Conestoga College helps freelancers thrive in the new economy

Conestoga College helps freelancers thrive in the new economy

May 5th, 2021 by Rachel Hickey

What comes to mind when you think about gig work?

Gig work is just another term for what many have been doing for decades – freelance work. Whether you call it gig work, freelancing, or even solopreneur – most professionals in the space would identify as simply "freelancers." 

With the lack of co-op and full-time work opportunities available due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on the job market, workers in almost every field – finance, health care, web development, education, marketing, transportation, construction, and more – are finding success working as independent contractors or freelancers. 

With more and more industries learning the benefits of the gig economy, freelancers and businesses are connecting in new ways.

Locally, Conestoga College is on a mission to support the rising interest in freelancing with a new program in their Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective called the Gig Lab. 

Rose Mastnak, Director of the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective, is passionate about addressing the business model nuances and needs of the growing number of freelance entrepreneurs. We sat down with Mastnak to learn more about the gig economy's challenges, misconceptions, and advice on thriving in the gig economy.

The Wild West of the economy?

"There's this wild west attitude of the gig economy," said Mastnak. Issues in gig work – pay, rights, contracts – stem from a gap in outdated employment laws. While most employers work to create a great experience for freelancers, some have been known to exploit loopholes and take advantage of independent workers."What's needed is a professional attitude from both parties to help with the success of the relationship, and ultimately the success of the gig economy as a whole," added Mastnak.

Mastnak said the gig economy is here to stay. An increase in remote work and a mindset shift in students' career goals have contributed to a growing acceptance of gig work for employers and workers. By expanding to job opportunities outside the traditional 9-5 job and opting for remote working options, more people are taking advantage of time flexibility and control over assigned work. 

From the employer's perspective, freelance workers open up a world of choices. The geographic reach expands with access to a global talent pool. The flexibility of project-specific hiring to avoid unnecessary expenses can help fill gaps when traditional full-time roles take too long to fill. Lastly, there’s a benefit of getting a regular infusion of "outsider" perspectives that can be invaluable to companies committed to innovation.

Freelancing or gig work can sound like the perfect professional utopia where both employers and employees get the best of both worlds. But there is still much work to do to change the perception of gig work.

Taking control with the gig "marketplace."

To help new freelancers navigate these waters, the Conestoga College Entrepreneurship Collective offers support through the Gig Lab. The lab is Canada's first business incubator for new and early-stage freelancers to learn the skills, mindsets, and tools to flourish in the gig economy. Conestoga College is no stranger to helping people launch new businesses. The Gig Lab program is built on the foundation of their Venture Lab program, a business incubator designed to support the development of early-stage business start-ups.

Conestoga College is also launching a brand new platform to help connect freelancers and businesses – Conestoga Gigs. The platform is a marketplace that helps freelance workers showcase their skills, experience, and talents with potential clients. 

It also works to provide businesses with a sense of trust in who they're hiring. "It's like having a Hollywood agent for freelancers," added Mastnak. "The conversation is starting to change around the gig economy and the future of work. There are a lot of opportunities, and a lot of precarious work ahead. We'll continue to find ways to make work more predictable and professional, teaching companies how to work with freelancers and freelancers to treat themselves as businesses."

The gig economy is nothing new to our team. Our clients come to us for help with design, mobile and web development, and more – and we provide talented developers and designers to help them achieve their goals. Want to learn more? Contact us today so we can share how BitBakery's software development and engineering, design, user experience, product management, and testing services can help you achieve your goals.

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