Tag Archives: freelance

It’s the economy … but perhaps not as you know it

‘Gig Economy’ and ‘Sharing Economy’ are two catchphrases that have recently been in the press a lot – the first because of negative connotations and the later for more positive reasons.

Neither are new concepts, but they are increasingly being felt as forces of change. There’s a third popular term, the ‘Collaborative Economy’ which sits at the intersect.

And then you have the ‘Traditional’ setup of fixed, 9-5 employment.

Confusing right? Yes. Especially when there is change afoot. This post will hopefully shed some light on these.

The most memorable outrage against the market changing I’ve come across was at a panel discussion in 2009 at London’s Frontline Club: A set of professional photographers practically mauled the BBC’s editor of user-generated content for threatening their profession: accepting photos for news stories from the public – taken by amateurs on non-pro cameras.
Then, from the edge of the packed room, a seated lady of some considerable age and experience weighed in – bringing about complete silence: she shared her story of how she started out as a writer, reminding the assembled group that fance tools don’t equate to talent, professionalism and craftsmanship. Anybody can after all pick up a pen and start writing… It is not the typewriter that makes the professional (or indeed the camera).

A much longer term shift well beyond the semantics has been underway for quite some time – what is happening is it is hitting the mainstream.  And it has implications for how communication professionals operate – and advance. In this week’s Venn we’ll look at the intersect – and I’ll be keen to hear your experiences of how you have adapted, as well as any implications you feel it has for associations such as ours.

The latter is highly topical this week as the IABC Executive Committee and our senior staff convene in San Francisco for a summit set to focus and prioritise the work underway as part of the #IABC1417 strategy.

The Gig Economy explained

Strategic advice on communications has been around as long as Aristotle but the way it is secured has changed over the years. Think of ten communicators in your network five years ago vs. now and I expect you’ll find that quite a few have increasingly been working ‘gigs’ at least part of the time rather than in ‘traditional’ full time employment.

An informal poll of my own network also shows that those who remain in ‘traditional’ employment increasingly supplement their project teams with ad-hoc assistance, either drawn from their own network, or through intermediaries such as VMA, Harkness Kennett and equivalents. You could call it small-scale outsourcing.

Some also turn to platforms such as guru.com (around since ’01), elance or Upwork – and you may even have visited the Crews Control exhibitor stand at World Conference – they act as an intermediary between corporates and video teams having facilitated an impressive 84,000+ shoots!

The advantage for professionals operating in this space is potentially more freedom, self-determination – and ideally higher pay. The drawback is that each needs entrepreneurial skills, in addition to their communications expertise.

The Sharing Economy in context

Where the gig economy is about short-term transactions, usually with a financial element to them, the sharing economy is a much broader concept.

What really sets it apart is the ethos.

Whilst your Airbnb booking might not be that cheap, you do expect a less commercial experience than you might in a hotel. In other words, whilst the gig economy is at least old as the Guilds that used to govern the medieval professions, the sharing economy is as old as hitching a ride and on that note, I’ve got a Field Notes companion piece to this one based on my insight from a week working my way from Frankfurt to Florence, via Prague and Vienna – where I’ll talk more about insights from what you might call the bleeding edge of all three economies. The intersect known as the collaborative economy.

The collaborative intersect – from a global profession point of view

Associations sit naturally in the intersect between the ‘gig’, ‘sharing’ and the more ‘traditional’ economy.

Through providing professional standards, a code of ethics – and a career roadmap – IABC caters for all of them.

Let’s dive into each in a bit more detail:

Traditional

This is the place where standards, the career roadmap, certification etc. (as set out above) at first feel the most familiar – but they have an important role to play in the…

Sharing economy

Through our ethos of collaboration and freely sharing experience and advice, our members advance their careers.

This happens through hundreds of local events; our big conferences (London, San Francisco, Johannesburg, Baltimore, Denver, Calgary etc. this year alone); mentoring programmes – and of course our 42,000 strong LinkedIn group.

What ties it all together and makes it work is that shared objective set of frameworks: the Global Standard, the Career Roadmap etc. and of course for our leaders, the IABC Leadership Competency Framework (you’ll quickly come across the latter if you apply for one of the current opportunities to step up and lead).

Gig economy

It looks like it is here to stay, and railing against it like the photographers in the story from ’09 might consign us to the fate of Kodak (who incidentally is in the news again for suppressing an invention in 1975 which could have put them in pole position for the future).

In fact, I would argue that through the diverse community that is our membership, professionals have been finding and exchanging opportunities for as long as we have been around (45 years and counting!).

We’ve been looking more at how we might best step our support here – and see the P.S. below for one thing on that front you can do right now. Meanwhile…

In conclusion – I’m keen to hear your experiences of:
  • how you have adapted to this changing environment?
  • if it changed your working relationships?
  • what implications do you think it has for associations such as ours?

Please help #createconnection – share your story.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the market on your onw, here’s a worthwhile workshop by one of IABC’s most highly decorated communicators – who has comprehensive across all three economies.

…and as usual, here’s a ready-made tweet for you: