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What Each Generation Needs to Know About the Gig Economy

What Each Generation Needs to Know About the Gig Economy
Credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Being an independent contractor or a freelancer allows workers more freedom and work-life balance than going into an office every day and punching a clock. Forbes reports that 50 percent of American workers will be doing some kind of freelancing or independent contracting by 2020, and that the so-called gig economy will continue to grow.

But not every generational group views freelance work the same way, or reaps the same benefits from this career choice. Kel Gratke, a generational expert at BridgeWorks, provided Business News Daily with some key insights on the pros and cons of entering the gig economy for each generation.

According to Cision research, older workers are focused on making sure their finances are in order to ensure sufficient income to cover expenses once they retire. However, even after retirement many take on independent work to help offset unforeseen medical expenses or to supplement a lean retirement budget.

Pros: Partially or soon-to-be-retired baby boomers often like gig work because it gives them a chance to stay active in the workforce on their own terms. For this generation, "part-time consultant" seems to be a prevailing theme. Joining the gig economy allows baby boomers to continue to be creative and supports the competitive nature of this generation, Gratke said.

Cons: While they are often working less than full time, baby-boomer freelancers are still working, at a time when past generations were winding down. Jumping into the gig economy might spur burnout if boomers are not fully committed to facing a demanding workload, Gratke said. [See Related Story: Attention Freelancers! 15 Great Websites for Finding Work]

The members of this generation, who are often in the middle of raising a family, are twice as likely to see the benefits of having a flexible work schedule, but may miss the day-to-day interactions they'd have with colleagues in a more traditional work environment.

Pros: The independent Gen Xers love the idea of working as much as they want or as little, depending on their personal obligations or financial needs. Gratke said members of this generation appreciate that the gig economy allows them to work their own hours and be their own boss, so they can put their family's needs first.

Cons: Gen Xers are a skeptical generation by nature, Gratke said. They saw the demise of the mom-and-pop stores and family farms, and lived through the dot-com boom and bust. Because of this, they might struggle to be "all in" with the gig economy: They tend to be overly cautious, especially when it comes to the bottom line.

Recent graduates often use gig labor to supplement income from a primary job, or until they get a "real job" that will offer them benefits and a livable wage.

Pros: This tech-savvy generation will be able to take advantage of an ever-expanding market that needs their intellect, Gratke said. Technology has enabled gig workers to find, apply for and complete more remote jobs than ever, and millennials, who are naturally comfortable with tech, will likely have first dibs.

Cons: Millennials could get stuck in the life of a "perma-temp," without ever having the benefits, hours and wages that the typical full-time employee gets. Gratke advised this generation to proceed with caution and evaluate all aspects of the gig economy before jumping in.

Trying to decide if freelance work is right for you? Check out Business News Daily's guide to becoming a full-time freelancer.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.