The nature of permanent employment is changing, revolutionized by technology. Is the gig economy here to stay?
In the suburb of Randburg in South Africa, 25-year-old media entrepreneur Zola Brunner is determined to succeed as her own boss. She works as a ‘full-time’ freelancer.
The gig economy is an option she deliberately considered, like many millennials like her.
“I didn’t intend to come into it. It just so happened that I was working at a news organization. I put in all my hours and dedicated my time. You push and push, but it got to a point where I wanted to also do more because I don’t like to stick to one thing or one job,” she says.
While working on a television show for her former employer, she was creating content for two other companies on the side.
“I was able to substitute that income where I was working and focus on the other jobs that I was doing.”
She cites flexibility as a major reason for venturing into freelance work. “It gives me more space and time to manage who I want to work with and what specific project I want to work on. You can also set your time and set your rate. So, for me, it fits into my lifestyle.”
In 2018, Brunner founded Beyond Media for two reasons. One of them was quite unexpected.
“I was working three, four jobs at the time, with different clients, and these clients came from referrals, people requesting and requiring video content for their platforms to disseminate onto social media. These clients wanted to market their product, their organization, and just boost their social media platforms. I was able to assist them with this.
“At that point, I realized there is a set number of referrals I’m getting that need this content, then surely, I’ll be able to do this on a permanent basis because it was getting out of hand. I was getting to a point where I had to make a decision; where I was going to focus on juggling a number of clients or one specific job. I took the first option.”
Brunner says the second reason was the realization that there’s a technology gap and mobile phones are at the forefront. She uses her mobile phone to film and create content for her clients. “My most memorable experience was when I delivered the final product to a satisfied client who was happy. From there, it led to more work, and I realized that I could do it, and I’ll be okay. I’m happy with my decision.”
While Brunner cherishes certain moments as a freelancer, she does face challenges. “Not knowing when to stop because, as an entity, you don’t necessarily have an accounts department, you don’t have a graphics team,you don’t have an HR manager, you become all of that. So, for me, the challenge is when do I stop? You get into a space where you do everything and there is no time clock, there is no 9-to-5. You work on the times when you need to deliver a project. That was problematic because it had an impact on my health. I had to resolve it by taking some time out and working on my time management and my health.”
Brunner sees a future for the gig economy. “The future of work is having the freedom to choose to work remotely or collaborate. It is the freedom to push boundaries and embrace new technologies because it’s ok. It’s how you are going to evolve and stay ahead of your competitors in order to be a success. It is also the freedom to disrupt the system.”
With one powerful brush in her hand, makeup artist Deogracious Dube, 27, works on the faces of clients. Besides referrals, she aggressively uses social media to acquire customers.
Dube previously worked as a makeup artist in a retail store.“I am largely in control of my own time. When I worked for MAC, I had certain hours to keep. I had to plan my life around those hours. As a freelancer, you can schedule how you work. You have time to actually do other things. I didn’t want to be on my feet eight hours a day. I have dreams and plans of starting my own business one day, my own makeup line, or opening my own salon, things like that.”
She speaks about the future of makeup artistry in the gig economy. “Makeup artists used to be in the background but the field is growing and becoming more glamorized and popular, and as a result, more people know about it and we have become more in demand.”
Uber is one of the major players in the gig economy. Their drivers, who are location-based freelancers, get paid for each ‘gig’. One hot Saturday afternoon, as people make their way in and out of a mall in the East Rand outside Johannesburg, Uber driver Donald Beukes waits in his car for his next customer, his eyes fixed on his phone.
“Being unemployed, I couldn’t find a job. I decided to join the Uber team because this was the only place I could actually get a job.”
When asked if he would ever consider returning to a nine-to-five job, he says: “No! I am my own boss. I determine how long I want to work. It actually builds your character. You push yourself if you work for Uber because you want to reach a certain target of money. If you reach your target, you’ll be able to make a living … Depending how much I push myself, I can make roughly R15,000 ($1,040) after paying everything.”
As South Africa is gripped by recession, pay hikes are hard to come by, and food and fuel costs are escalating. Therefore, having a ‘gig’or ‘side hustle’ has become critical for some people.
With the unemployment rate currently at 27.5% and the youth unemployment rate at 52.8%, some respondents we dealt with for this story have come to the realization that dependency on a government dealing with internal issues such as corruption, is no longer an option. This could be one of the many reasons why the gig economy is on the ascent in South Africa.
