Three ways to jump on board the growing gig economy

gig economy

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’ve listened to a revealing interview with Chase Jarvis, a superstar photographer and online entrepreneur from the US.
He said the future of work won’t be working your 9 to 5 at a corp and then cashing in on your pension.

Your future will be a personal brand-based business where you juggle multiple gigs, selling your knowledge in active and passive ways.

As somebody who has been immersed in the gig economy, I’d like to reveal the lessons my peers and I have learned:

1) Master one core skill but sell it in many ways

Every content creator and online entrepreneur I know offers multiple products and services. It doesn’t matter if you’re a marketer or artist, your knowledge can and should be monetized in various ways. As for me, I do coaching, sell books on Amazon, do freelance client work and write paid content.

I’ve recently talked to my mother who is twice my age, but an old-school gal like her is embracing the multiple gig economy. She’s:

  • Giving annual painting workshops in Italy
  • Teaching art once per week at a private university
  • Selling paintings at galleries
  • Holding private exhibitions at her studio

Happen to know this guy named Mark Schaefer? He’s making online income from 18 different ways.

Remember the difference between income diversification and juggling multiple jobs. Diversification means you make money from your CORE knowledge in various ways. My mother’s knowledge is art & painting, so she monetizes that expertise through giving workshops, selling paintings, running private exhibitions and teaching at Uni.

On the other hand, a high school teacher who’s driving an Uber at night and part-timing as a clerk on the weekend isn’t diversifying her income. She’s splitting her time doing unrelated jobs.

Diversification = master your expertise + sell it via different media

2) Get the BEST advice (You won’t find it online)

If you’re as hungry as me about learning more about your field, you probably eye-eat countless YouTube videos, devour blog articles and pay for courses/e-books/membership sites. And although you can learn the basics about ANY topic online, the game-changing intel will come from veteran experts who won’t share it with the public.

Let me give you examples:

  • An indie author friend read over 120+ books on storytelling and writing advice. But her author life only changed when she became the mentee of a storytelling veteran with vast Hollywood experience. The stuff he revealed wasn’t discoverable in any book or online article.
  • Three years ago, I befriended a financial expert who revealed wealth creation methods I’ve never found anywhere. No bank consultant or finance book helped me as much as my friend’s personal tips.
  • I once talked to a popular illustrator from Germany who shared rare tips about client acquisition. I’ve never found that information on blogs or in courses.

So why is the personal advice so much better and harder to obtain? First of all, the expert will have acquired the knowledge through decades of DIRECt experience. He’s taken the bullets and lived to tell the story.

Contrary, the creators of courses/e-books/blogs often rehash the advice from other credible sources and repackage it.

Listen, I can read 10+ Seth Godin marketing books, copycat his advice and lecture you about being unique, ignoring the masses and aiming for the fans on the fringe, but because it’s not lived experience, it’s useless to you.

You want, no, you NEED the first-hand knowledge from the experts with the skin in the game.

The finance maverick who knows all about the value of exchange-traded funds because he blew his first 100K on a hedge fund. The marketer who cold-called a thousand people unsuccessfully and then discovered the BEST way to reach potential clients. The former unemployed illustrator who dieted on Ramen soup but then attracted hundreds of clients like magnet man.

And because these experts paid their precious experience with sweat and time, they don’t want to share their hard-won experience with the masses, not even for average fees. They reveal their secrets to high-paying individuals and/or people they know and like.

Which brings us to the last point below…

3) Embrace nepotism

In simplified terms, nepotism describes a person with power and influence giving good jobs to their friends and family. It’s frowned upon in civilized countries, especially on the state level, but it’s how the world works. Especially the gig world.

Whenever I meet my Americans friends in Berlin, they genuinely believe the world is meritocratic, i.e. the best person gets the job, but that’s almost never the case. You will get the best gigs from people who know and like you.

If I look at my past gigs, the best came from word-of-mouth and personal connections. Two years ago, I created illustrations for a book published by Penguin, one of the biggest publishers in the world.

How did that happen? Well, I knew the author Srinivas Rao. He insisted on having me onboard and convinced the editors. Would I have snatched the job if I hadn’t known him? Hell no.

I’ve been featured on Inc. and books like “The Bravest You”, Unmistakable, and “My Morning Routine” because of people recommending me to the authors and/or knowing the authors personally.

I also got a cool speaking gig at a private university in Berlin because I know one of the salespeople who knows the boss of the Uni.

I’m not the best writer/illustrator/speaker, but I’m good enough and know people who know, too.

Expertise alone won’t get you the sweet deals. Being curious and open-minded about people and building two-way relationships is your recipe for getting the best gigs.

Whom you know matters more than what you know.


The gig economy’s already here but it’s not mainstream…yet. If you monetize your knowledge via services, learn from experts you personally know and embrace that connections matter more than skill, you’ll be ahead of the competition. For now.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

Original illustration by the author.

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