workers of all ages are more optimistic about their economic prospects in the gig economy (53%) compared to traditional salaried roles. And among Gen Z gig workers surveyed, this number rises to 58%, demonstrating the evolving nature of traditional jobs. A Bankrate survey found that Gen Zers are twice as likely to have a side hustle as baby boomers, increasingly taking on gig work to supplement their incomes.
Still, the gig workforce of today and tomorrow differs widely from its origins. What was once associated with delivery and rideshare is now comprised of people from virtually every industry, including healthcare, marketing, professional services, and beyond. Here are three of the fastest-growing roles within the gig economy that are redefining what it means to be a gig worker today.
1. Content Creators & Influencers
Whether you find them on Youtube, Instagram, Twitch, or your favorite podcast, content creators are everywhere these days, becoming a major disrupting force in brand marketing. Creators and influencers produce entertaining or educational content for distribution at the request of different brands, often curating a large social media presence in the process. They serve as independent contractors for the companies they generate content for, often working with multiple companies at once or generating income by selling expertise and guidance directly to their audiences.
In an interview with Varney & Co., E.R. nurse and popular content creator Stephanee Beggs recalled how she found "unintentional" success from her side gig creating concise, educational content for nursing students with RNExplained, Inc. "I fell right into it. It was very unintentional. I got started selling my notes when I graduated from nursing school. I was studying for the boards exam, what we call the N.C.L.E.X. for nursing. And it was right when the pandemic happened, so I had nobody to study with. I would teach myself to the wall and I would record it. And then I posted that onto social media and people loved it," explained Beggs.
Content creators are seeing ample opportunity as more and more companies see influencer marketing as a must-have, not a nice-to-have, going forward. Case in point: these results from a recent Influencer Marketing Hub Survey:
- 80% of companies plan to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2023
- Influencer marketing has become a $21.1 billion industry,
- 67% of respondents plan to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2023
With more companies relying on this group of independent contractors, businesses need to offer competitive advantages to content creators and influencers to ensure they attract and retain the best talent.
2. Freelance Writers & Designers
The term “freelancer” gets brandished about quite a bit, but take a quick trip to sites like Upwork or Fiverr and you’ll quickly see that’s because it encompasses a wide range of service-oriented professionals—everyone from dog walkers and landscape artists to cleaners and painters.
In recent years, however, a surge of creative professionals—from copywriters and visual artists to videographers and more—have joined the freelance ranks, too. It used to be that these jobs were mainly part of the W2 workforce—either working for agencies or serving in-house at larger corporations. Nowadays, creative professionals are freelancing in larger numbers than ever before for the perks of independence and increased earning potential. (The most in-demand freelancing skill for 2023 on Upwork’s platform? Graphic design, with some freelancers charging $145/hr.)
Brianna Graham is a Communications Consultant and founder of Mixed Media LLC in Maryland. She cites the flexibility and earning potential of freelance work as main drivers in her decision to leave her W2 job. “My earning potential is essentially unlimited, even though I work very part time hours,” says Graham. “The biggest benefit is that I have much more flexibility with my time. I often choose to take days almost completely off to take my son to zoos and other child-focused experiences. Making these memories with him while also financially contributing to my family is priceless.” Graham notes that she has no plans of stopping, either. “We’re getting so much closer to our financial goals and my business continues to grow!”
3. Travel Nurses
If you’ve read any recent healthcare headlines lately, you likely already know that a combination of factors—from the pandemic to ongoing burnout—have contributed to our nation’s ongoing nursing shortage. Many of these talented individuals have opted to become independent contractors by turning to travel nursing. With travel nursing, clinicians can relocate to new areas with increased demand for a short amount of time. These travel nurses are not only fulfilling an important role in patient care but the opportunity is allowing many of them to branch out of what has traditionally been an inflexible industry—healthcare—and pursue greater independence and earning potential.
Kenny Chowa, a nurse based in Minnesota, decided to pursue life as an independent contractor after working as an occupational health nurse for a few years and wanting a change. With travel nursing, he’s been able to make more money and work fewer hours to achieve his financial goals. He cites financial freedom, time off from work, and flexibility as the biggest draws of becoming an independent contractor. “Travel nurses get paid weekly versus biweekly, which is an additional perk—getting paid weekly has been a major benefit as I work towards my financial goals,” says Chowa.
Citing that travel nurses can pick contracts anywhere from 30-60 hours per week depending on the needs of different healthcare facilities, the career switch has given Chowa greater control over his schedule than he would have with a traditional 40-hour workweek. Plus, it allows him to gain valuable experience in different areas of the industry. “I plan on traveling outside of my home state (Minnesota) for at least another year. Then, I’ll consider local travel contracts,” says Chowa. “My goal is to gain experience working in other nursing areas, such as the operating room or healthcare management.”
Preparing for the Gigification of Work
We’ve known that the gig economy is growing at a rapid rate for a while now; what’s new are the fringe industries slowly being pulled into this economy that you might not have expected. Whether your workforce is W2 or 1099, paying attention to this trend of the overall “gigification of work” is crucial—what can you offer this talent that they can’t get elsewhere? How will you deliver the flexibility, speed, and empowerment today’s workforce craves?
More people from every industry and skillset are leveraging the gig economy to earn more on their own terms—you have to be willing to offer them competitive benefits in order to attract them to your company or project. Optimizing flexibility and unlocking faster payments should be a top priority for any business looking to leverage top talent in the years to come.