How to win in the gig economy
March 10, 2020
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This post is sponsored by Michigan Ross Online MBA program.

Highly skilled knowledge workers -- consultants, scientists, business professionals and creatives – make up one of the fast-growing sectors of the gig economy. These entrepreneurs are building their own businesses on their own terms.

Sue Ashford, a professor of business at Michigan Ross, has studied successful independent professionals and has concluded that, with much freedom but no safety net, those who thrive have developed five habits that keep them in the game:

  1. Pursue a purpose. Having a purpose -- the "why" underlying the work -- that aligns with your values and interests keeps you focused, maintains your commitment to the work and provides motivation to continue. It also informs how you work and who you work with.
  1. Find a dedicated place. Be deliberate about where you work, choosing places that keep you inspired, focused and efficient: an office, a closet, a spare room, a co-working space. When you leave a dedicated workplace you are more likely to leave the work behind, too.
  2. Develop a routine. Routines may sound boring, but experts say that they're a crucial habit of high performers. "One writer we interviewed said simply, 'routines are the wardens of accomplishment,'" Ashford says. Routines keep you accountable, and so you get work done, make progress and keep moving. They're also comforting.
  3. Connect with people. More than professional networking, this means structuring your workday to bring you into meaningful contact with others that is both reassuring and challenging. "A connection to other people can help you to cope with the loneliness, and to both focus and aim high in the work you are doing. Other people reassure us and challenge us – and both are good in this kind of work,” Ashford says.
  4. Invest in yourself. Learning is crucial for staying on top in the competitive gig economy. Flexible learning options like seminars, conferences, and even pursuing an online MBA can yield solid returns. “When you work independently, you need to perform all functions of the business -- you also handle the billing, the marketing, the copying and so forth,” Ashford says. “With a business degree, you are much more able to set up systems that enable these things to be handled efficiently leaving you more able to focus on doing the thing that inspired you to work in this manner to begin with.”

“There are many barriers to success in the gig economy and a lot of them are outside the control of any one individual,” Ashford notes. Thus, capitalizing on the opportunities you can control, like the five habits above, empower you to build a sustainable solo business or grow it into a larger gig-centered enterprise.

Learn more about how the Michigan Ross Online MBA can help you win in the gig economy.

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