There is an increase in freelance work as more people opt for self-employment. Work in the gig economy can be web-based (you could work from anywhere) or location-based. Both provide flexible hours and a sense of freedom compared to a traditional job.
According to the Regus Exclusive Economic Survey, “A rise inflexible working also benefits individuals, set to save people 3.53 billion hours of commuting time by 2030. A predicted boom in flexible working could contribute $10.04 trillion to the global economy by 2030”.
Nesan Nair, senior portfolio manager at Sasfin Securities,says the number of platforms for freelancers to get their work to a larger audience are more accessible now, compared to 20 years ago.
“How many people have set up YouTube channels to do basic things? Baking a cake, for example, then they get people to subscribe and then they can sell advertising on that channel. It’s not a question of standing on a street corner and getting 1,000 people to come and view your product.
“We’re talking about millions and billions of people that can access what you have to say in a cheap and efficient manner. Look at Facebook users, for example; close to two billion people access the platform. If you can get your work on there and get a small percentage of people that understand what you’re doing, and if you’ve got a value proposition that makes sense and people are interested in, you can have a very successful launch in a matter of weeks.”
But while the benefits of the gig economy include freedom and flexibility, there’s a major downside to it, lack of security one of them.
“I know if I want to get a home loan, it’s going to be a little bit tricky because I don’t have a permanent job,” says Brunner.
“I don’t have fears when I reach my pension because I am putting aside money. It’s obviously not the same compared to a company that puts the money aside for you and you can’t touch it until you retire or until you leave,” says Dube.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution could disrupt the job market as technology threatens to replace a number of traditional jobs. There’s an alarming rate of retrenchments and job cuts in the formal sector and people may be forced to enter the gig economy.
According to Statistics South Africa, businesses in the country currently use 14% of total spend on their employees. These employment costs consist of salaries and wages, bonuses, pension, benefits, life insurance benefits, medical aid, and other employee-related costs. Businesses looking to offer freelance positions to lower company costs will mean more people will have the opportunity to take on more than one job at a time.
“A lot of people will start working for themselves. At the moment, we’ve got women drivers who are driving for themselves. It just shows that it’s not a male-dominated business, women are also coming in.,” says Beukes.
“A lot of people are realizing the economy is so unstable,and you can’t really rely on a job. People are getting retrenched, the world is changing, and traditional jobs are not what they were, say 10 years ago. You can’t rely on one salary as much as you think you can.
New jobs are also being created these days which were not around, say, even as little as five years ago. The job market is changing.
“A lot of people are really talented. They’ve got so many talents. You can be an accountant but you’re talented at organizing things or planning events, so you do events management on the weekend, or plan parties… There’s more to life than just one job. We’re all very multi-dimensional,” says Dube.
Nadir Thokan, an investment analyst for 27Four, says that ultimately it’s about productivity. “If people can be more productive freelancing, then that’s the way we’re going to be migrating towards. If we’re more productive by being a contractual employee, then that’s what you’re going to do. It also speaks on people’s risk appetite.
“Ultimately, you have to have a higher risk appetite in order to be a freelancer because you don’t have the stability of a monthly cheque, but it can be more financially rewarding over the long-term if you become very good at freelancing because your time becomes your own and you can work for multiple sources and that can be financially rewarding for you.”
Is the gig economy here to stay? “In the space where it can create employment, I think it will definitely disrupt the South African industry and it’s definitely here to stay, for example, the way Uber has revolutionized how people travel in South Africa has been phenomenal. The reality of the matter is that it is more cost-effective than a normal taxi(metered cab) and it’s creating employment, so those kinds of disruptions that are positive, and make people’s lives easier are here to stay.
In addition to growing the economy and improving the absorption rate into the formal sector,maybe we’ve got to rethink the way we create employment. Freelancing could definitely be one way we could reduce the number of unemployed people over time,” says Thokan.
Adds Nair: “Younger people, because of their nature, are more adventurous. They don’t buy cars, they Uber. They don’t buy houses, they Airbnb. It’s almost a different mind-set that they have in life. They don’t want to acquire assets, they want to acquire experiences… Younger people want to explore their own ideas, their own ambitions and the technological environment right now affords them that opportunity more than any point in history we’ve seen before.”
The only option then for Africa Inc. may be to consider changing mind-sets and redraft the employment rule book.
