Thriving in the Gig Economy: One Couple’s Real Life Story
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
In that single statement, Mr. Branson lays out the business plan my husband and I have used to make a living in the gig economy for the past 20 years – look for a need in the market and learn how to fulfill that need.
My husband, Big E, and I own a computer repair operation in a small, agricultural community where the people – and their computers – are far and few between. When we opened a brick-and-mortar store, we knew that we would have to do much more than simply fix computers to survive. We learned how to operate in the gig economy, long before they called it a gig economy.
Big E and Little Lynn Join the Gig Economy
There are about 57.3 million people doing freelance jobs in the United States, according to Statistica. Like many of these freelancers, we turned skills we learned at a conventional job into moneymaking gig work.
We acquired a large portion of our skill set over our earlier careers, and in urban areas with plenty of opportunity for professional growth. Prior to becoming computer repair tycoon, Big E managed the computer labs for a school district. Before becoming a wordsmith, I worked in medicine just as the healthcare industry started using computers to manage data and to create pamphlets, basic websites and other types of content.
Then we found ourselves in the middle of a cornfield, too far to commute to our regular jobs. Unable to pay the mortgage with good looks alone, my husband and I had to find other means of gainful employment in a rural town of 900 people, 15 miles from the nearest stoplight. Nearly everyone in the agriculture-based community was either a farmer or a line worker at the mix-and-pack plant in town. Big E and I were neither.
Many of the gigs we perform grew from our experience with computers, of course. In addition to repairing computers, we also offer tutoring, websites, and more. I secure most of my gigs on the internet, where I create content for doctors, hospitals, universities, labs, pharmaceutical companies and more.
Other gigs have nothing to do with computers. Realtors and homeowners often hire us to find lot pins with our metal detectors, for example, and individuals call on us to find lost rings or other metal valuables. Big E is also a licensed drone pilot who is in high demand for shooting footage for various businesses, music venues, farmers, organizations, and events.
My husband creates stained glass pieces for retail purposes, but Big E also picks up stained glass gigs. He provides professional instruction in making stained glass pieces, and he repairs stained glass.
We sometimes do gigs to market our other gigs. Our computer repair location became a utility payment center where people could pay their light, gas and telephone bills. Bringing people into the store gave us an opportunity to introduce them to our other services. It was also an excellent chance to find out what gigs people would be willing to pay to have performed.
One year, for example, a customer said she wanted to print a calendar with her family’s birthdays and anniversaries to give as Christmas gifts. We recognized that inexpensive, very limited on-demand printing could be a good gig, so we purchased basic spiral binding machine and a duplex printer capable of printing on both sides of the page. While we will never replace Amazon, we still bind books for customers’ business presentations, recipe collections, picture albums, and more.
We developed several gigs out of necessity when opening our store. We realized nobody in town could put the name of our business on the window, we taught ourselves how to do vinyl lettering. We now do lettering for windows, large signs, vehicles and more. The same can be said for business cards and pamphlets – we purchased the printing equipment and taught ourselves how to create our own marketing materials because there was nobody else doing it in the cornfields where we live.
My handsome husband and I also run a number of municipal websites for nearby villages, fire departments, libraries and organizations, along with several business websites. Nobody built websites where we live, so we taught ourselves how to create, host and manage our own website and the websites of others. We also do content curation, content development and social media marketing for many of our municipal sites, primarily as the result of having to do it for ourselves.
While we may never be billionaires, we have learned how to stack and schedule gigs, budget for payments that come in small increments rather than as hefty regular paychecks, and predict which gigs are hot and the ones that are not.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that every time someone offers my husband or me an amazing opportunity, we always say yes first and learn how to do it later.
For more information on finding freelancers that can do a variety of jobs, from creating great content to developing a content marketing strategy, contact WriterAccess.
Lynn H. has been a professional writer, providing exceptional content online and offline, for 20 years. In that time, she has penned thousands of articles for doctors, universities, researchers, small businesses, nursing organizations, sole proprietors and more. Lynn serves as webmaster, content curator, and editorial consultant to three cities in Illinois, a municipal library, police and fire departments, a local Habitat for Humanity, several historical societies and community groups. You can always count on Lynn to deliver professional, polished content that is relative to your industry.