America, Land of the Free...lance

marc acito logo boxBenefits shmenefits. Whether 800,000 lose their unemployment checks now or later, it's time we admitted that we're in a Gig-conomy, and will be for at least a generation.

I'll say it again -- mostly because I have another Gig-conomy link. By way of example, a part-time marketing job at action apparel company Grenade Gloves advertised as being perfect for a mom generated 52 responses in one day. "The candidates ranged from overqualified managers to people who could barely spell," says Grenade controller Floyd Sklaver. "It's heartbreaking."So how do ordinary Americans adjust and keep up? They could start by following the example of the not-so-ordinary ones: the artists. Because who knows better the struggle -- and the juggle -- for the perfect "survival job?"

Or jobs, in the case of actor/filmmaker Marion Kerr. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kerr works as a personal assistant. Wednesdays she does data entry. Thursday nights and Sundays she works at a movie theatre. Twice a month she does medical billing, along with the occasional catering.

And somehow she managed to write, direct and star in a pyschological thriller.

Kerr's pinball schedule is by design. "For me, its about diversifying and not being in any one job for more than 15 hours a week," she says. "Because if I am, then I become too integral and if I need to suddenly take off for an audition or a film, it becomes a hassle."

While Kerr's priority is flexible hours, actor/writer Joseph Neibich's is minimizing them. Neibich came upon his own solution "sideways" during the Hollywood writers' strike of 2001. He was tending bar at the Polo Lounge, a well-paying job, but "no actor wants to be the guy waiting tables."

Then a customer who owned his own company advised the actor to "choose the number of hours you want and see how much you can get paid for it."

"It completely shifted my paradigm," Neibich says, leading him to seek a job that fulfilled "the four Ts": Tuesday -- Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Having minored in finance, Niebich got work as a salesman of financial products, including mortgages. He now makes a full-time living working a part-time job. He also knows a number of actors working in pharmaceutical sales.

"I think many people focus so much on 'being' an artist that they think they need to do that 40 hours a week," says Kristen Fischer, author and creatively self-employed, "If self-employment doesn't work for you, it doesn't mean you aren't an artist." Fischer herself supplements her freelance writing with copy-editing.

Having a split-personality work life will most likely require a new American personality, one where we're no longer defined by the question "What do you do?" Because no one has to the time to listen to that long an answer.

We've got to get to work.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.

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