Q&A SARAH KESSLER
GET A GIG
A journalist explores how the ‘gig economy’ is changing our culture and the
Today, 57 million Americans are freelancing, which is roughly one- third of the U.S. workforce. By 2027, a majority of people working in this country will be doing freelance work, according to the
definition of a job.
2017 Freelancing in America study. Many will make a living in the “gig
economy,” where people are hired by the project. Journalist Sarah
Kessler takes a closer look at some of the people behind the statistics
in her new book, Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work (St.
Martin’s Press, June 2018). Kessler, an editor at business news outlet
Quartz and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine, talks
about how the concept of work is changing.
How do you see the gig economy
impacting our culture?
Uber’s business model has created the
expectation that everything should
come to you cheaply and on demand.
For the frst time, people who are not
incredibly rich can have their every
need fulflled at the push of a button:
meals and groceries delivered, laundry done, etc.
Which workers will benefit—and
Your experience in the gig economy
will depend on what you do and how
well you can withstand income fuc-tuations. If you’re highly skilled, in a
niche, then it will be great for you. If
you don’t have in-demand abilities or
aren’t well-compensated, there’s a lot
of risk involved in not knowing what
you’re going to earn from week to
week. And if you’re being treated like
a full-time employee but aren’t, you’ll
never get the security of employment
or the benefts of true entrepreneurship. For some people, this way of
working is the best thing that’s ever
happened to them. For others, it destroys their security.
You highlight both outcomes in the
book. Who is thriving?
Curtis, a newly graduated program-
mer living in New York City, was
working full time for a company, but
it took him only about three hours a
day to fnish his work. He was bored
out of his mind and
wasting his time. He
quit to take on free-
When he started
that, he got to
choose the jobs he
wanted and made
$12,000 a month.
He had enough
money to buy
his own health
case he gets
hurt. If he
had to serve
jury duty, he
could still buy
There’s Gary in
rural Arkansas. He
was laid of from
a local dog food
plant and got a
job at a call center
where he was
paid by the hour
as an independent contractor. The
company didn’t have enough work for
him, and he didn’t know how many
hours he’d put in each week. During
his monthlong training, he wasn’t
paid at all and his bills piled up. Even-
tually he quit.
Are companies taking unfair
advantage of these workers?
There’s nothing wrong with hiring
freelancers when you need certain
skills for a short time and you pay
them fairly. HR professionals need
to be sensitive to that and to the risk
of misclassifying their independent
contractors as regular employees.
Is the gig economy the future of
It’s certainly the trend. Employees can cost up to 30 percent
more to hire than contractors.
What would make gig work
Today, when you
might be working
for 12 employers,
there’s no way you
can have a tradi-
rules also limit
We’ll need to
the laws to ft
Kathryn Tyler, a
in Wixom, Mich.