Alternative Work and Career Arrangements Trends – the Gig Economy, Side Hustles and 5 Tips for You



In this blog, we start exploring the trends related to alternative work and career arrangements. These include the shift from traditional work to the gig economy in developed economies, informality and self-employment or freelance work in developing economies and we define the difference with side hustles. Career Tips are also shared to help you take practical action related to these trends.

From Traditional Work to Embracing Alternative Work Arrangements

Depending on where you grew up and where you are now, when you hear the statement “going to work” it conjures an image of either your mother or father going somewhere, to do something from 8am to 5pm, or for shift workers, 6pm to 6am. This varies slightly between the urban and rural areas, as well as the formal and informal sector. What was/is consistent though when we think about work, employment or career, is that it has a set format, its long-term, stable, growth or progression is linear, guaranteed and it is usually for life with on average 2-5 transitions of employers or roles. For most of you, it probably is a nostalgic bygone era and for others a fantasy you never got to witness and experience, depending on geographic location and context of course.

These traditional work arrangements are what was and still is defined as valued work, employment or a career by most people, at the exclusion of anything else. While “traditional” work arrangements that I describe above still exist to a great extent in some contexts, the spotlight over the years and currently is on trends related to alternative work arrangements becoming part of the mainstream.



Clarifying terms – what do these alternative work arrangements mean?

Here are define side hustles, share links for further reading and we define the gig economy, focusing on the difference between the two.

Side hustle – definition and some resources

The main difference with the gig economy or freelance/self-employment work is that a side hustle is gig work that someone does on the side, in addition to full-time employment. This is done usually as part of following a passion, looking for supplementary income and for some people, it is a strategy to develop a full-time freelance business to transition to. For some people, they have side hustles to develop skills as part of career progression strategy. Side hustles are not part-time work. Side hustles can be paid or unpaid. Also look into the following resources:

Gig Economy – defining the term and examples

The terms emerges in the early 21st century and is a labour market where there are more short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the gig economy as “a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer”.

Examples of the gig economy vary from context to context. Globally, taxi drivers and courier services are an example of gig workers, freelance consultants, gardeners and house helpers who are not employed by one employer would be examples of gig workers. Any form of individual or small outfit contractor – plumbers, electricians, builders are also examples.


TRENDS REPORT: A World Bank Group Flagship Report – World Development Report 2019 – The Changing Nature of Work

This World Bank Group Flagship Report is worth delving into, especially the first chapter focusing on the Changing Nature of Work. The main issues related to alternative arrangements that the report highlights are briefly outlined below:

  • Technology is having a huge impact on types of work and terms people work under“technology is changing how people work and the terms under which they work. Instead of the once standard long-term contracts, digital technologies are giving rise to more short-term work, often via online work platforms.” [Report p. 26]
  • Technology is disrupting skills demands and there is a global call for investment in lifelong learning “technology is resulting in demands for 3 types of skills – demand for non-routine cognitive and socio-behavioural skills is rising in both advanced and emrging economies, demand for non-routine job-specific skills is declining and those with both technical and soft skills are more in demand.” [Report pages 19 and 23] 
  • Varied impact of technology in advanced and emerging economies Labor markets are more recently fluid in advanced economies taking advantage of technology, whereas limited access to technology in emerging economies means self-employed workers in the informal sector struggle with transitioning beyond survival or consumption level.
  • Challenges faced by short-term workers in advanced economies and self-employed workers in emerging economies are the same – they both face “…no written contracts or protections; low-productivity jobs; regulatory grey area; lack access to benefits and social protection etc”. [Report p. 27]
  • Technology platforms are facilitating freelance work – “Online work platforms are eliminating many of the geographical barriers previously associated with certain tasks. Bangladesh contributes 15 percent to the global labor pool online by means of its 650,000 freelance workers. Indiez, founded in 2016 in India, takes a team-based approach to online freelancing. The platform provides a remotely distributed community of talent—mainly from India, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe—that works together on tech projects for clients anywhere in the world.” [Report p. 25]
  • Informality remains high in emerging economies – this means in terms of career planning and development the gig economy or self-employment should be viewed as a serious career path and option for school leavers, adult job seeekers and those transitioning not as a survival option. The education and social system should be supportive of this more. “In Sub-Saharan Africa, informality remained, on average, at around 75 percent of total employment from 2000 to 2016. In South Asia, it increased from an average of 50 percent in the 2000s to 60 percent over the period 2010–16.” [Report p. 26]


