Tips to Help Advertisers Survive and Thrive in the Gig Economy

It's throwing traditional advertising for a loop

three people working at their desks in an office; each person is identical and their desks are the same; a large monitor with a light bulb on the screen
As more workers opt toward the gig economy, it might be time for the advertising industry to rethink its employment model. iStock
Headshot of Zach Weismann

We’ve all heard it: The rise of the gig economy is putting an end to the traditional job market. While there’s no universally accepted definition of what a gig worker is, it generally represents someone who earns a living through short-term contracts or freelancing. In other words, gig workers are making their side-hustle their full-time job.

The gig economy certainly has its appeal. According to Forbes, more than one-third of U.S. workers are in the gig economy, which works out to approximately 57 million people. While millions of gig workers enjoy the flexibility of being able to work when and where they want, many also live with the daily fears that come with working independently. When you combine this changing work landscape with the rapid changes and advances in advertising and marketing, it can be quite stressful. The bottom line is that professionals, agencies and brands must learn to continually adapt.

Build connections and reputation

No one is exempt from the gig economy’s reach, and the shifting landscape has begun to turn the traditional advertising industry upside down.

Personal connections and professional reputations are important aspects in the advertising and marketing industries as it is, but in the gig economy, these two things will make or break you. Gig workers don’t have the luxury of always getting to rely on a stable pipeline of work as they would at an advertising agency or in-house at a traditional company. In fact, nearly 20 million gig workers do the work because they can’t find better pay or jobs elsewhere. Gig workers must seek out each and every project and develop personal and professional connections with potential clients all by themselves.

Once a gig is secured, performance is key to their reputation. Think of an Uber driver, whose ability to get someone from point A to point B is immediately rated on a numbered scale as soon as the passenger exits the vehicle. Or consider a freelance designer, whose business lies in the hands of client recommendations and an impressive portfolio. Not to mention, with the distribution and dissemination of advertising and marketing trickling all the way down to the individual influencer on Instagram, one must manage and maintain more relationships than ever.

Create a schedule and personal discipline

The fire that ignites the gig economy is flexibility and independence. Many gig champions argue that the ability to have an undefined schedule is the most attractive component of the gig economy. Millions of advertising professionals have left the long days of agency life in hopes of having a better work-life balance.

The challenge? Without a reliable schedule, gig workers must be extremely disciplined to ensure that this freedom doesn’t destroy their career. The alarm clock will only go off if you set it, and gig workers must be able to handle this freedom professionally. Many freelancers have found that turning to some sort of network model of work helps ease this instability. Whether this entails joining a coworking space or signing onto more collaborative projects with other like-minded creatives, the sense of accountability and discipline is essential in the gig economy.

Despite these two pain points, the gig economy continues to grow. No one is exempt from the gig economy’s reach, and the shifting landscape has begun to turn the traditional advertising industry upside down.

Stay connected to evolving end-user needs

The gig economy has produced new expectations from consumers and employers alike. Freelancers and independent contractors are now available for immediate service across almost every industry. This creates a seismic shift in how agencies can expand and contract their talent based on client budget. There’s also a definitive shift happening in how agencies think about their own staff and work-life balance. For the gig worker, knowing the ebbs and flow of agency demands means seemingly infinite opportunity for work, so long as you have the aforementioned reputation and discipline.

If the advertising industry is going to thrive alongside the gig economy, models must be created that support this changing work landscape. But with any challenge comes opportunity. The advertising industry has a chance to step up and adapt.

@MAGtheCollect Zach Weismann is the founder and CEO of the MAG Impact Collective.