Written by Payman Taei
A business operating in the “gig economy” is, simply put, one that depends largely on a temporary, highly flexible workforce as opposed to full-time employees. Though it’s still a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of things (at least at the scale that we’re now dealing with), it’s absolutely made a massive impact on nearly every corner of our society.
For starters, it’s made a lot of people rethink what the idea of having a job is in the first place. A traditional economy is built on the backs of full-time employees who rarely, if ever, change positions. The gig economy is centered on the idea that having multiple temporary jobs isn’t just a welcome change, but that the freedom it provides is actually beneficial in a variety of ways.
But if working for a business in the gig economy has caused people to rethink quite a few things, imagine what running a business in the gig economy must be like. This, too, will require you to throw out a lot of what you thought you knew and keep a few key things in mind.
The Gig Economy: Breaking It Down
To truly get a better understanding about running a business in the gig economy, it is perhaps most important to take a look at the situation from the perspective of the people who matter most: the workers.
According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the type of contingent workers that power the gig economy only really accounted for about 2 to 4% of all employees in 2005. Flash forward just a few years and another study predicts that by as soon as 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors working for gig economy-based businesses at least some of the time.
Part of this has to do with the benefits that this creates on both sides of the spectrum. As digital technology continues to advance and more and more people can essentially work from anywhere, expect people to shift towards these jobs as a result. From the perspective of an entrepreneur like yourself, the gig economy is also an innovation creation engine when used properly.
But this has also led to a radical shift in not just the way those businesses come into being, but the way they must be managed as a result. The chances are high that as the founder of a gig-based business, you’re dealing with a workforce that is largely remote – if not entirely “off-site.” Managing these people brings with it its own set of challenges though it’s clearly not impossible.
There are certain pillars of the “old school” way of running a business that continue to be present, but even they require a new perspective. Marketing is chief among these considerations.
Your Marketing Must Become More Than Just Marketing
Maybe the most important thing to understand about running a business in the gig economy is that now is absolutely the time where your marketing efforts need to be about something more than just selling a product or service.
Part of what the gig economy has brought with it is a certain level of disruption to nearly any industry that you can think of. For the most obvious examples of this, consider a company like Uber.
When Uber first hit the streets (pun absolutely intended), it represented a major shift away from the way things “used to work” regarding taxi cabs and other modes of transportation. The concept itself – that you could now instantly order a car right from an app on your phone without physical money ever changing hands – was easier than the “old school” way of getting around, sure – but that didn’t make it any less disruptive to the audience Uber was trying to serve.
So when you’re dealing with such a radical shift in terms of what it is you do, you need to be able to ease your customers into these ideas and show them why it’s truly better than what they’ve gotten used to. In essence, your marketing needs to be about both what it is that you do and why you do it and why that matters in terms of the people you’re talking with in the first place.
Most of the time this means that your marketing will need to be equal parts “outreach” and “educational.” You want to make people aware of your brand, sure – but you also want to shed as much light into how your service actually works and what makes it unique at the same time.
So the next time you sit down with a tool like Visme (which I founded) to create that upcoming presentation or Infographic, you need to be coming at it from a place of education. What questions do you need to answer on behalf of your audience to not just get them interested in your company, but to help them get the most out of what you have to offer?
What do they need to know about what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it? What story do you need to tell to not only show what makes you unique but also to separate yourself from every other provider out there?
These are the types of questions you need to ask (and answer) every single time you sit down to create marketing content.
The most important takeaway from all of this is that now, almost more than ever before is the time for your marketing to shift away from simply selling an idea and more towards educating the public. You’ve already got an incredible amount of enthusiasm for your company or you wouldn’t be in the position you’re currently in.
Now is the time to take some of that enthusiasm and use it to prime people for what it is you have to offer and your marketing is essentially the front line of that particular battle.
To recap, there are certain types of businesses – think Airbnb – that simply could not have existed in a pre-gig economy world. But that world arrived and savvy entrepreneurs took notice and you cannot expect that genie to go back in the bottle anytime soon (nor would you really want it to).
Maybe the most important thing to understand about all of this is that there is truly no “one size fits all” approach to running a business anymore. The gig economy is naturally flexible – indeed, this is one of its major draws. Entrepreneurs have long said that experimentation and being willing to fail is an integral part of running a business. Those ideas have perhaps never been truer than they are right now.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.