The gig economy

More workers are choosing an array of smaller jobs instead of a main one


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Recently on Twitter, the hashtag #firstsevenjobs trended across North America, with everyone and their mom weighing in with career trajectories.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/09/2016 (2206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Recently on Twitter, the hashtag #firstsevenjobs trended across North America, with everyone and their mom weighing in with career trajectories.

For an increasing number of freelancers and entrepreneurs, the hashtag #currentsevenjobs might be more appropriate.

The gig economy involves a growing group of workers who choose an array of side gigs, rather than a single main job. Some will start with a side gig while working full time: be it a classic such as waiting tables or bartending; or newer incarnations such as driving part time for a food-delivery service.

JESSICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS In the North End, Chloe Chafe, 24, and Andrew Eastman, 29, are proof side gigs can rise sky high.

With any luck, the side gig — or side hustle as some call it — can blossom into something financially stable.

Another pro? You can hustle as much or as little as you want.

Alyson Shane changed gears more than two years ago, abandoning accounting in favour of freelance content marketing, writing and social-media management.

She said she enjoys multitasking and making her own hours. She joked about avoiding freelancing pitfalls: staying in pyjamas all day or working in bed.

“I didn’t get dressed to come see you. This is what I look like every day when I sit down at my desk with my cats,” she said from inside Thom Bargen, a café and freelancer’s oasis on Sherbrook Street.

Four single people sit nearby, working diligently on their laptops, and a couple beside her discusses the pros and cons of freelance photography.

Shane said she will often work with at least seven clients at a time and is looking to hire an employee to help with her workload.

“In terms of job security, I find running my own business more secure because I’m diversifying my income,” the 28-year-old said.

“When you get fired from a job, your whole job is gone, and you better find another one right away. If I lose a client, I can just hustle a little bit more and make up that extra income.”

The only drawback, she said, is not having health benefits (which she didn’t have at past jobs either).

Local career experts praised having a smorgasbord of side gigs and pointed out ways to gain benefits. Barbara Bowes, president of Legacy Bowes Group, encouraged those going into freelance to incorporate themselves as small businesses.

“In making a part-time series of jobs into your full-time business, then you can get the deductions from being a small business,” said the veteran businesswoman who has a plethora of titles, including human resources consultant and Free Press columnist.

“Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you can join the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and you can get benefits from the chamber.”

Kevin Gill, owner of Staffmax Staffing & Recruiting, said his company offers benefit packages to temporary recruits.

He said he’s seen more people approach him looking for part-time gigs lately, whether it be moms wanting to work around their children’s school hours or seniors wanting some work after retirement.

About 90 per cent of those who approach Staffmax want full-time jobs, and the remaining 10 per cent crave short-term contracts, he said.

“We have some people — who I’m envious of — they just want to work for two months and then they want to take a month off and not work,” Gill said. “With the advent of the Internet now, it’s so easy to get side projects that you can do online for someone in a different location.”

Steve Onotera, 28, is marketing his music chops full time through a series of side gigs spawned on the Internet.

Onotera goes by the online alias Samurai Guitarist.

After starting his YouTube channel two years ago, he’s earned more than 3.2 million views on the nearly 70 videos he’s posted.

His clips range from guitar tutorials to video blogs and — what he’s best known for — quirky cover songs. His bluesy version of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song attracted more than 500,000 clicks. (

Though YouTube’s algorithm changes often, Onotera estimated a video poster can get about $100 when they hit 100,000 views. So while YouTube doesn’t pay his bills, it’s helped him build his personal brand and an online resumé, that way he can get paid elsewhere.

“Being a musician is about being able to do a lot of things under the umbrella now. You can’t just be a songwriter anymore. You can’t just be a guitar player,” he said.

Onotera has translated his YouTube popularity to Fiverr, an online domain where sellers can market their skills for the base rate of $5.

He provides session music tracks and guitar lessons for a minimum rate of US$30 to clients around the world.

“I think there’s a lot of people in this generation who just want to do something fun, creative and exciting and (who) didn’t want to live the lives that their parents lived… that was very true for me,” he said.

Though his parents get a kick out of his classic rock covers, Onotera said he has to explain to older generations how he’s making music work.

“The biggest question is, ‘So do you actually make money doing that?’” he said.

“There are all these different avenues that kind of add up, all these little streams that flow into a bigger stream.

“You consistently live in this little grey area where you’re always at work, but never at work. And if you love what you do and truly have a passion for it, then that’s OK.”

Ask around from St. Norbert to the North End, and you’re likely to find people with creative side gigs.

At the popular farmers market in St. Norbert, Ray Giguere sports a yellow T-shirt with the slogan “Worker Bee.”

The 54-year-old is selling Giguere Honey Farms products. He also runs Argy’s Collectibles, an emporium of vinyl records, trading cards and cultural memorabilia on St. Mary’s Road.

Giguere estimated working about 70 hours per week between both gigs.

“It is kind of fun working two jobs: one to pay the bills and one to pay the divorce lawyer,” he said sarcastically.

In the North End, Chloe Chafe, 24, and Andrew Eastman, 29, are proof side gigs can rise sky high. They’re standing in front of one of five mural sites they established for the third instalment of Wall to Wall, a festival they created that draws hundreds to check out fresh art around the city every September.

They met as servers and still moonlight waiting tables — Chafe at The Tallest Poppy and Eastman at Segovia Tapas Bar. But their side gig, Synonym Art Consultation, has taken off and now become their main hobby.

In September, Chafe estimated they’re putting in 16-hour days (and taking leaves from serving).

Three and a half years ago, they set out under the Synonym banner to help artists publicize their work and, most importantly, get paid. Still, they’re working to get enough grant money in years to come to be able to pay themselves.

“Our bank accounts are pretty much at zero,” Eastman said. “That’s why we have these side gigs that are flexible, like service industry jobs, because you’re able to book off big chunks of time when you need to… and make some money when you need.”

“You kind of pour every ounce of yourself into it and if it doesn’t work, then we’re going to seriously have to figure something out,” Chafe said of Synonym, which has been earning national attention lately for its innovativeness.

“We won’t be running by the seat of our pants forever.”


Updated on Saturday, September 10, 2016 8:41 AM CDT: Photo added.

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