Late Career Agility: The Gig Economy

Twice a year, I offer programs to older adults who want to maintain some type of connection to the workforce after retiring from a full-time job. That might include part-time, seasonal or self-employment. Over the past few years, there’s been a focus on the “gig economy.” I can provide insight, advice and experience from a different point of view.

 

Actually, the concept of “gigging” is old news. It’s another term for self employment. In my mid twenties I was a single mom and I wanted to work from home as much as possible. Necessity and opportunity led me to the idea of self-employment as a “special project” organizer and event manager. My first gig was coordinating a corporate fund raising campaign for Big Brothers of Metropolitan Toronto. For many decades, I secured 6 month or 12 month “gigs” planning, organizing and implementing marketing, promotional and fund-raising events along with multi-media campaigns including print, tv and radio. It was a good way to secure a  full-time position if your creativity, skills and productivity were recognized.  After some time, I got involved with community research and development work. My longest contract was 2 years but I had the flexibility to work remotely and manage my own time. In the Older Workers of London (OWL) Job Clubs, I provide information about creating or securing these kinds of opportunities.

 

I became so familiar with the benefits of self employment, I no longer fit into the traditional workforce and it can be a lonely road if you don’t have a strong support network. I’m proud of my extensive portfolio of projects from Toronto to Ottawa, Barcelona and London. I’ve had some great successes and I’m looking forward to more meaningful projects. Most of the time, I can manage 2 or 3 projects concurrently..

 

To me, semi-retirement,  would be working 2 or 3 days per week. I can’t imagine not working because I love my work. I’m not required to be onsite, so I can still work from my home office  I declare my income as self-employed earnings.

 

When corporations or non-profit organizations want or need my services, I often help secure government funding, community partnerships and sponsorships. When needed, I can structure projects to include a revenue generator to pay all expenses including my fees.

 

To survive and thrive through many years of gigging, I’ve had to become an expert at networking, deal-making, proposal writing and time management. It’s important to maintain boundaries. I’ve always tried to stay away from organizational politics. 30% of my time is spent networking, planning and preparing for the following year. An ample amount of my personal and financial resources is spent on feeding the sales pipeline for the future and that’s the best use of my time. This is good and bad. I’m not perceived to be loyal or attached to any one organization. That can cause some problems. However,  I am attached and committed to the larger community. That’s really important. I’m able to see a bigger picture and I get to work on higher level projects..

 

I’m always thinking of needs and trends in many different sectors so I can serve as a vanguard. I learn a lot very quickly and I’m very adaptable. That’s good. During any given week I can travel from my home town to a rural village, to a big city for work. That’s good if you, like me, enjoy variety and shape shifting.  I don’t have the guaranteed income and benefits enjoyed by full time employees. That can be problematic during the down times. However, it is a viable option if you can live simply, take risks and operate without supervision and daily routine.

 

I’ll be offering more workshops for late-career work transitions in the Fall 2018.

 

Kathy Smith

London Ontario

getkathysmith@gmail.com

 

 

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