What do you do?
It’s a common question when you’re meeting new people and it’s one I’ve never mastered answering. Here’s how the conversation usually goes.
What do you do?
I’m a writer
Oh, that’s cool. Are you published? Have I read anything of yours?
[Pregnant pause while I try to compose the correct response.] Yes, I am published. Yes, you may have read my work. But, deep down, I know the person I’m talking to wonders if they can find my name on the spine of the latest thriller. That’s not the kind of writer I am.
What do you do?
I write for corporations and executives … or I’m in PR and marketing …
… Crickets … and, inevitably, the person I’m talking to starts looking around for someone else to talk to, preferable someone with a cooler job.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I have a very cool job. I learn new things every day, and I love helping people find their voice, tell their stories and create content that helps them advance their business goals.
I don’t need credit for the work I do. I don’t need my name on a byline … been there, done that.
I’m happy to work behind the scenes and remain a ghost. I’m ecstatic when my client tells me someone close to them loved their posts and didn’t realize it wasn’t written by them.
Growth of the Gig Economy
There’s been a lot of focus lately on the growing “gig” economy and how it’s changing the workplace. Gallup reported late last year that 36% of Americans participate in the “gig” economy.
Gallup defines these “alternative work arrangements” as “non-traditional, independent, short-term working relationships”. Anyone who’s not a traditional “employee” is lumped into this category.
Let me be blunt: I hate the term Gig.
In my opinion, piling “non traditional workers” together in the same bucket and slapping a snappy label on it is doing us a major disservice.
What’s a Gig, Anyway?
A gig is defined by Collins Dictionary as a job, esp. a single booking for a musician, comedian, etc., to perform at a concert or club.
Well, I can’t play an instrument. My singing voice would leave me a pauper, and while I do have some “single bookings”, my business has been built on long-term relationships lasting years and even decades.
I have often described myself as a freelancer (or a ghost writer) but I’m also an employee of my own company, ACME Group Consulting. My work schedule is, well, erratic. I might be insanely busy one minute and looking for a new reno project to fill my time the next. (Anyone who knows me knows I like to keep busy.)
Am I part of the gig economy? Technically, yes, but the term gig has always bothered me. It implies a part-time occupation that someone takes on while they’re waiting to “make it big”.
I don’t see my career that way. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing, how I want to do it, and I’ve been successful.
And, while I’m being honest about my views on the current vernacular, I equally dislike the term “side hustle”. Do you really want the person you’re working for to feel like you’re hustling or conning them? I know I don’t.
Let’s Cut the Cute Labels
As a writer, I love a good turn of phrase or a catchy title. What I don’t like is terminology that demeans what I do, and that’s what I think the idea of a “gig” economy is doing. I am a serious professional, with skills that are in demand, and I’m proud that I’ve been able to do what I love, on my own terms, for more than 15 years.
This is not a gig. It’s a career. It’s a profession and not some a temp assignment until I can get a “real job” or land my dream job – I’ve already got a dream job.