How To Successfully Negotiate Your Salary
With unemployment at a low 3.6%, American workers have been enjoying a candidate-friendly market, and many have used it to their advantage. According to a recent survey by recruiting firm Robert Half, 54% of job seekers negotiated for a higher payout before accepting their most recent position. Of those who didn’t ask for more, nearly one fifth said it was because they felt uncomfortable doing so.
“Anyone who has the experience is in demand,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “Everybody should feel comfortable negotiating compensation today.”
Negotiating can be intimidating, but with a little preparation, job seekers can be better equipped to walk away with what they’re worth. Here are three keys to a successful salary negotiation, plus what to do if the hiring manager doesn’t budge.
1. Do Your Research
While hiring managers often discuss pay with candidates early on in the hiring process, with 35% of respondents reporting that the subject of salary came up in their first in-person interviews, McDonald advises against negotiating before an offer has been made. If salary range does come up, use that as the starting point to research industry averages for the role at hand, using online resources like Glassdoor’s salary tools and Payscale’s salary calculator as your guide. Another form of compensation that’s worth considering is benefits. A flexible work arrangement or student loan reimbursement, for example, may not pad your paycheck, but they are perks that could boost your bank account. Whatever you do, don’t overshoot—that could be a turnoff. Flexibility and knowing your market worth is key, he says.
2. Establish Your Must-Haves And Your Nice-To-Haves
Before you go into a salary negotiation, determine what you need and what you can do without. “If you’re interviewing for a new role, or if you’re going to your current employer for the annual salary review, know what your priorities are,” McDonald says. “Take the emotion out of it and be really in tune with what’s important to you.” Not being able to articulate what matters most can cost you a few extra thousand dollars, or even the position itself.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no better way to calm prenegotiation nerves than to practice. McDonald recommends role-playing with trusted colleagues, mentors or recruiters so that you can get feedback from those who have been on different sides of the table. As you craft your pitch, remember to make liberal use of the words “we” and “us.” “It’s always good to try and join the parties when you’re negotiating,” McDonald says. Something as simple as “There are a few things that I’d like us to discuss” can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re a team player. For instance:
“I’m so thrilled that you’ve extended an offer and I’m really enthusiastic about the role! I know I’d be the right fit for the [co. name] team and based on what we’ve discussed during the interview process, my background and experience align really well with the expectations of the job. I’m hoping we can discuss the offer you presented because based on my research, the salaries in our area for [job title] are typically around [number]. I’m confident you’ll be pleased with what I’ll bring to the role and organization and I’m looking forward to contributing.”
It is unlikely that your negotiation will end with you receiving an immediate “yes,” so leave by offering to continue the conversation. If the hiring manager doesn’t follow up regarding your request or just won’t budge, ask yourself if you can still afford to take the opportunity. If the answer is no, tell the company right away. “Don’t ghost the opportunity,” McDonald says. “Regardless of how it all turns out, always be professional, always be courteous, always be objective.”
Bryan Habana Swaps Sweatpants For Suits
After 15 years at play Bryan Habana, the man who was once compared to a panther, discusses the end of his run on the field as he gives business a shot
Sitting at the SLOW Lounge in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile, sleeves rolled halfway up his arm, Springbok and World Cup-winner Bryan Habana looks a lot less like the menacing right winger with an insatiable appetite for tries and more like the entrepreneur he has now become.
The change was sudden. One day, he was recovering from injury and plotting a new season with his French club Toulon, the next he was walking into the Toulouse Business School getting his first badge in Business Studies.
“The decision to call an end to your sporting days is probably the most feared in a professional athlete’s life,” Habana says.
“You don’t really know what you’re going to be jumping into, even though they talk about preparing yourself for life after professional sport.
The transition is the most talked-about topic in sport because it’s so huge. When you’ve been doing something you love for five, 10, 15 years, you almost need to rediscover yourself once it’s done.
“But I’ve kept myself busy – even though I thought I would give myself time to reflect on the past 15 years, which hasn’t happened yet.”
In the post-training, post-gym routine that retired players find themselves, former professionals can often get stuck trying to find their next move. It’s an often depressing realization and a lonely time, filled with much angst and doubt.
Not for Habana. With much of the same finesse he weaved past seemingly closed spaces on the rugby field, he called marketing guru Mike Sharman after calling it a day and the pair, alongside Ben Karpinski, came up with sports marketing agency Retroactive.
“I had a chat with Mike Sharman – whom I’ve known since high school at King Edward VII School – when I announced my retirement last year and came up with the idea of creating something fresh and authentic within the digital sports marketing environment,” Habana says.
