Web Workers: The Changing Face of the Gig Economy


In my WebWorkerDaily post yesterday, I discussed an article in The Daily Beast in which Tina Brown talks about the gig economy and their research on the changing nature of freelancer jobs and the people found in them. The Daily Beast says that “as the recession worsens, more high-income workers are freelancing their way to wealth through multiple part-time gigs, changing the way we define a successful career.”

Brown herself puts it this way:

“Just as startling, these new alternative workers are not overwhelmingly low-income. They’re college-educated Americans who earn more than $75,000 a year.

Welcome to the age of Gigonomics.”

Photo by Aaron Hockley

Photo by Aaron Hockley

Most of the web workers I know tend to be college educated people with reasonably good incomes, and I suspect that most of the people described in the group above are web workers. Many web workers, and I include myself in this group, would never have become freelancers or otherwise left traditional jobs to telecommute from home without the rise of ubiquitous online technology. Fifteen years ago, many of the careers that web workers now enjoy didn’t even exist or would not have been possible given the technology available prior to the early to mid-1990s. While some early versions of the technologies we now take for granted existed back then, the adoption was still very low. Many companies weren’t online at all, and email was used by some people, but not everyone.

This leads me to wonder: What I would be doing now if the Internet really had been a fad, instead of a technology that changed the way that we live and work today?

My last couple of jobs as an online community manager would never have been possible without large numbers of people spending time online, and I doubt that I would have been hired by Intel in 2000, either. The job at Intel came out of my experience with eCommerce systems, and I landed the job by finding them on the web and submitting my resume into their online job candidate web site. This leads me back to my first job in at a Midwestern manufacturing company and the sobering realization that, today, I would probably still be working somewhere in an IT organization, toiling away in middle management bureaucracy if my web worker career hadn’t been possible.

Where would you be today if the internet had never really taken off and your career as a web worker evaporated in the mist?


Kent Brewster

Without the Web? I’d be sticking labels onto floppies, stuffing floppies into envelopes, shrink-wrapping envelopes into packs, sticking packs into boxes, and getting them ready for UPS on time. :)

Simon Mackie

@Troy The state of the economy at the moment means there are many people going through the exact same thing. Good luck :)

Troy Peterson

To be honest, I’m probably looking at this change right now.

I’m working as a Web Ops Manager for a B2B publishing company and have been there for about 5yrs.

With the state of the publishing industry already in transition, the current economic situation is only accelerating these changes – and unfortunately not on our timeframe.

While I have been working towards a freelance career, a possible layoff in the future could push these plans up much faster than anticipated.

I’ve been doing side jobs for the past year or so, but wanted to build up a savings account as well as a more solid and steady client base to be “comfortable” with the move.

To be honest, I’m concerned… but at the same time excited to finally put my plans into motion.

Guy Martin

I would probably still be hacking code for back end IT systems, or possibly doing some form of embedded development.

I’m glad I get to do tech *and* talk to people now. :)


I imagine I would have ended up sticking with my original career goal of working in traditional journalism or PR/communications.

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