Gig Economy Naysayers Overlook Key Omission from Bureau of Labor Statistics Report
The gig economy has been described as everything from a step towards employment utopia to the economic Wild West of the 21st century, and all kinds of things in between. On one hand, proponents of gig platforms point to the freedom, mobility, and independence they offer freelancers, who can choose when, where, and how often they work. Critics, on the other hand, argue that growing participation in the gig economy will place an already unstable labor market into an even more precarious position. Whatever your take, it’s undeniable that there’s been an upsurge in the visibility and popularity of sites like Uber, Airbnb, Upwork – and now Pruuf – that allow people to buy services from independent contractors rather than from a large company or hired employee.
A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has sparked some debate about whether or not the gig economy is in fact the burgeoning new labor trend that the hype has made it out to be. The Wall Street Journal’s Eric Morath, in “Was the Gig Economy Overblown?” points to the report’s allegation that there are currently fewer people earning the majority of their income through freelance work than there were in 2005. According to the report, independent contractors made up 7.4% of the labor market in 2005, while they made up only 6.9% in 2017. On the surface, this suggests that the gig economy is shrinking instead of growing in spite of claims to the contrary, and many who have seen the report have drawn this conclusion.
Although it’s easy to conclude this means the gig economy hasn’t taken off in the ways that many think it has, these numbers don’t show the whole picture - Morath concedes that these statistics don’t account for people who use freelancing gigs to supplement their main source of income. This is an important oversight, since people who freelance above and beyond their day jobs are a huge demographic that’s missing from the report. After all, since wage growth hasn’t been able to keep up with the rate of inflation, it’s unsurprising that many people are turning to freelancing in order to make ends meet. Furthermore, generalizations equating freelancing to increasingly unstable employment overlook the pre-existing instability in traditional job markets that's driving professionals towards freelance work in the first place. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release an addendum to their survey in September, including information related to gig work, it's important that they consider both full-time and part-time freelance work in a much more related manner moving forward.
This relation between part-time and full-time freelance work will only get stronger with the passing of time. Increasing automation in jobs means increased employment efficiency, and an increasing movement towards a service-based economy that favors industry insight, problem solving and creative skills, whether or not they're packaged in 9-to-5 workdays or on more flexible terms. The number and variety of services offered by online freelancing sites reflects this - it's rapidly expanding.
One such approach that’s new to the online freelancing marketplace is the concept of microconsulting - instead of hiring a traditional consultant for a set period of time, companies and individuals can now hire a microconsultant from platforms such as Pruuf, an industry leader in the field. With this model, both companies and individuals can hire experts for advice, whether it’s personal advice, professional consultations, career advice, or help with hobbies. It’s a model on the forefront of where the gig industry is headed, since it allows both full-time freelancers as well as experts with full-time jobs an additional way to monetize their expertise. Pruuf’s platform is unique in that it draws on the plethora of experience that people have gained through their current jobs, previous work experience, education, and side hobbies.
Providing micro consulting services on Pruuf are a game-changer on several levels - to start, mircoconsulting is a perfect way for freelancers and full-time employees to show additional skills on their resumes. With its focus on industry expertise in a wide array of fields, adding microconsulting experience to a CV can be a great way to show employers that a candidate boasts such a degree of industry knowledge that others are willing to hire them as a consultant. Additionally, it puts a premium on professionals’ services, recognizing their time and value by letting them set their own rates and schedules.
The platform's mechanics are straightforward: a person who needs advice can schedule an appointment with an expert advisor. If the advisor approves the appointment request, they can call the advisor through the app at the specified appointment time. This preserves the personal information of both parties and makes it easy to connect, since all communication is through the app. Advice topics can range from personal or hobby related needs, like foreign language classes and psychotherapy, to professional services, like small business marketing, enterprise HR strategy, and accounting. Whereas Airbnb, Upwork, and Uber target specific industries or a narrow range of industries, microconsulting is a unique freelance platform in that any industry professional can benefit, as long as they have expertise in some area.
The utility and applicability of Pruuf is far-reaching, even allowing society to tap into the valuable skill sets of underserved and underrepresented demographics, like retirees and people with disabilities. Retirement-age professionals have a lifetime of industry experience behind them and may not be ready to leave the workforce fully, or may want to save more money before they completely retire. Just as with retirees, many people with disabilities also have a wealth of insight to share, but can’t always share it with others if we only provide them with traditional salary- and office-based work. Instead, these professionals can now provide their services on their own terms.
The gig economy is an emerging marketplace that includes much more than full time freelancers, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics should take note. Freelance work platforms, like Pruuf, that make an effort to include professionals from all walks of life will quickly find themselves at the forefront of the new labor market, since they recognize that our shifting workplace trends could actually be providing more opportunities than ever for individuals to contribute their unique insights to society, but only if we help make that possible.