Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Academy Awards and the Gig Economy

Since its Academy Award season, I thought  it would be appropriate to compare the Gig Economy to Hollywood.  Stephen Kasriel the CEO of Upwork  wrote an article in Fast Company last year called "Why the Future of Work will Look a lot like Hollywood."   I agree wholeheartedly and in fact wrote a similar piece years ago on the  parallels with the movie industry. I elaborated on that idea in my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy.  Here is a brief excerpt.

"The movie industry  had been a freelance marketplace, since the 1940’s.  From its origins in the 1920’s, it was vertically integrated; actors, directors, writers and technical staff worked for the studios, and the studios owned the cinemas. The time period, referred to as either the studio system years or the Golden Age of Hollywood, was known for formula movies, with actors playing very similar roles in similar stories, because the business formula was to utilize the talent that was on the payroll at the studio. (Think about all those old  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies…)  The change came in 1948 when a Supreme Court ruling  required  the studio to divest themselves of their distribution operations. At the same time, a threat appeared from another corner, as  technological advances resulted in a new media form -  television.

As the studio system broke down, the talent began to take control of their own careers.  Talent agencies emerged as the market makers in talent, and unions arose to protect various specialties.  In fact, many have pointed to this parallel as a reason why Gig Economy workers may need to unionize. In the movie business today, people come together in all the disciplines, writers, actors, set designers, assistant directors and key grips, to name just a few, to create a film. Once it is over, the various players disband and go on to the next gig."

It is no surprise, that  in the business analog, the first players  to become independent were the stars,  just like in the movie model. Back in 1988  ( before the internet...ouch!) it took me no time to build up a strong network of consultants numbering in the 1000s.  Independent expertise of the most credentialed sort  has been around for decades, well before the advent of what people typically think of as the gig economy,  i.e. the uber drivers or free-lance workers on the Upwork platform. It's the stars, the highly accomplished independent consultants and interim managers,  who wanted to take control of their careers and make choices about how they would use their talents.

 

In the meantime, digital platforms and traditional intermediaries are making it easier for talented independent workers to find that next gig.  One firm, Tongal, which touts its innovative approach to content creation, works with companies and brands to produce TV commercials, digital advertising, and social media videos in crowd sourced competitions with the creative talent on its platforms.  Since 2014, it has held and annual Tongie Award celebration https://tongal.com/tongies to recognize the amazing talents in its network and the just as impressive content they have created.  A 2016 winner, "Children are Children", a video  for the Ad Council and the No Different From Us Refugee Project was very moving.

So when you watch the Academy Awards and think of all those glamorous stars, remember, they have already moved on to their next gig.

 

Talent Platforms for the upper end of the Gig Economy

Small Business Trends today had an article entitled  "20 Platforms for Workers in the Gig Economy".https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/02/gig-websites.html It was a good list, but one that was heavily skewed toward driving, leading off with Uber, Lyft and Turo.  The author also include some sites which are not gig economy sites at all, like Air BnB and Etsy.  In my upcoming book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, I differentiate between the sharing and gig economies.  The former involves  a physical asset, like renting your home.  The latter involves work of an uncertain duration performed in any field.  Moreover,  what many people do not appreciate about the Gig Economy,  is that it encompasses a wide variety of fields, not just driving, errands or delivery services.

Thriving in the Gig EconomyAs part of  the research for my book, I learned about a lot of platforms.  Some, like Tongal, https://tongal.com/who hold the Tongie Awards every year to celebrate the creative talents on their platform, I first discovered in a great book, Lead the Work. ( You can see this year's nominees on their website now. )  In many cases I met with the founders or leadership teams  of over a dozen talent platforms to  better understand the business model. These included  Experfy,  a talent platform for data scientists,  https://www.experfy.com and UpCounsel  a platform for certain types of legal expertise. https://www.upcounsel.com .  I mention these two in particular, because these were sites for which, I as a gig worker myself, would not be qualified.   However, if there was a remote chance that I was qualified, I not only tried to interview the founder, I also joined the platform.  I wanted to get a sense of the "user experience". All told, I am a participant in over a dozen high-end talent platforms right now.

It continues to be an interesting education. No site turned me down, which surprised me.  If you check out my LinkedIn page,https://www.linkedin.com/in/marionmcgovern/ I do not represent myself as a consultant, but that didn't seem to matter.  In the sites touting "experts",  I wasn't sure what qualified me, though I do know quite a bit now about the Gig Economy. Some sites, used only my LinkedIn info and asked for little else, while others tried to be far more expansive in their vetting. A few put me through additional screens; one had a requirement that I complete a confidentiality course, while another required a human on-boarding session to review the inner workings of the technology.

Two site  ignored me once I signed up, oblivious to my  lack of engagement with their platforms. Most sent some sort of newsletter, although in one case it was more of a holiday missive; I am not sure I will hear from them until Christmas Carols start again.  Several send regular project listings, and a few, a very few, send targeted projects that might appear to be meant for me - might being the operative word.

The matching process  for the high-end talent platforms is not a passive one; it requires effort on the part of the worker to make it effective.  Since virtually every site draws at least in part from a Linked In Profile, the potential matches may result from your background as represented there.  As Chair of a humanitarian NGO, ReSurge International, I lead my LinkedIn profile with that role.  Most of the platforms don't do to well differentiating governance expertise and Board roles.  Consequently, I received a projects involving setting up clean water facilities in Uganda, which is not a skill set I can offer.  But now that the book is largely complete, I can turn a bit more energy to evaluating these platforms as a discriminating user. Perhaps I could start my own Yelp category...

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