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Getting Creative Work in the Gig Economy

Hal Conick

Most creative professionals aren’t ready for the business challenges of the gig economy, but Ilise Benun believes that everybody can learn

In 1988, Ilise Benun was fired from her job as the operations director for a travel agency. It was her second job out of college. She was furious. “I never wanted to work for anyone again,” she says. “I realized since then that I’m, in fact, unemployable.” With more free time on her hands, Benun visited with her creative friends. She noticed stacks of paper strewn about their desks. Each pile was bursting with opportunity for more business, better marketing and self-promotion. Benun used her newly found free time to help her friends with marketing and bookkeeping, finding enough opportunity under the piles of paper to start her own company. Soon, her client list grew and her status as “unemployable”—at least by anyone else—became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Benun is author of The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money and founder of Marketing Mentor, a company that helps creative professionals find “better clients with bigger budgets.” She has kept her business growing by responding to the needs of the market. Very soon, those needs will largely reside in the gig economy.

Currently, 34% of the U.S. workforce consists of gig workers, according to Intuit, a number predicted to grow to 43% by 2020. However, most creative professionals—even creative marketers—likely aren’t ready to manage their own business. That’s where Benun comes in. 

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Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at halconick@gmail.com or on Twitter at @HalConick.