Mentally Surviving the “Gig Economy”

By May 2, 2016Article

The nature of employment has changed so much in recent years. Many people find themselves a part of the “gig economy”. Long gone is the idea of leaving college and being employed by a single employer for years or decades. The traditional concept of employment has faded and people now face a mental strain that they had not bargained for. The flexibility of being your own boss is wonderful, but it is important to understand the complications too.

 

Long-term risk

One of the most insidious things about running your own business is the tolerance for long-term risk. Very few businesses achieve instant profitability – practically none. An entrepreneur needs to be able to tolerate risks not just for a day, a week, but often for their entire lifetime as a business owner. Normal businesses fluctuate, but it is very different being an employee of a large enterprise when you are given a  salary, versus worrying about whether you’re going to be able to make the bills and or payroll this week or month.

 

Work versus life balance

There is no clear distinction between what your job is and whether your job is your life. There is no 5 PM clock-out, where everyone leaves the office to tell you the work day is done. Typically, your work day follows you home. In the “gig economy” you may be working from home itself. This creates a constant flow of work and life intermingling which it never allows your mind the clear distinction between when it’s work time and when it’s playtime.

 

No external structure

As an employee, people get a sense of a certain job role with distinct deliverables and objectives. As your own business owner, there is no distinct formula for what is required of you and how much. Many business owners feel like there is never an end to what is required of them and they suffer continual guilt for not doing enough. They may also struggle in trying to maintain internal motivation without the normal dangling carrot and stick that the corporate world provides.

 

Loneliness

As the head of the company or sole practitioner you are often doing things alone. This loneliness takes a toll that most people don’t realize when they set out on this venture. There is also a sense of loneliness that comes from having to bear the complications and trade-offs, and constant decision-making that is required for the business — all without the support of someone by your side. The ‘esprit de corps’ that can sometimes develop even in difficult circumstances in the corporate world is less likely to occur when you’re on your own.

 

Fluctuations of income

Far away from the salaried world of predictability is the wide fluctuations of revenue inherent in running your own business. Normal economic fluctuations in normal changes of supply and demand have a magnified impact on small businesses. Maintaining liquidity and maintaining sanity can become a challenge.

 

How to deal with it all

That said, running your own business can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Done right it can provide flexibility, income and a sense of purpose. Getting the right support from people who understand the experience is vital. It is also important to establish a structure which allows you to balance the work and personal life.

Often these emotional factors are not cared for with the same meticulousness that is gone into the business itself. I like to think that all business owners should have the self-care plan made with the same attention to detail that you might make a business plan with. After all, your business needs you to be happy and healthy for it to be happy and healthy.