Belonging in the Gig Economy
Today we’ve got a guest post from Senser Gemma Milne as she reflects on the cyclical identity crisis often associated with being part of the gig economy. Gemma is a freelance tech and science writer, podcaster, speaker and consultant; is Co-Founder of Science: Disrupt; and is very insecure about her severe lack of job title.
I have a theory that freelancers in the gig economy have a cyclical identity crisis.
For me, my ‘cycle’ is roughly every 6 weeks. Week 1 and 2 consist of loving my freelance life, feeling glorious when I rock up to an ace coffee shop ready for my work day, revelling in my inability to explain what I do for a living to any new person I meet and being totally consumed by gratitude at getting to have a hobby as a job. Week 3 is about maintaining my arguably quite random suite of projects, juggling various commitments, going from one meeting to the next talking about polar-opposite topics, attempting a one-liner on what my job title is when asked by that conference I’m presenting at. By week 4, I’ll be struggling to keep up with everything whilst trying to maintain my social life, health, personal development and general sanity, and when asked how things are going, saying ‘freelancing is awesome, I’m so lucky’ whilst inside feeling like I’m only trying to convince myself. Week 5 means questioning which projects are even the right ones anyway, Googling everything from full time work to the costs of moving to Taiwan for 8 weeks, and moaning to my very patient boyfriend about how difficult it is to explain what I do for a living. And by 11am on the Wednesday of week 6, I’m most likely weeping over Microsoft Word, demanding answers to “WHO AM I AND WHAT IS MY PURPOSE IN LIFE?!”
Of course, I then tend to have some kind of motivating conversation with myself (“RIGHT Gemma, talk to me”), or am reminded somehow why I do in fact love this kind of work (“I can’t believe I can actually go to the gym at 11am, this is AWESOME!”), and I’m back on cloud nine, preaching the virtues of freelancing to any passing soul.
I’m exaggerating of course, I really do love working for myself, but at times, I can get pretty het up about not knowing where I fit / what my job is / who my ‘tribe’ are / WHO I AM *breathe*.
So I was pretty psyched to find a few articles this month which – honestly – have made a huge impact in reassuring me that I am in fact not lost or random or in denial or not good enough, but rather, feeling pretty much exactly the same as the rest of those independent portfolio gig economy freelance nomads (or whatever other #millennial term you’d like to use).
This HBR article was the first: “Our conclusion is that people in the gig economy must pursue a different kind of success—one that comes from finding a balance between predictability and possibility, between viability (the promise of continued work) and vitality (feeling present, authentic, and alive in one’s work). A big distinction between successful independents and the ones who aren’t or go back [to corporate jobs] is getting to that place of knowing what you’re meant to do.”
And then I came across this piece and was inspired to take a look at what work I actually did, which resulted in an *extremely* fun afternoon making pie charts on Excel (yes, I’m for real).
Essentially, I looked at what type of work I was doing every month since I started freelancing – green: consulting, blue: journalism/writing, red: copywriting, and orange: speaking – and I found that no month looks the same. No wonder I routinely have identity crises.
I kind of already knew this – which is why I struggle with calling myself a ‘writer’ – but I think what this exercise did was make me feel a sense of pride around the fact that I do many things. It may sound silly for those who don’t have a weird mish-mash of a career like I do, but this really made me feel like a part of something – I’m not the only one who does various different things, struggles to explain myself at dinner parties, isn’t satisfied with fitting into only one box, and routinely questions their choices.
I felt a sense of belonging, which at the end of the day, I guess is what we’re all looking for…
We’d love to know if this resonates with you? Get in touch or tweet us with your thoughts!
Follow Gemma on Twitter here and find out more about Science: Disrupt here. You can also subscribe to her regular Brain Reel newsletters here, it’s where we first saw her talk about the contents of this post so we’d highly recommend it.
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Also published on Medium.