“Through Retroviral, Mike had been in the agency space for more than 10 years. He is not about being the biggest but just being the best at what you can do. Ben’s been in a similar space from a sporting fan point of view and he knows sport – not just one type but the heartbeat of it. Shaka Sisulu [Retroviral chairman] comes with a wealth of enterprise experience, which we all needed.
READ MORE | Super Rugby In Sin Bin
Swapping togs, kitbags and sweatpants for bespoke suits, ties and matching pocket squares was always going to make for an awkward transition for one of the most celebrated Springboks of all time.
In rugby numbers, Habana has clocked 124 test caps and a record 67 tries for South Africa, not to mention the World Cup, Tri-Nations, Super Rugby, European Championship and Currie Cup medals that dangle from his neck.
In his post-rugby career, his numbers were dialled back to zero – his factory settings restored.
However, his relationships garnered through rugby have come in as invaluable human relations capital.
Seeing him give a talk at the Mining Indaba in February, you’d think he’s been an entrepreneur for years. Doors that he didn’t know existed have opened and his shoes are tap dancing into rooms that rugby boots cannot take you.
Already, the company can count Jawitz Properties, Cricket SA and Biogen among the clients they create storyfied, authentic digital marketing content for.
Habana says: “I am fortunate as well that, throughout my rugby career, I was able to create a brand for myself and work with some of the biggest brands in the world… Through these partnerships, I’ve been able to see how the other side works.
“Given my wide network, it made sense that I come into a role where I could engage with potential clients. Hopefully, I won’t get seen as Bryan Habana: P.A. to Mike Sharman.
Yes, it’s difficult and you definitely don’t earn your playing salary but I am fortunate to have opportunities leading up to the World Cup. The synergy is very good and there is definitely something special brewing.
Habana joins a growing list of ex-professionals who have veered away from the predictable coaching route – something he describes as more difficult than being a player.
Patrick Lambie, who retired recently, also ruled out the possibility of getting into coaching and is likely to join his father, Ian, and former teammate Guy Cronjé’s business partnership.
Other teammates such as Bakkies Botha (game farming) and John Smit (former Sharks CEO) have provided Habana with a good sounding board in this dark new world he has entered.
“There’s not a support group or a WhatsApp group where we all log on and discuss these things but I definitely chat to John, Jean [de Villiers] and Bakkies, who have entered this space.
“And of course, my wife [Janine Viljoen], who ran her own business in Cape Town, provides good support.”
Perhaps, the grass actually is greener on the other side.
– Sibusiso Mjikeliso
IN PICTURES | South Africa’s first black female helicopter pilot for SAPS uplifts young women
It was an offbeat love affair at dizzying heights, when a young woman from the northern parts of South Africa stumbled on an opportunity that led to her becoming the first black woman to pilot a helicopter in the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Refilwe Ledwaba, born and bred in Lenyenye, a semi-rural township in the Limpopo province of South Africa, found herself at her wits’ end when she could not pursue a career in science due to outstanding university fees.
Today, as she soars the African skies as a contract flyer for various charter companies on the continent, her distant past keeps her grounded.
By turning challenges to opportunities, this University of Cape Town and Bachelor of Science candidate, ended up at an interview for a position in an industry she knew nothing about.
“I think that it was one of my down moments because I am thinking that I worked so hard. I did well at university. I am supposed to go to medical school but I can’t go now and now I have to become an air hostess. You think life dealt you another blow, but that is when everything changed,” she says.
Honesty, determination and the $7,260 outstanding fees secured her a position as a cabin attendant at the lowest point of her life.
Her unique passion for aviation grew over time; she gave in to the persuasion from instructors at the Comair training center and eventually trained as a pilot.
Today, the 39-year-old is ready to open this world for generations to come.
Ledwaba credits the journey, which started in the early 2000s, a time when the country was still going through political transition, to the strong women in her community.
“The environment shaped who I am today. I was surrounded by strong women. I was exposed to academic women. My mother was a school principal and my sisters went to university. The women in the community were mostly teachers and doctors,” she says.
Despite the absence of a single mother who worked seven days a week, Ledwaba always had a strong support system from her community which filled the void; there was always someone around to take care of her.
Using her life-story as a backdrop, the founder of the Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace Industry created the non-profit organization in 2009 with the core purpose of addressing the challenges she faced when entering the industry.
By breaking cultural and social barriers in aviation at the grassroot level, Ledwaba aspires to make aviation a norm for women through the Girls Fly Programme in Africa foundation.
