Our generation of parents was different, our grandparents’ generation was even more so. For many (even most) in the 19th century, career peaks meant a lifetime career working for the same company. After exactly the right period of decades of retirement will come, and along with it can be a welcome wristwatch. The economy of the 21st century, the “performing economy“, if you will, creates a much different career trajectory – and this period structure also requires re-adjusting how it works.
In essence, the performing economy is an idea that people can and will make money through short-term projects and shift work. Instead of the relationship between the employee and the employer, the direct relationship between the contractor and the contract recipient. The vast majority of these performance contract economic opportunities come through apps designed to make consumer life easier; Uber, TaskRabbit, Handy, Postmate, and a few names. While there are certain advantages to participating in the performing economy as a worker – especially as an older worker or student – there are also pronounced drawbacks. As New York Magazine put it: “The contracting economy represents the mass application of labor exploitation methods that deny compensation, benefits, stability or the ability to plan for a worker’s future. funding.”
In the performance contract economy, sick days are nonexistent, as are paid leave and leave days. For host companies, they are especially difficult to adjust and the regulations when put in place are difficult to enforce. Most Uber drivers are contract workers – not calling them employees (or treating them like employees) creates labor law loopholes. Workers’ lawsuits against companies like Uber and Handy are numerous.
When viewed through the lens of the most cynical, the performance contract economy helps companies and investors rather than helping each employee. With this in mind, if you want to get involved in the performance contract economy, you need to learn to protect yourself and how to make it work for you.
So exactly how do you do it? According to Jocelyn Mangan, director of product and marketing at Snagajob, an hourly market with 70 million registered hourly workers, “It’s all about finding ways to break away from old ways of doing business and learning the networks that support and drive this new dynamic segment of the workforce.”
Basically, get rid of the old system of thought and integrate with the new. The first way to do that is to treat you as your own business and do what needs to be done to keep it running as smoothly as possible.
Get a really good accounting program (like QuickBooks) and do all those unpleasant little financial things – pay quarterly taxes, track every cost, and track your earnings. A website, like Uber can tell you that you can earn a certain amount of money, but keep in mind that that money is at the highest level of the scale. Don’t worry about earning that much right away, or maybe even never.
Buy yourself the best insurance you can afford. Remember that the parent company will not worry about you so you have to take care of yourself. Car insurance, health insurance, make sure to get what you need.
Nurture all your professional relationships. Be the best of whatever you choose to do. In the performance contract economy, things like oral and ratings are the most important thing. Work hard to be the best you can be.
If the headlines are correct, the performing contract economy could one day follow the path of uns paying trainees. As a Fast Company headline put it, “Gig economy won’t exist because it’s been forced to die.” New companies such as Parcel, Managed by Q, and FlyCleaners are taking the bones of start-up tech companies and changing models to hire employees instead of contractors. Skeptics might say that this is only to avoid litigation, but then there is one more positive thing: that this more worker-friendly future will be the 2.0 performance economy. We just need to protect ourselves and our finance in the meantime.