You might have heard the phrase “gig economy” get thrown around in recent times — but what exactly is it?

Even though there isn’t a fixed definition, the gig economy can be briefly summarized as  “an economy in which temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace, and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.”

Even if you aren’t directly familiar with the term, you might have come across the gig economy in other ways — think freelancers, independent contractors, or that one friend of yours who is traveling the world and sustaining themselves by juggling various odd jobs.

Based on the idea of temporary jobs, as opposed to long-term positions, the gig economy has gained much traction over the years. In fact more than one in ten employees have already joined it, according to a new survey by ReportLinker. Think about it: would you prefer working at your own time, from a location of your choice, or working for a corporation from a tiny office cubicle? Not surprisingly, most people find the first option more appealing.

There’s no denying that the gig economy has heavily influenced the way traditional workplaces function. For one, due to the growing number of people appreciating the idea of “gigs”, traditional businesses seem to be losing consumers to these efficient and relatively cheaper service providers. Take Airbnb or Uber (well-known models within the gig economy) for example. Airbnb is a success story that completely defies traditional notions of the workplace.

Even individuals can learn valuable lessons from Airbnb’s business model, and incorporate the values of personalized service and intimate focus into their own freelancing models to be more successful.

Furthermore, businesses that distance themselves from technology such as the internet tend to be left behind by the benefits of the gig economy. Experts at Rutgers University advise businesses to accept and embrace the trend and its benefits, as the freelance market is predicted to rise to 40 million workers by 2019.

For these and other reasons, an increasing number of businesses have started to adapt their business models to better suit the needs of employees, allowing for remote working, flex time and more — reminiscent of the gig economy, but still centrally controlled. In fact, allowing for flexibility was named one of the top three workplace trends in 2016.

But is the gig economy for everyone? More often than not, freelancers themselves are their own worst enemy. When working independently, it’s easy to forget to take breaks, work irregular hours, and leave tasks until the last minute.

Freelancers are often guilty of saying yes to every gig that comes their way, resulting in an overwhelming amount of work that doesn’t get completed efficiently and thoroughly. It’s important for freelancers to make sure they are not susceptible to these issues,  so that they can maintain a relatively stable inflow of gigs (and, therefore, income). Freelancing comes with its own share of problems, such as overscheduling, not getting bills out on time, and filing freelancer taxes.

Some critics believe that only people with certain types of personalities are poised to succeed within this sort of working environment. In an article on Forbes, Mark Murphy claims that the three traits that are integral to success within the gig economy are enjoying risk and adventure over security, being goal driven and outcome-oriented, and being motivated by achievement — rather than power or affiliation. It’s important to know oneself well enough and think about whether you would succeed as a freelancer before quitting your day job to take up various gigs.

While some people are forced into the gig economy due to loss of job or unfortunate circumstances, a large number of people choose to freelance out of their own volition.

A study by Freelancers Union and Upwork found that 60 percent of freelancers said they started freelancing by choice. And half of all freelancers say they wouldn’t stop freelancing for any amount of money. So if you think you might be cut out for it, consider taking a chance with the new and uniquely growing gig economy — you might be pleased with what you find!

Contributor’s Bio: Akshata Mehta

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