This, she believes, can be achieved by exposing young girls to the industry at a young age, with hands-on training courses and life skills in aviation.
“Limitations are not imposed by the community, they are created structurally. There are limitations imposed as to what you can be, you become what you see. If you are surrounded by teachers and doctors, that will be the limit in terms of what you will be,” she says.
Ledwaba is currently working on a documentary project that traces the history of South African women in aviation.
By documenting the untold stories of African women in aviation, she hopes to highlight the fact that women have proven themselves capable in male-dominated industries for years.
“It is almost as if have we regressed. We no longer have women’s flying clubs. You hardly hear that women are competing now. But they did it back in the 1940s, that is why I feel it is important to touch that history. It needs to be in the museums, we need to go to museums and read these stories about the women so that it is no longer an event that women are flying,” she says.
The former Comair trainee is qualified to fly both helicopters and aeroplanes.
Jacky Fisha, CEO of FlyFofa, a South African-based aviation company, says women and men need to work together to ensure that transformation in the industry provides opportunities, from management to the cockpit.
“I see women taking over; if we work together, it will happen. We are trying to bring ideas that will not only benefit us as small private companies but things that will benefit the country. We are trying to reduce the unemployment rate, we are training girls as well,” she says.
A process that will take time but with adequate education and training, “there will be more women than men in the cockpit”.
Ledwaba discovered the industry in her late teens and was forced to learn on the go.
“Every pilot has a story and it is usually from a very young age. They will tell you that as far back as four-years-old they used to watch aircraft or build model aircraft … In Tzaneen [in Limpopo], we didn’t have any airport and there was no aircraft flying over us. I had never seen one, or been in on one until university. It was my first time being up close and flying in one,” she says.
The people who believed in her played a crucial role.
Pilot training pamphlets left in her locker and hints that she should be in a pilot class instead of training to be cabin crew gave her the impetus to step out of her comfort zone.
The hardest part of her training was flying a helicopter solo during her time with SAPS.
She was ready to quit.
“I used to weigh 49kgs and for you to fly a helicopter solo, at minimum, you need to weight 70 kgs because of the center of gravity, otherwise the helicopter will just hang. You need to balance it,” says Ledwaba. Ready to leave SAPS, her paperwork was signed but her heart was not closed to the idea completely.
Dressed in shorts and t-shirt, instead of her uniform, she made her way to what was going to be her last flight. However, it turned out to be the first of the 2,500 hours she would clock during the course of her career as a pilot.
“After hovering the helicopter a few meters above ground a couple of times, the instructor realized that it was not in the gravitational center. He got off and calculated everything. He knew I needed extra weight so he took a brick and put it in. He got off and on the radio he told me to take off, and here I am today,” she says.
Working in the SAPS not only exposed her to the most dangerous parts of the country, but it also developed her skills as a pilot and a woman.
“My instructor always told me ‘Refilwe, open your legs’. Now imagine a man saying to you ‘open your legs’, what comes into your head? But he is saying ‘open your legs’ so that you can control. Those are some of the cultural differences. So imagine a little black girl sitting there and the instructor keeps saying ‘open your legs’ and the more he said ‘open your legs’, the more I closed them. The more I did this, the more I controlled the aircraft with my legs [instead of my hands] and that is why I could not take-off properly,” she says.
With a sandbag adding weight and a little more confidence, she adapted to an environment created with men in mind. She gradually learned on the job.
The helicopters responded to crime-call outs ranging from murders to lengthy surveillance operations. “It is not for the faint-hearted. You get shot at while flying,” she recalls the times she recovered dead bodies in remote areas.
Now in the commercial airline industry, worlds apart from chasing the bad guys above the ground, her flights are more structured and regulated.
Ledwaba had a hard time adapting to the cleaner side of flying. From take-off to the final landing, procedures are followed thoroughly.
She now uses her experiences from both worlds to provide a multi-faceted education to her students. The future for women in aviation is positive, she affirms.
With adjustable cockpits in airlines that are suited for all shapes and sizes, Ledwaba says it’s a misconception that men are natural flyers and that it will change in time.
“I never got to be a captain but in the airlines, I used to listen to the captain welcoming the passengers when we land and you could hear the pride in his voice. ‘We carried you safely and we landed.’ I’ve always wanted to do that,” she says.
The industry is not what it was 10 years ago and this pilot is ready to do whatever it takes to come out on top.
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