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The Gig Economy Is Here

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

I’m working to launch a new podcast, the Correll Files. It will be a combination of recordings of selected columns from the last three years and interviews with the successful and diverse entrepreneurs I have the privilege of working with on a day to day basis. One of the checklist items in preparation is to record an introduction and “outroduction” to be included at the beginning and end of each podcast episode. Most podcasters, including me, want the intro and outro to be professionally recorded. In a rural market like ours, it could take a long time to find a voice talent for this. But, at fiverr.com I was able to choose from every conceivable voice style by listening to audio samples of each of dozens of freelancers. Once I found the right one, I sent the script and within 20 minutes had placed my order. For “MVProductions” it’s another “gig.” 

Examples are plentiful, especially in the larger cities. Your needed ride or needed food delivery is a “gig” to the Uber driver that will fulfill that need. Your need for a remodeling or repair is a “gig” to the contractor you find on web sites like Angie’s List or Home Advisor.com. The term “gig” dates back to the 1920’s in the entertainment industry where bands would book an engagement to perform; a gig. 

One of my first columns in this paper in 2016 was entitled “The Contractors Are Coming.” In it, I spoke of the need to recognize that much of the work-force of the future would be independent contractors and freelancers. Now, three years later, although in its infancy, we can say the Gig Economy is here; new contractors have started to come to join the ones we’ve had in the marketplace for years. 

We brand many young people as not wanting to work but many really just don’t want to work at non-meaningful, entry level jobs we want them to accept. We also don’t think many young people are financially literate. This may be true but those that are don’t want to fall into the debt traps of our generation, fearful to give up an unfulfilling job due to too much debt. Many will work hard if doing something they find meaningful. For those, engaging in the gig economy as a freelancer offers both schedule and financial independence. 

On the employment side, if we think it’s difficult to find employees now, with unemployment levels at historic lows, just wait until more and more of the work-force get a taste of freelance independence. Employers are going to need to learn to embrace the gig economy and accomplish much of the work they need to do through automation and freelancers. There are advantages. The cost of automation and freelancers is generally much less than full time employees. 

On a small scale, we’re preparing to engage in our own prototype of the gig economy. Soon, when you need certain types of work done, or products to purchase, you’ll find the “Fab Lab Marketplace” at our web site (fablabicc.org) as a resource. The offerings of our member entrepreneurs and freelancers will be listed so potential customers can initiate “gigs” with them. 

What is becoming common in the city is just starting to take shape in our regional rural area. We should all spend some time and effort thinking about how we might take advantage of this new element in our economy and a new opportunity for economic development in our region.  

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns at jimcorrell.com. 


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