Mastering the Gig Economy

If you’ve seen someone and asked, “How did they even get that job?!”, chances are I’ve done it. 

“How did I get here?” is a common question I reflect upon as I’m doing jobs such as the following:

  • Dressing up as a hot dog for a flash mob.
  • Directing people to a seminar on Diabetes induced Glaucoma, then eating a three course Italian dinner with unlimited wine to fill the seats to listen to said seminar. 
  • Doing hair and nails at the New York Toy Fair
  • Driving a car as a mermaid for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
  • Serving wine from behind a “living” hedge.
  • Driving a pedicab around central park handing out snacks. 

This type of gig is known as “brand ambassador” and “promotional model” work.

But what does that mean?

“BAs” and “promo models” are simply independent contractors who are externally hired for X amount of days to represent the respective company and brand.   It involves doing anything from greeting guests to sampling out a product.  I’ve fully embraced this “1099 life” and have fully dived into the gig economy.

Each day is different, I go some awesome events, I get paid more than minimum wage, and, most importantly, I have the freedom to make my own schedule. I don’t have to worry about getting my shift covered if there is an audition I want to go to, and if I book a dance gig, I just up and go. No burned bridges, no hard feelings, and no awkward conversations. 

However, it’s not always as great at getting paid $75/hr to drink champagne.

While I’ve worked some amazing events such as Comicon and the New York Fancy Food Show (I left with bags of free gourmet food!!!), I’ve also had some miserable, gut-wrenching, soul-sucking days eliciting the question “what the hell am I doing with my life?!”  I’ve accosted people enjoying a sunny afternoon to get them to take a survey, I’ve handed out drinks for 9 hours to New York’s worst, and I’ve stood in freezing grocery stores for hours sampling out products that taste terrible.  

Though all of this, I’ve come to understand human nature a bit more. I’ve always said that if you want to know who someone really is, watch how they treat the “the help”.  On the one hand, I’ve met some hilarious characters who have been good for some thought provoking conversations. On the other hand, I’ve been yelled at, scoffed upon, and treated terribly by entitled customers who hide their inner-self behind a mask of hundred dollar bills to the people who “matter”.    

Pros and cons aside, you are probably wondering how I even go about getting these brand ambassador and promotional jobs.  Well, you’ve stumbled upon the right blog post!

My dad displayed this photo next to my two degrees on the wall….

1.Curate a Resume

Key work experience categories for a strong resume are the following:

  • Brand Ambassador:  representing a brand at an event and doing tasks such as greeting, encouraging people to try a product, running a photobooth experience, providing directions, and creating brand awareness.  
  • Promotional Model: this like a brand ambassador, but at the end of the day the most important task is to stand there and look pretty. 
  • Product Specialist: Knowing the ins and outs of a product, and pitching it to potential consumers. 
  • Sampling and Product Demos: self explanatory. 
  • Street Team: distributing things in the street, from fliers to candy to beverages. 

When I first started my journey in the gig economy, I reworded past experience to sound qualified; AKA, I lied. For example, I had to de-greet audience members every so often when I was working on the Eurodam.  I called that “Holland America Line Brand Ambassador.”  Get creative and don’t feel guilty about bending the truth.  Anyone can hand out a flier or run coat check, it’s just a matter of getting the employer to think you are intelligent and capable.

2.Spend hours searching Facebook and Craigslist

There are various Facebook groups for brand ambassador work, and sending out emails and creating online profiles for the different agencies that post is how you get the ball rolling. It takes time, lots of phone interviews, and plenty of rejection… but hang in there! 

After exhausting Facebook options, look through Craigslist gigs section for various odd jobs with titles like “brand ambassador”, “promo job”, and “event staff”.  Not only will you find work, but you will learn how weird and twisted the world is with countless posts by people looking to satisfy the strangest fetishes (I will never understand why people can find feet so sexy…) 

Here are some tips for avoiding getting yourself into a sticky situation:

  • Before accepting a job, search the company/person/business online to be sure it’s legitimate.  If it seems sketchy, request a phone call or facetime interview. If it still seems sketchy, don’t do it. 
  • If the ad is short and riddled with spelling mistakes, chances are you shouldn’t inquire further. 
  • “Open minded” doesn’t mean you are willing to change your opinion on politics. 
  • “Get Rich Quick!” with money emojis  indicates a pyramid scheme that will cost you more than you get. 

3.Form Good Relationships

Work leads to work.  Once you book one job, be sure to show up on time, work hard, get contact information, and make a good impression.  Showing the company and booking agent that you are a valuable team asset will eventually lead to them reaching out to you instead of the other way around.  

4.Continue Hustling On

It a blessing and a curse that each gig may only be one day.  You can clock out knowing you never have to work that job with those people again, but you immediately have to find the next gig.  Flexibility is a beautiful thing that is conducive to my current goals and ambitions, but there is a certain level of stress that comes with not knowing if you will make $2000 or $20 the next week (and yes, that is a realistic range.)

To make a gig-life work, you have to be a self-motivator, ambitious, comfortable with instability, and okay with walking onto a job with no idea as to what you may be doing. 

Final Thoughts

If you follow my ridiculous journeys on Instagram, you see the cute outfits and funny experiences.  What you don’t see is the hours and hours spent looking through the job boards and making online profiles, and the years of forming relationships, proving that I am worth hiring.   

Gig-life has taught me how to be adaptable, how to become an expert on a product in 30 seconds, the importance of self-control and biting my tongue, and that I can’t change people, but I can change how I react.  It also has revealed quite a lot about the human species, and  my faith in humanity has slowly dwindled to a state of depressing hopelessness.  There nothing like nearly getting a hand chopped off while trying to hand out free La Croix outside Madison Square Garden to realize someone’s true colors.

Some days are great, some days are terrible, and that’s life!  You work through the valleys knowing that there is a peak on the horizon, and setbacks make each win that much sweeter.  Complacency is the death of success and progression, so when you are sitting on the couch depressed and on your second glass of wine, congratulate yourself for being brave enough to be miserable.  Happiness is on the horizon!

Think the 1099 life is for you? Give it a go! Maybe I’ll see you on the next gig.

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