I posted a blog a few weeks ago called “The Gig Economy is the Economy” in reaction to reading an article about the economies of many African countries. It caused a bit of a stir.
In my travels to chase adventure in many reaches of the world, I’ve noticed that the economies where I visit are gig economies. Whether it’s the boat driver taking me out to climb a tower in the Andaman Sea, a porter on a climbing expedition in the Andes or a food vendor in a village in Mexico, all are small-scale entrepreneurs. Each must hustle. In most of the world, that’s what it takes to make a living. Skill + Hustle.
Recently, I read an article in the New York Times from a writer bemoaning the fact that writers now need to spend the majority of their time selling their work as a freelancer versus having a position as a staff writer. As a lifelong entrepreneur in the fields of publishing and communications, I feel the writer’s pain but view it as misguided. Writers used to be in the luxurious position of having the publication’s owner, probably an entrepreneur, take the financial risk to employ them while creating a revenue-generating infrastructure that made it possible for writers to write full-time.
In an analogue business model, we didn’t have clear data to know which articles resonated with readers. It’s easier to know in the digital world. Data metrics allow digital business models to be thinner and more open. In the case of digital publishing, it’s now possible to identify the most popular articles, based on the readers who are interested in the content. As data-driven digital business models develop, people’s compensation will be directly tied to a scale that measures performance, based on the results and values of a specific industry.
In the end, that’s what the gig economy is. An economy that directly connects supply and demand. The gig economy removes the friction and all of the supporting bureaucracies between makers and consumers.
Entrepreneurs have taken the risks and reaped the rewards in every economic age. Their ideas, and motivations have driven economies around the world. The gig economy is the same as the entrepreneurial economy, only in smaller increments of opportunities. Just like with every industrial revolution thus far, whether a boatman in the Andaman Sea, a vendor in a Mexican Village, or a freelance writer in New York City, smart people are figuring out how to leverage technology and get compensated by extracting the friction from every analogue system. The future will be owned by the creative and bold.