As the gig economy of freelancers, independent contractors and temporary workers grows, so does understanding of what it takes to succeed. Gig work isn't for everyone, but some people end up making their entire living working gigs. So why is it that some find success where others do not?
A recent survey of 180,000 workers conducted by Good & Co Labs aimed to shed some light on gig economy success. The survey found that there are five personality traits successful gig workers tend to exhibit in greater proportion than the general population.
Kerry Schofield, chief psychometrician for Good & Co Labs, said the reason certain personality traits perform well in the gig environment is because there are several key differences between gig work and conventional jobs.
"[One] important difference is about company and team culture," Schofield told Business News Daily. "When you work in an organization, you are part of one or more cultures: your immediate team and the overall organization. As a gig worker, you may work transiently with many different companies and teams without being an active part of the culture."
The lack of a conventional team culture for gig workers comes with pros and cons, Schofield said. Gig workers typically have a greater sense of ownership and choice of projects and tasks, which often leads to greater job satisfaction. However, when it comes to managing stress or dividing labor, the gig workers might find themselves in a more difficult position than the full-time employees. [How will automation impact workers in the gig economy? Find out here.]
Here are the five traits Good & Co identified that lend themselves to gig economy success. None are prerequisites, but each is a trait gig workers should aim to cultivate to be successful and happy in their temporary arrangements.
Artists and artisans often find themselves in the position of becoming independent contractors or freelancers, naturally lending themselves to the gig economy. Gig work also lends itself to more freedom in regards to how (and sometimes when) a project is finished.
"Each project will be different – embedded in a different culture, working with different people, involving different parameters," Schofield said. "An ability to approach projects creatively is an advantage in this constantly changing environment."
Because a gig worker might work on a vast array of projects across companies in different industries, a natural curiosity and willingness to learn is a necessity. The gig worker essentially must be willing to become a jack of all trades, and maybe the master of a few as well, to find success in the temporary employment marketplace.
"A gig worker's schedule and projects are often more varied than those found in conventional employment," Schofield said. "A curious, open-minded, intellectual and flexible attitude is valuable to allow gig workers to take advantage of the opportunities available to them."
Gig workers regularly enter unfamiliar environments, whether physically or digitally. Good communication skills and a social confidence to engage with new people in new territory is key to success in the gig economy. A temporary worker needs to be secure enough in their skill set to let their work back up their pitch. Developing a strong sense of self is essential, Schofield said.
"Social confidence is important when you work with a lot of different people; in a stable team, introverted people can get to know their colleagues, and gradually build more confidence from the familiarity of their social interactions," she said. "Constantly adapting to communicate with new people would be challenging for someone with low social confidence!"
4. A strong personal brand
Building a network and branding yourself is essential when you are regularly in the market for new work. Without connections or a recognizable portfolio, gig workers will find it harder to gain new employment when old projects or jobs end. Personal branding ties into social confidence. Knowing who you are and what you offer is the first step; projecting that into the world is the second.
"Gig workers also need to be good at pitching their proposals and building a personal brand … to get the best opportunities," Schofield said. "Social confidence is essential for anyone who wants to sell themselves effectively."
Finally, gig workers are less engaged in workplace politics than their conventional counterparts. Generally due to the impermanence of their positions and the typically individual nature of their work, gig workers tend to be more focused on their own personal performance than their social standing in the team. This relates to the cultural detachment of the temporary worker, Schofield said, leading gig workers to avoid the office politics game.
"Our data also shows that gig workers are more individually focused in their attitude to competition. This indicates that they prefer to work alone, and therefore take all the credit – also, all the blame," Schofield said. "This suggests that, while gig workers are not less ambitious, they prefer to be recognized and rewarded for their talent, not for their ability to play the politics game."
A fledgling sector of the workforce
Schofield noted that as the gig economy continues to evolve, the types of personality traits that are more pronounced will likely change or grow more apparent. In fact, she said a wholesale change to how we typically view work and the most common types of employment situations could dramatically change the landscape if the gig economy keeps growing.
"The distinction between gig workers and traditional workers will start to disappear," she said. "At the same time, conventional, structured employment will cease to be the norm, which will probably mean an influx of new personality traits into the gig economy. I would expect to see a much broader range of personalities among gig workers, under those circumstances."