Please don’t call it the Gig Economy

November 26, 2019 | Matthew Carswell

The power of a name

Words are incredibly powerful because they give us language. Language may very well be our greatest achievement as a human race. Language makes words more than just words. With language words become a way to transmit an idea to another person almost instantly. Imagine a time before robust language? Imagine having a great idea, that was simple and elegant, but you didn’t have the words that allowed you to communicate it? What could be worse?

It’s for this reason that we must continue the tradition of our ancestors that cultivated our powerful languages. When possible we should nurture words that help us relay unique ideas. The ideas are the gold. Without the right words the ideas fade. 30 years ago if you were hungry and a little mean, you were just an asshole. Now, just say that you are “hangry” and you get a pass. Personally, I’m glad the word hangry exists. The oxford dictionary added it in 2018. Never again will a hungry person be mistaken for a bad person!

A thought experiment

Indulge me for a minute here. Let’s say your grandfather had an apple tree, every year it yielded him 1000+ apples. Then one day instead of just apples miraculously random foods began to grow on the tree. At first it’s just one apple that grows as other food, then slowly over the years all of the tree’s fruit turn into random gourmet. All fresh and perfect, always giving him something new to eat. Medium-rare New York strip steaks, savory truffled potatoes, pizza and Pad Thai. Once you pick some food off, new food grows back within 1 minute. Always there, always supporting his family and friends. Greatest tree ever! Right?

Please keep indulging me this will get somewhere fast. Now this tree really values family bonds. So it only yields a seed each time your grandfather has a child. He gives each of them one seed. After planting the tree and enjoying the apples after a few years your parents generation realizes something important. The tree doesn’t always turn into an “everything” tree at the same time. Sometimes it’s as fast as 20 years, and for one of your uncles it took a whopping 42 years!

So, your Mom gave you your seed when you were 3 years old and you planted it with her. Now you are 23 years old and the apples are tasting great, but you can’t wait for your vast assortment of food to kick in. You are the first generation that is going to make a business out of the magic tree, why didn’t anyone else think of this? It’s so obvious! You are going to be rich! Well, one day while you are sitting on your porch gazing at your magical tree, a man walks up your walkway.

He approaches you on your porch and says his name is Ben and he has two deals for you. He has heard about your magical tree and he thinks he can make you a rich man! You say well, it’s no skin off my back to listen. Tell me more.

Ben outlines these two deals:

Deal #1- Deal number 1 is the way to go if you want to get rich fast Ben says. He will pay you $25,000 a month starting tomorrow for the rest of your life if he gets all rights to the tree and its fruit forever, whether it’s apples or anything else. This offer only stands for two weeks.

Deal #2- Deal number 2 is a lot more work he says. You maintain ownership of the tree, he sells the fruit for you. He charges you a fee to sell each fruit that you both determine on a per fruit basis. You could make a contract that lasts for a day, a month, a year, for each type of food, whatever you’d like but it’s flexible and can change as time goes on.

You tell Ben that those are both interesting deals. You ask him to come back tomorrow and you’ll let him know what your thoughts are.

The lamest name ever

Ok, let’s reel this in. What deal would you choose? It’s not so easy. Or is it? 25,000 a month starting now? That’s a lot of cash right now! But…once the tree starts sprouting it’s magical fruit, you’ll have to sit back and watch Ben get richer than you! How terrible. That won’t do.

It’s a conundrum, what do you do? Maybe you decide to go with Deal #2 because it can’t hurt to have a partner that is interested in helping you sell your fruit. Deal number 2 keeps the ball in your court, you are free to make other deals with other people and also change the price of your fruit based on supply and demand. Ensuring that you are getting the right value for your magical food at all times! Maybe it means you’ll have to wait a little longer to get rich, but at least you won’t be getting ripped off! Or maybe you are fine getting paid now and letting someone else take the risk.

Now, your cousins who also have magic trees say they have been approached by Ben. You decide to call an emergency meeting of the magic tree cousins to make sure none of them make a decision that they will regret. As you make notes for your speech, you decide to give each deal a name so that you can refer to them easily. For the first deal you easily settle on the name “the safe deal”. The second deal is a bit harder to name. Do you call it the Fun deal….maybe the Billionaire deal? Or how about the “get full value for your fruit deal”? Nope, that’s too long and not catchy enough. Then as you sit there wracking your brain, the perfect name dawns on you. It’s so perfect it’s almost too good to be true. You’ll call it the Fruit Deal. Yes, perfect, the Fruit Deal. Holy sweet jesus what a fantastic name. Your cousins will all love you.

The gig economy

If you haven’t caught on yet, this thought experiment is a metaphor. If you go back thousands of years, all the work that anyone has ever done and gotten paid for can be said to have had a compensation model similar to deal number 1 or deal number 2. Deal 1 didn’t really show up until the industrial age. While the vast history of paid work before that involved people being paid directly for jobs they completed, allowing them to dictate their price.

But what does the tree represent? It represents you, your brain, and your knowledge. At first it’s not worth enough to get rich from. But slowly it will be. And you can be the owner of it when it starts bearing valuable fruit. Maybe for you, the real money is in being able to price your value. Don’t give that right away unless you want to take to the safe deal. The safe deal is a good deal for some people, it really is. Is that person you?

The gig economy is a term that has arisen to describe the trend of people taking back the right to determine their own value. But holy heck, the name is lacking!

First of all, it has gotten a reputation of being a way for businesses to get skilled people without giving them benefits. I say use that as an indication of the value you are provide and somehow become more valuable!

Most studies that show demographics of the gig economy reveal that 75% of gig workers are there by choice and loving it. They receive the full benefit of their own value. Don’t forget the Independent IT consultants, the writers, the marketers, the business coaches, artists, and of course the musicians from which the word ‘gig’ came from in the first place.

Make yourself so valuable that you name your price. And since you still own you, and no one is leasing you, the rights to you or your intellectual property. You will get the full benefit of your value.

You may not be worth much now but you will be worth a lot some day and no one else should benefit from that but you.

The name

We need a better name. The Fruit Deal isn’t special because you are selling fruit. It’s special because you get to dictate your value and have a feedback mechanism to determine your value and increase it, and then benefit from your value on your own. The gig economy isn’t great because you get gigs. It’s great because it puts the power back in your hands. It’s great because you get to dictate your value. It’s great because no one is renting you, your brain, or any future thoughts or ideas that you may have.

But what do we call it? Oh boy, I wish I had the answer to that. I’ve been thinking about this for a very, very long time. I’ll tell you my top few but first I will list the characteristics that this name must have:

  1. It must convey ownership, flexibility and freedom
  2. It must not make people that take the safe deal feel bad. Some people want the Safe deal, that’s great for them. Some of the people that will be paying the Fruit Deal people will be Safe deal people, so they can’t be offended by the name.
  3. It must be two words (longer than that does not roll off the tongue)

Here is my list, some are names I have heard and others I came up with. Please add some if you have better ideas, or vote with a comment on the name that you think fits best!

  • The Flexible Economy
  • The Indy Economy — My personal favorite
  • The Owner Economy
  • The Knowledge Market
  • The Owner Ecosystem
  • The Brain Market
  • The Specialist Market
  • The Direct Economy
  • The Value Market

I know it’s just words, but as I said in the opener getting a name that is fitting is important to conveying this important idea. The idea that if we want to with modern technology it is possible to dictate and receive full benefit from one’s own value. This situation is new and unique to humans. It’s a great time to be alive! Gig economy just doesn’t quite cut it.

If you read this and agree, start using #indyeconomy or comment on something better!

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