Key Issues for the Freelancers or Self-Employed and 5 Tips to get Started or Improve –

The Balance Careers has 15+ articles on their website, including the one with the link here, that provides a good analysis of the pros and cons of being a freelancer, pricing, online platforms to find work and offers tips about what you need to think about to succeed in this work arrangement. Freelancing or being Self-Employed – is defined as a category of gig workers or alternative work situations, and there are many terms thrown around such as freelancer, contractor, telecommuter, self-employed person and more… who offers services directly to clients and businesses. Freelancers also get work or offer services through sharing economy apps like TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk.”

What gig economy online platforms exist in your context? In South Africa there is Brown Sense on Facebook and in Zimbabwe there is Buying and Selling in Zimbabwe on Facebook as well.

Pierre Kleinshouse - R1802M_KLEINHOUSE

[SOURCE – Pierre Kleinshouse –]

In this Harvard Business Review article that shares findings of an intense study with 65 Gig Workers, you will find 4 main issues explored, which are quoted and highlighted below, as well as 4 things you need to succeed in the gig economy.

We found remarkably similar sentiments across generations and occupations: 

All those we studied acknowledged that they felt a host of personal, social, and economic anxieties without the cover and support of a traditional employer — but they also claimed that their independence was a choice and that they would not give up the benefits that came with it. 

Although they worried about unpredictable schedules and finances, they also felt they had mustered more courage and were leading richer lives than their corporate counterparts.

We discovered that the most effective independent workers navigate the tension and anxieties with common strategies. They cultivate four types of connections — to place, routines, purpose, and people — that help them endure the emotional ups and downs of their work and gain energy and inspiration from their freedom.”


[SOURCE – The Balance, 2018 –

 5 Tips to take advantage of Alternative Work Arrangements 
  1. Keep in touch with nature of work trends Educate yourself on the changing nature of work and be ahead of the curve in your career strategy and career actions.
  1. Gig economy is serious work If already in the gig economy – learn about advanced ways of practicing gig work. If planning to join the gig economy – take it as serious work not a form of survival.
  1. Take advantage of technology and co-working make use of technology supported alternative work platforms. Build strong networks, join associations and co-operatives to increase social protection and learn from others.
  1. Practice lifelong learning – realise that there will continue to be new developments that you need to be aware of and new entrants with new knowledge and skills to compete with.
  1. Have a focused career direction and personal brand whether you are part of the gig economy or have a side hustle, remember you need to have a coherent career story, so do keep track of your portfolio or work, skills gained and competencies developed. 

In conclusionThe objective of these career trends analysis blogs is not to do a deep dive into any of these trends or practices, but it is to sign-post for you, what is in the horizon that you need to factor into your career development plans, decisions and actions. It is also meant to provide you with some practical career coach tips and resources to get you started on actions to take. 

What to take note ofvisit: or e-mail me.

As usual, I will produce and share on my Facebook page – tip sheets, articles and free online courses, videos and career coach tips to support you with delving deeper in these issues. Also diarise to take part in the Weekly Take-a-Break and Learn Webinar, every Thursday at 1-2PM Joburg time and 11AM-12PM GMT. This is via Facebook Live on my page and a Zoom Link you can get by e-mailing me.

 The End!

Individuals: If you need support on how to utilise this career information for career planning, job search, career progression or CV/resume review, whether currently employed or not, get in touch using the e-mail address provided. Also share and follow this work 😊.

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Written by: Ennie Chipembere, Career Coach and Learning Expert; 


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Twitter: @EnnieChipembere

Date published: 03 June 2019

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