Patrick Willems does a great reflection on Kiki’s Delivery Service and how it speaks to many of the issues that small, independent content creators and gig workers encounter.
I remember in the late 2000’s hearing tons of young people never wanting to work at some ‘stodgy’ old company that made you work 9-5, come into actual offices, etc. The gig economy is where it’s at! Work whenever and wherever you want!
Fast forward a bit, and we’re seeing these jobs are increasingly a race to the bottom. A gig worker can often be replaced by countless others doing the same task easily and efficiently. Anything you can do, there’s almost certainly someone out there that can do it cheaper or faster. The exception here is creative work – like streamers do.
Still, these jobs often lack basic benefits like medical, 401k, retirement contributions, stock plans, etc. Some argue that this could be mitigated with universal basic income, national health care, etc. But there is more to gig work than just the financials. Like Patrick Willems, we’re increasingly seeing streaming stars burning out, suffering mental health issues, taking breaks and even calling it quits.
There is a serious problem being that you ARE the brand. You are now living the brand – and there is no separation. This can become a serious identity crisis if the brand needs to change in a way you might personally not want to go or vice versa. As Patrick points out, he wasn’t just visiting family, he was already thinking of how he can make a narrative out of his visit for his next video.
The promise of working whenever and wherever you want also usually means you work ALL the time. You are constantly connected online because your entire brand is up to you. You need to be doing your job work, along with the additional job of selling and branding yourself. You’re doing 2 jobs at the same time. My gig friends were always on their phones and laptops, even when out supposedly having a good time.
In the end, all those friends of mine that did gig economy jobs have quit and joined established companies. It turns out, ONLY working 9-5, M-F means you have time for family and weekend fun. It means you can have kids. It means you know the mortgage will get paid each month. It means retirement, benefits, and exposure to professional interactions, equipment, and advancements you can’t have as a small independent.
As Kiki’s delivery service shows us, gig work is awesome when trying to start your brand – but at some point – your brand needs to support you and the way you want to live. I think this might be the lesson for many people. At some point, you need to realistically evaluate if the work you’re doing transitions into working for you.
Not all great ideas are going to work out or be sustainable. Knowing when to move on from an endeavor that’s run its course or requires too much to be successful is a skill in itself.