How to Get Paid What You’re Really Worth as a Tech Professional in the Gig Economy

by Adam Sinicki

"The Gig Economy" is a term that is used to describe a wide range of working relationships. Broadly, it refers to any work completed on a per-job or per-project basis. This often includes the business models of companies like Uber and Deliveroo.

In those cases, the balance of power often lies with the employer. The contractor is too dependent on a single organization for work, and is forced to therefore operate to their schedules and terms if they are to be successful. They have none of the freedom of a true freelancer and none of the security of the traditionally employed.

But a ‘gig’ can take many other forms. In this post – and in the book Thriving in the Gig Economy - we’re discussing ‘gigging’ as it pertains to online entrepreneurs and tech professionals. We’re exploring the growing trend of selling technical skills online in order to enjoy greater freedom and possibly even greater profits.

The problem, though, contractors and freelancers will often still work in a way that is more beneficial for their clients - striving to meet unreasonable deadlines for low wages – and will fail to recognize what they’re worth (or to ask for it even when they do recognize it).

So, what’s the fix? How do we tip the scales so that the gig economy works for us as the service providers?

Knowing Your Worth

I was on a plane trip when I remember overhearing a conversation between two business men. They were discussing the need for a new website for their company. From what they said, all they needed was a very basic website – a few pages to explain what they were offering and to showcase some of their previous projects.

As a developer, I would be able to offer this kind of work in a couple of days maximum. It’s a matter of installing WordPress (which sometimes just takes one click if it’s supported by the hosting provider), choosing a ready-made theme or tweaking one of your own, adding the text, placing a few images… and that’s about it.

But these guys were talking about spending thousands of dollars on the project. That’s as compared with the few hundred dollars that many of my contemporaries would charge for the very same work. And the irony is that if I were to have offered my services for a few hundred dollars instead, they’d likely have turned me down on the basis that it must be an inferior product.

This is where so many service providers go wrong: they don’t know how much they’re worth and they don’t realize how much they can charge for their work.

Don’t ask yourself how easy or difficult the task was for you to complete – ask how much value the recipient is getting from it. And acknowledge the value of the ‘knowledge gulf’ that allows you to complete the task – you worked very hard to get to the point where this job was easy!

Becoming a Superstar

So, if you were to offer web design to a large company at $300 while every other web design agency offered the same job for $3k, you would likely get overlooked because you wouldn’t be taken seriously. It takes guts to ask for $3K as an individual, but that’s what you’re worth. Or better yet – ask for $2K and explain how being a lean contractor rather than an agency means you have fewer overheads and can offer similar quality for a big saving (but not disconcertingly big).

But here’s the rub: even now, you probably still won’t be successful if you’re competing with established agencies. While those companies might not be able to offer anything that you can’t in terms of the end result, their experience, their testimonials, and their structure makes them seem inherently more trustworthy.

Imagine that you’re the IT manager at a mid-sized business and you’ve been tasked with procuring a new website for your company. How is it going to sound when you tell your boss that you went with the cheap ad on UpWork instead of the well-known web design agency?

So how can a freelancer tip the scales back in their favour?

The answer is that you need to think of yourself as a brand, and you need to build yourself up to become an online superstar in your niche. While the random freelancer from UpWork might not impress a company’s higher-ups, someone who has worked for Google and Facebook, who has their own highly successful website, who has countless qualifications relating to coding and web design, and maybe who has a popular coding blog with an audience of thousands, is going to seem far more tempting.

You need to choose the work you take on wisely, and spend time developing a star-studded portfolio and killer CV. Become known in your niche, author a book, give talks, and generally do whatever you can to make yourself into the professional that everyone else wants to hire.

If you can do all that, then the balance of power tips heavily in your favor and you can start charging way beyond what you think you're worth. In fact, clients will be lining up around the block!

And for the full blueprint to help you get there, you can check out my book: Thriving in the Gig Economy.

About the Author

Adam Sinicki is a writer, programmer, and presenter living in Bicester, Oxfordshire, UK where he spends a lot of his time on his laptop in the local coffee shops. He has been working on a freelance basis as a programmer and SEO writer for the past eight years under the company name NQR Productions. He currently spends time as a blogger and YouTube presenter at Android Authority, where he covers phone reviews as well as development content. Adam has also found success with numerous other projects, including his own Android app Multiscreen Multitasking, which had over 30,000 paid downloads across its various iterations and came as preloaded software on over 60,000 handsets in India. He also provided the code for Coldfusion's Voxis Launcher. This is Adam's second book with Apress Media, the first being Learn Unity for Android Game Development.
If you would like to read more of Adam's work, he also discusses tech, online business, and his other passions for fitness, psychology, and self-development at his blog, The Bioneer, and on his Bioneer YouTube channel. The latter now has over 50,000 subscribers.

This article was contributed by Adam Sinicki, author of Thriving in the Gig Economy.