The Gig Mindset, by Paul Estes
Way back in college, sitting in a seminar, I heard rumblings about the ‘gig economy.’ I had no idea how prescient the professor was. I kept doodling in my notebook while he explained what he saw coming: “By the time you have kids,” he said, “long-term jobs and careers will have gone away. Poof!”
Someone in the front, always vying for attention, raised his hand. “How are they going to pay for things? You know, without a job?”
“No. I didn’t say they won’t have jobs. In fact, they’ll probably have several. Several at a time, and a whole lot in their lifetime.” He scanned the room. “You see, I see a time coming when there are no careers, no long-term jobs. It will be unheard of for you to, say, go to work for Shell Petroleum – or to even be employed by the university. Companies won’t exist in the way we think of them now. It will be more like…building a house. Let’s say you build houses. You don’t need to have a framer on your staff, you can just hire a crew when you need one. That crew, in turn, works with a dozen or more builders. Same with a plumber or a roofer. I see this for all kinds of companies.”
“What will that mean for our kids?” someone else asked.
“Ah. It’ll be different. They’ll have to concentrate on being really good at lots of very specific skills, and the more things they’re good at, the more contacts they can get. They will have to be really flexible and always learning. I can already tell you that a good framer is a busy guy.”
Estes defines a gig market as a labour market that is distinguished by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work.
The book is more top-down than bottom-up and Estes is primarily concerned with you, as a business, hiring freelancers instead of employees. The big-picture overview he gives works for both businesses and freelancers, but that’s as far as he goes. There’s nothing here about medical or other insurance or how to get jobs or even if you need a license. While the focus is on business, he shines a light on you as a personal business and he sees freelancer’s help as a way for you to focus on efficiently doing whatever you do best while they do the rest.
He recommends what he calls the TIDE method: Taskify, Identify, Delegate, and Evolve. This begins with you writing out everything you do for work, home, or whatever. This is ‘taskifying.’ As a writer, just off the top of my head, I can think of writing, submitting, formatting files, email, and doing the socials. Take that list and chunk it down further until you have the tasks broken into the smallest, doable skills.
Once we’ve chunked and identified the skills we need, we can find freelancers and delegate. He suggests a few websites to find freelancers and gives examples of doing this for computer coding or for doing a local search for fun family events. Why spend an hour on the Internet, he wonders, when you can use a personal assistant who is an expert in Internet searching? For five bucks?
The evolve part is easy. Look at what you’ve done well and done badly and incorporate those lessons into your next hiring.
There’s more to the book than this, of course, and he takes at least a chapter to outline the dos and don’ts of each action in TIDE. The gig economy is different and disruptive and much of the book addresses this. For some, his arguments could be tighter. He often falls back onto his own experience, suggesting that you don’t worry: he’s done it and it’s worked out fine. Definitely not enough of an argument for the company I work for.
I can’t help but think about how the gig economy would work for me as a writer and crafter, and I have some hesitations. I have to be the writer of what I write. There are good reasons that other people use ghostwriters, but I can’t. It’s not in my blood. Maybe I’m naive, and I can live with that. If my name is on it, I have to write it. Same with chopping dovetails. I want to do it myself. By hand. I can see, though, where I could use help in submitting for publication and posting to the socials.
I see nothing really new about the gig economy except size. In my day we called it working for yourself. I was a carpenter for a long time who worked six days a week for just about anyone who would have me. I kept accurate notes about what I did and what I needed to charge and was pretty successful at it.
Should you buy the book?
It’s a good top-down overview. If you wonder what all the hullabaloo is about, this is a good place to get a bird’s eye view. If you are a freelancer looking for details and nuances, this probably isn’t the book for you.
How about you? Any experience with this world? I use to do carpentry gigs a long time ago, and spent several years doing gigs as a scientist tech in nuclear plants during shutdowns. It’s not for everyone. I was working at a nuclear sit in upstate New York once and my wife just hated it. Not New York, but the constant weight on your shoulders of having to always be ready to pack the kids and move to the next job. We opted for corporate life and – truthfully – have been happy ever since.
I see on Estes’ website that he now refers to the ‘Talent Economy.’ For those interested, he worked for Microsoft and talks a bit in the book about working in Seattle and Tacoma, my venerable hometown. For all I know, he spoke at the seminar where I first heard about gigging…