Professor Reeb is Director of Entrepreneurial Studies and Business Studies, two minors at the college. She teaches the yearlong Entrepreneurship Program (E3) that culminates in the annual E3 Expo and student pitch competition. She developed Graduate Emerson’s Graduate Entrepreneurship Certificate Program. In 2014, she led a college-wide faculty curricular committee that created Emerson’s Business of Creative Enterprises major that launched in Fall 2016. From 2012-2014, Reeb served as Graduate Program Director for the Integrated Marketing Communication Program.
The Gig Economy has a long history. You probably first heard the term ‘gig’ referring to a musician or a band’s one-time engagement to perform in a show. That used to be 3-4% of the working population. But the numbers skyrocketed when the 2008 recession hit. That’s when we saw an overall economic downturn, resulting in companies closing down, employers cutting job or instituting hiring freezes. That spurred the rise of freelancers, independent contractors and short-term or per project workers replacing full-time employment.
And guess who was most impacted? Millennials were in college or graduating in 2008, suddenly finding fewer full-time career-oriented jobs available. Suddenly the Gig Economy became a formidable workforce, fueled by the Internet and mobile APPS creating gig work opportunities for web developers, graphic designers, marketers, media-makers, software programmers, writers, photographers, artists, dog-walkers, drivers and yes, musicians. What else do we know about millennials? They love freedom, flexible hours, remote work arrangements and they crave new experiences. They also prefer to work for and with people who align with their own values. The gig economy allows for all of that and the choice to change your job if you want. You might say that the gig worker has the DNA of an entrepreneur and the grit to organize what used to be called side hustles. With independence also comes some insecurity – no paycheck from the ‘boss’ every two weeks, no company benefits or perks and a requirement for creativity and the tenacity to look for the next gig.
As a three-time entrepreneur, my first company was a combination of freelancers doing several different gigs that became a video production company and then pivoted to an Internet media marketing venture. So, I can tell you the opportunities, freedom and self-determination were and are awesome attributes for your career and fulfilling your passion that drives you. The challenges, were at first, unnerving, but careful planning and strategy to build projects overlapping on a continuum to keep the cash flow coming, made it all worthwhile!
Fast forward to the latest Intuit data in 2017 which shows the gig economy representing about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% of the workforce by 2020. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counts gig workers as non-employers, meaning self-employed individuals operating a very small, unincorporated business with no paid employees. That category of non-employers continues to grow more than any other labor category, signaling that the Gig Economy, is here to stay.