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How to prepare yourself for the coming gig economy

How to prepare yourself for the coming gig economy

Freelancing is on the rise and this presents huge opportunities for workers, as well as the businesses that can leverage their skills to gain competitive advantage.

As the 2 nd annual “Freelancing in America” study indicates, more than one in three U.S. workers — 53.7 million Americans — are now freelancing. It’s clear that disruptive change is underway, and that change affects not only how readily workers and businesses are adopting freelancing platforms and technology, but the very fundamentals of how the world thinks about work and employment.

The gig economy is changing every aspect of working in the Internet-powered economy. This presents huge opportunities — and changes.

Along with an evolving crowd-based ecosystem, there has been a profound rethinking of every aspect of working in the Internet-powered economy. Not surprisingly, U.S. presidential candidates are already debating the impact this will have on the workplace. Key issues emerging include whether the new opportunities outweigh traditional workplace protections, and whether new policies are needed to better accommodate this freelance workforce.

In looking globally at this phenomenon, also referred to as the “gig economy,” it’s even more remarkable. New, highly skilled talent based in developing nations such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India is now readily available to U.S. companies, and U.S. freelancers are now able to sell their services globally as well. The global marketplace that’s been talked about for years is truly here -- with fewer boundaries than ever before.

Here are five new ways the sharing economy is changing how we think about work:

Forget about your location.

Rigid is out and flexible is in. Location has become less relevant as lines blur between the home and the office, vacation and deadlines, employees and owners, students and professionals.

Think of work as a budding democracy.

The circles of influence that used to define our work rapidly are overlapping and it’s up to individuals to have more control over how their professional careers are defined. The movement and management of work is being democratized, bringing both fears of us becoming an overworked population, and on the other end of the spectrum, the opportunity to enjoy a healthy work-life balance as never before.

Don’t be limited by old ideas of job security

A full-time, 9-5 job for one employer was once considered stable. Today, perks like receiving a regular paycheck, medical insurance and other corporate benefits are being replaced by third-party market options that were previously not valued.

Now is the time to get on board

In the next five years, 40 percent of the American population will be freelancers in the crowd and collaborative economy.

Freelancer issues are emerging as national issues

Recent lawsuits emerging from conflicting definitions of a traditional employee versus a freelancer in the on-demand economy have highlighted the need for a rethink on policy, taxation and social nets afforded to freelancers.

This means that some key changes and disruptions are coming, and we will need to act on them.

Prediction 1: The Millennial workforce is after experiences — and nothing’s stopping them from going solo on their careers

There’s a huge outcry about the loss of traditional jobs. The focus should no longer be on the outcry, but on strengthening the new-age workers. The connected generation is looking for work to be an extension of their lives, and not something that dominates their existence. They’re willing to experiment and experience different professions. They seek access rather than ownership and are comfortable with less stability.

The Millennial workforce is ready to go solo. They’re out to create a business that only depends on them and the technology platforms are supporting their cause. The time is ripe to encourage and validate these solo entrepreneurs – they are the ones who will be responsible for a more robust global economy, rather than the next startup entrepreneur with a billion-dollar idea.

Prediction #2: Emerging technology will accelerate the freelancer economy

A plethora of freelancer tools, from Trello for project management to Dropbox or WeTransfer for file management, to Google Docs for collaboration and sharing, is shaping the future of work and making complex tasks possible. Much less discussed, but equally important for the new-age solo entrepreneurs, are the latest advances in fintech that ensure timely cross-border payments with no hidden fees. Services like Transpay play a vital role for popular crowdsourcing platforms as freelancers demand secure, cross-border payments on a global basis. Faster payment processing, lower fees and access to the best foreign exchange rate in turn attract the best talent pool. The newest and most revolutionary payments innovations now extend to small business owners, who can send out payments with just an email address and mobile number for the recipient through Transpay’s pay-by-email platform.

Prediction #3: Platforms will get personal

With the debate on employees versus freelancers and the surrounding lawsuits, freelancers feel like they are getting the short end of the stick while five- or 10-year-old startups in the gig economy are being valued in the billions of dollars. Freelancers will be soon calling the shots when it comes to selecting the crowdsourcing platform that benefits them the most. This is the time for these online gig platforms to forge a path to engage and provide the best environment for their freelancer community. Some elements of traditional jobs like training, education and payment customization for these global workers cannot be ignored.

Companies that engage with these solo entrepreneurs need to accelerate improvements in the support systems that are invaluable to them. That includes fair pay, training, education and efficient, cost-effective payouts, among others – and the sooner the better, because the gig economy is going nowhere but up.

"Nagarajan Rao is a Fintech executive specializing in the high-volume, low-value payments industry. As the senior vice president and head of Transpay, Rao is responsible for the overall leadership, strategy and execution of Transpay, a cross-border payment service focused exclusively on B2B/B2P transactions."
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