Gig economy: Just the ticket for transitioning boomers?

This article by Mary McIninch was originally published by The Globe and Mail

Everyone talks about how the sharing or gig economy is a perfect fit for millennials, but what about transitioning baby boomers? It’s a fascinating time when boomers can continue to work if they want, on their own terms. They can plug in their device at any time of day and connect with others anywhere in the world.

In its recent report called Human Age 2.0 Future Forces at Work, ManpowerGroup calls this new trend, ‘on-demand talent now.’ The report outlines how technological disruption is driving intriguing changes and creating innovative ways of working. This reality presents opportunities for people to enhance their income in real-time, monetizing their time and skills online via sharing platforms. According to a 2015 PwC report, sharing could contribute $335 billion to the global economy by 2025, and those currently participating in sharing in the U.S. come from all age groups and income levels.

Kevin Dee, former CEO of Eagle Professional Resources, is a boomer in the midst of transition. In his new role as chairman and founder, he steps away from the day-to-day operations of a busy staffing company and is looking at the gig economy as just one potential area for expansion.

Mr. Dee has had a front-row seat to massive technological change in the employment industry. It’s shown him that business change is accelerating rapidly and the disruptive innovation created by the sharing platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer.com and others are here to stay.

“It’s important to resist falling back on the traditional models because they’re familiar,” says Mr. Dee. “Boomers are known for their workaholic tendencies and commitment to getting the job done. Gigging or temporary work is an option that you can tailor to meet your specific needs of work life balance. It also enables you to contribute the way you want and fund your lifestyle.”

You can earn income from many sources rather than just working for one employer. You can also have this flexible lifestyle where you earn money by sharing property that you don’t use or by freelancing to tap your experience, but working when you want and on projects you choose.

Many boomers find it an intriguing, but different, way of working. It requires a keen eye on protecting your interests. Here are some tips to consider for maximizing your benefits, while overseeing your interests:

Understand your motivation

“Don’t jump at the first opportunity and don’t dismiss any opportunity immediately,” says Ted Maksimowski, owner and franchise developer, Express Employment Professionals. “Most boomers we work with don’t appreciate and take into account how decompressing their work life will impact them and their immediate family psychologically and emotionally – both positively and negatively. Take the time to determine what level of re-engagement is right for you. The skills, work ethic, and experience of boomers is in demand. You are often in the driver’s seat. This is payback time. In many cases, you can get what you want and need in terms of pay and flexibility.”

Think like a business, not an employee

“Take ownership of the new situation, understand the risks and prepare like an entrepreneur,’’ says Mr. Dee. “It’s critical to establish a team of good advisors, including an accountant, lawyer and insurance expert, who have experience working with the self-employed. You will be reading a lot of fine print and you want to make sure your experts truly understand this world. It is critical to be fully aware of how the work arrangement you choose is viewed by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). You want to ensure you are benefitting from tax deductions and paying the proper tax.”

Develop a partnership with employment agencies and/or gigging companies

“Do a comprehensive search of sharing economy companies. Conduct a search of the Association of Canadian Search Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS) member directory to see which members hire self-employed workers and form a relationship with a few agencies. That will give you a wide breadth of coverage,” says Mr. Dee. “Understand their terms and conditions, the obligations on their contract, and their payment arrangements. Are they involved in the industry and do they belong to industry associations and adhere to a code of ethics?”

Selling You

“A marketing plan is a must,” says Bruce McAlpine, president, Fulcrum Search Science. “It doesn’t have to be a complex document but you need to develop your ‘personal brand,’ ideally becoming recognized to your target audience as a SME (Subject Matter Expert). You want to be attractive to credible companies to build out your potential client contacts. What skills will they be looking for? How will you differentiate? Work with the agencies/gigging companies to ensure you are hitting the right messages. Since this work is so specialized you may want to turn to ACSESS and then seek out like-minded groups via online social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook for support.”

If you’re a flexible boomer and open to change, there may be a realm of opportunities for you.

Mary McIninch, B.A., LL.B., is the executive director of the Association of Canadian Search Employment and Staffing Services.