It took a pandemic, but the side hustle finally got promoted…into the C-suite. Even before COVID, independent workers were a growing part of the U.S. labor force; by one pre-pandemic estimate, more than a third of workers were involved in the gig economy. In 2020, their wages and participation grew 33%. That’s partly because of the economic and emotional roller coaster of the past year and the need for quick decision-making, nonetheless. Or “once bitten, twice shy,” as Stephanie Nadi Olson characterizes it; Olson is founder and CEO of We Are Rosie, an on-demand talent company. “People had to lay off friends and were hesitant to build back up,” she says. “They became open to hybrid models and asked, ‘How do we rebuild in a de-risked way?’” Based in Atlanta, We Are Rosie is a freelance network of marketing talent that helps brands and agencies staff up. Partly in response to COVID, the company launched Rosie Recruits, which allows employers and employees to try each other out for six months. This shift in power dynamics is key to the rise of the independent worker. The pandemic ignited people to prioritize values and purpose in their place of employment. Economic uncertainty forces employers to do more with less. And the Black Lives Matter movement prompted scrutiny and introspection, from startups to corporate America, on issues of pay equity, representation, and diversity across all rungs of a company. (Workers of color have long made up a higher portion of the gig economy, a vast category that includes delivery drivers and chief marketing officers.) A recent hiring survey found 92% of respondents thinking it’s a good time to look into gig work. More than half said they would like a long-term contract with flexible hours. Even as Americans begin to tiptoe back to in-person work, this desire for flexibility remains. Three predictions drove Michael Saloio to launch Huddle, which dubs itself the home for highly skilled independent workers.
- The future of work is remote.
- The future of company leadership is fractional.
- Workers want ownership in what they are creating.