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Portfolio > Economy & Markets

The new "gig" deal for financial reps

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Lawyer, accountant, programmer — member of the gig economy? Yes. Lately, the word “gig” has taken on a new meaning, referring to workers, often highly skilled professionals, who take on a particular task for a defined time and don’t have permanent employers.

Some opt for this lifestyle while others freelance out of necessity, but, either way, the freelancer ranks are substantial. According to a Freelancers Union study from September 2014, 53 million people (about 34 percent of the U.S. workforce) are working in a freelance capacity, and about a third of them are over 35. All of this means that freelancers and contract workers are more likely than ever to end up on your list of clients and prospects. Here are three things to know so you can best serve their financial needs:

1. No worksite means no group life, no 401(k) match and the need for a plan. Because workers in the gig economy are project-based, the age-old excuse, “I have coverage at work,” does not apply. Without the minimal life insurance coverage and jumpstart on retirement planning that a 401(k) match can provide, these individuals are a step behind their counterparts in traditional work environments when it comes to benefits. Yet, 77 percent report that they make the same or more money than they did before they started freelancing, according to the same Freelancers Union study from September 2014. 

Here is where you come in. This is a group that has the financial capacity to plan but they need assistance. Just because someone gets an ”irregular paycheck” doesn’t mean they don’t have the money for professional advice, planning, and products. Financial professionals could be missing out on this hidden economic gem. The underserved can become hot prospects for you. 

2. Social sharing and connectedness can be your way in. The explosion in the number of American freelancers is partially due to the growth of the Internet and social networking. Good freelancers know how to use the Web to build and strengthen relationships that improve their network and result in work. This means that maintaining a professional social media strategy and presence can be especially effective with this audience. Your company should have resources to help you with this, or you can seek out resources on your own. 

3. Rule of one (not thumb). The project-based economy brings unpredictable income and cash flow. Freelancers have become, in effect, a ”company of one.” They are excited about being in control of their own time and projects, while the irregularity of where their next paycheck is coming from makes it difficult for them to put their savings on autopilot. As a trusted financial professional, you already excel at providing customized guidance — so play to this strength by focusing on the one-on-one attention and specific recommendations tailored to meet what is effectively a small business.

The new “gig economy” is here to stay. The more you get to know its members’ needs and are able to provide them with the tools that they need, the more positive of an impact that you will see in your practice and on the bottom line. Already working with members of the gig economy, or planning to approach someone soon? I would be interested in hearing about your experiences and what worked for you: [email protected]


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