Book Review: The Gig Economy

The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want

by Diane Mulcahy

240 pages, published Nov. 8, 2016, AMACOM Press

Hardcover $22, e-read edition $10.95

In a nutshell: Diversifying into several job skills doesn’t just protect one from unemployment, it also means choosing work that provides personal satisfaction and flexibility.

Quote: “The Gig Economy offers plenty of opportunity and potential rewards but also higher risks. There is more job insecurity, income variability, and change in the Gig Economy.”

Early in the book “The Gig Economy,” consultant and author Diane Mulcahy points out that it’s been a full generation since most American workers could realistically spend their entire working life with the same company. This still may be a mindset of some who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, where there was an implied promise of going to college, earning a degree and having a stable career with a permanent full-time job.

But the long-term, one-company career concept has gone the way of the pay phone and the VCR. In order to lower overhead and profit, companies have slowly moved toward more temporary and part-time workers. What remains is a world of free agency, where specific skill demands have replaced workplace loyalty.

Mulcahy’s best-selling book addresses ways that this landscape has changed, while offering readers practical advice for positioning themselves for success. Essentially, Mulcahy is advocating that everyone become free agents with diverse enough talent to fit into a perpetual series of “gigs.”

Divided into unique sections that could each be read as independent lessons, “The Gig Economy” reveals how one’s career can be built from better work that is more in line with personal goals and aspirations. In the section “Getting Better Work,” Mulcahy discusses the idea of pursuing work that is more meaningful, rather than taking on the deferred career path that stresses job security (that may no longer exist) and higher wages.

To find this fulfilling work, the book recommends several ways readers discover what success means to them: “The Obituary Exercise” has readers look back at their life and imagine how they would want to be eventually remembered in their final obituaries. Another is “The Virtues Exercise,” where one defines how they’ve lived their life to date instead of what they have accomplished.

Mulcahy stresses timing work projects to allow for substantial time off. This downtime can be for recharging, travel, learning a new skill or brainstorming more rewarding work. Working independently also means that periods of deep, quality work can be planned, as well as focusing and reaching long-term goals. This is counter to the traditional workplace where meetings, emails, politics and interruptions make digging into worthwhile projects difficult.

The challenge with all of this is making it work financially, which the latter part of “The Gig Economy” focuses on. The first step is to take the time to re-evaluate one’s financial situation. Flexibility likely comes with frugal spending and careful planning for both short- and long-term expenditures.

A major point of “The Gig Economy” is not necessarily to drop existing gainful employment. A gig can be taking a hobby or strong interest and creating ways for it to generate additional income. The book’s chapter on networking breaks down the correct ways to connect with people who can provide information for a potential project or to know if a move into a particular segment is worth pursuing.

Still, Mulcahy emphasizes the advantages of searching out work that is consistently rewarding over the traditional workplace, where many days can end unfulfilled. Sometimes it takes more than a gentle nudge to shake away long-held beliefs and accept a new career paradigm. “The Gig Economy” is armed with dozens of ideas, resources and strategies for those who want to make this happen.

Chris Wendel is a business services consultant with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution based based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives provides money and know-how to businesses throughout the state. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at