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The dark side of the gig economy no one wants to talk about

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There are definite upsides to working in the gig economy: a flexible schedule, the freedom to work where you want, and, often, the option to pick your own projects.

But those who are familiar with the gig economy know that it doesn’t come without its struggles: it’s lonely, there’s more paperwork, and motivation and stability alike can be hard to come by.

So, before you join the gig economy, global research firm Gartner’s Aaron McEwan gives us the heads-up on what we need to know about before we jump into the gig economy workforce:

1. More paperwork

When it comes to accounting and finances, a 9-to-5 job will generally take care of that for you – but this is going to be a new responsibility you’ve to learn to complete yourself if you’re your own boss.

“Gig workers must make independent superannuation contributions, pay their own taxes, and closely monitor their timesheets and invoicing,” McEwan told Yahoo Finance.

2. You’ll need to be self-motivated and disciplined

With more freedom comes greater need for discipline as you’ll be entirely self-directed, the research expert warned. “This means choosing the type of work you do, how much work to accept, who you work with, and the hours you do.

“Without having a boss to monitor your performance and ensure you’re staying on task; you are completely accountable.”

3. You’ll receive less career support

As you’ll likely be working as a contractor for organisations, your professional development most likely won’t be top priority for these companies – so you’ll have to proactively seek your own career support and mentorship, according to McEwan.

4. It’s going to be very competitive

Everyone else in the market seems to be qualified, educated and experienced – and that means there will be pressure to stand out.

“There is an oversupply of qualified professionals who are seeking similar contingent employment arrangements. Given the competitive nature of the workforce, you’ll need a portfolio of impressive skills and up-to-date knowledge to help you stand out to prospective employers and prosper in this lucrative system.”

5. You’ll be responsible for your own client relationships

Yes – it means getting on top of the actual work and projects you have to do, you’ll also have to do your own marketing, relationship management, and contracts, McEwan said.

“Client relationships take time to nurture and require ongoing effort. Failure to nurture these relationships can result in loss of business, and therefore, income.”

6. Less stability

Unfortunately, gig work means inconsistent employment, workload, and pay. 

“This disadvantage is especially noticeable when contingent workers are required to prove their stable source of income when applying for loans or signing lease agreements.”

7. Your pay might be delayed

Different companies will have different invoicing processes – and often gig workers are at the pointy end of it all. You might be out of pocket for weeks, or even months, after a job is complete, McEwan warned.

8. You’ll be lonely

You’ve been warned. With an office job comes the pleasantries and security of friendly colleagues and regular face-to-face time with your manager.

“If working remotely, contingent workers may never meet their colleagues and don’t receive access to this form of networking,” said McEwan.

“This means missing the opportunity to feel immersed in office culture and the positive related outcomes.”

9. You’ll be more stressed

After one job is up, you’ll be searching for the next thing.

“This process can be exhausting and a cause of significant anxiety when your source of income is on the line.”

So before you jump into the gig economy, make sure you’re prepared for what’s to come – and ask yourself if it’s right for you.

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