The term "gig economy" refers to a workforce that's defined by short-term engagements, temporary contract work, and independent contracting. As such, the gig economy includes freelancers, contractors, side hustlers, and anyone who's making money on the side or earning full-time income with various short-term projects, rather than a single full-time job.
While this may seem like just another new buzzword, the gig economy is booming. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 5.9 million people held "contingent jobs" in May of 2017, which represents 3.8 percent of all workers in the U.S. A career transition is a perfect time to jump and test the waters because you likely have more time on your hands and less income coming in.
Tracy Ring, self-proclaimed admin-pro, stepped into the gig economy during her career transition into social media and marketing. She explains, "I was able to use freelance work in the interim so that I could continue this path and career pivot, and not just accept another job to have a job, but rather focus on what I wanted."
Use the following ideas to become a part of this new work movement and -- bonus -- make extra cash along the way.
Start with something you know how to do
People hire freelancers for a few reasons, one of which is that they specialize in something. Companies don't want to fully train you like they would a new staff member, which takes time and money. Rather, they want to bring in someone who can get the work done with whatever project-based direction they have to give.
Ultimately, the implication is that you understand the nuts and bolts of how the work is done; you just need to cater your skills to their brand or project needs.
If you're moving from one career to the next, you may be moving away from your current skill set to learn a new one, but don't leave those skills at your last job. Instead, use them to jump into the gig economy and generate income while you look for the job you want to have. In this way, you can use those honed skills as tools to get from point A to point B.
Remember that this can also be a chance to test the waters using some skills from your past to get gigs that will give you experience for where you want to go. For example, Ring did a lot of small business marketing in her past roles, but never had a marketing title or marketing-specific job. So she's using freelance and short-term gigs to build out those skills to eventually land a full-time marketing job.
"I had always been in generalist-roles that were a blend of marketing, HR, project management, and admin. When thinking about my career path moving forward I knew that I wanted to focus on the route enjoyed most -- digital marketing. Starting to ease into freelance projects allowed me to build tangible skills. I was able to strengthen my writing abilities and eventually create a portfolio of bylined articles," says Ring.
Keep a possible side hustle in mind
If you can maintain a consistent flow of clients, you may want you keep the gigs going, even with a new full-time job. This is especially true if your career transition means you need to start in an entry-level job and work your way back up.
That's why it's smart to start with a side hustle in mind. In fact, 44 million people have started their own side hustle as a way to make extra income. The key is to choose a side hustle that has legs; something that can grow into an income-generator, whether you have a full-time job or not. If you're not sure where to start, check out this nearly exhaustive list of 105 side hustle ideas. Consider which ones would be best for applying your current skill set.
For example, selling photos online could be a great way to generate passive income if you're a photographer, while selling cupcakes could be perfect for the person who wants to start a bakery one day.
Make yourself visible
If you're new to the side hustle game, you have to start building relationships. One way to do that is to create profiles on various freelance and gig-finder websites, like UpWork or Remote.co.
This is the best way to find work both actively and passively. Actively, you can be searching for gigs that fit your skill set, just like you would with regular job searching. On the other hand, with a good profile in place, you'll be able to passively find work as well because those looking to fill positions can find you. If someone thinks you're a great fit for a project, they can ask you to interview.
That doesn't mean you don't have to put in the work, though. Ring has had the best success finding gigs on these sites when she puts in the time with every application. "Never copy and paste cover letters or intro blurbs. Tailor your responses to the role and company. Any work I've secured has come from quick research on the organization/position, or writing responses that take the job description into mind. Make your pitches as concise as possible and always end with the unique value you can bring to the project."
Ultimately, however, Ring says that it's a numbers game, so actively apply for gigs as much as you can. "The more gigs you apply to the better your odds. But that doesn't mean you can focus on quality over quantity." That means focusing on your research and tailoring your application to the role, as Ring suggested.
Don't do it on your own
If the idea of creating a profile, finding clients, and maintaining that work feels daunting, take another route. There are many other ways to get into the gig economy without being a freelancer or contractor, like driving for Uber. With so many services like this now available to consumers, and many similar services for businesses as well, there are plenty to choose from based on your availability and preferences.
For example, if you want to share your car, rather than be a driver, sign up with a service like Hyre or Turo. This means that your car is available to rent -- note that the process of screening renters is extensive, and additional insurance is provided for your car.
If you drive a lot, consider wrapping your car in a business' advertisement. These car-wrapping services do require that you drive a certain amount of miles every day, but if you drive a lot, you can even make more money depending on where you live, i.e. in a city where more people see your car.
Another option is to rent your home or a room in your home on one of the many rental sites now available to consumers. If you're renting an apartment now, check with your landlord first. In many cases, they don't allow you to rent your apartment or space if you're on a lease.
Jump into the gig economy with both feet
Our increasingly innovative and digital world has put the power to earn right into our hands. As you transition into a new career, supplement your lack of income with short-term gigs or a side hustle. Not only can you control how much money you bring in, you may end up earning more than you think—turning your side hustle into a business or giving your savings a boost when you do get another full-time job. Whatever your skills, there's a way to generate income, so consider your options and jump into the gig economy with both feet.
This article originally appeared on Glassdoor.com.