Workers are exiting corporate America. There are reasons. The Great Resignation of October 2021 got our attention. Will direct selling companies make the adjustments needed to gain more share of a growing pool of gig seekers interested in flexibility and freedom in how work can be accomplished?
New opportunities do not guarantee new possibilities. Through my research and study, it has become apparent that the basic profile of society—relative to the distribution of wealth—remains about the same. This is a jarring truth to accept when considering that there are far more opportunities available to the average worker than there were two decades ago.
For the new year to be full of possibilities, opportunities must be chosen, embraced and—most importantly—leveraged. More than 60 million Americans have learned how to leverage their underutilized assets and talents to become active participants in the gig economy. Freelancers, independent contractors and micro-entrepreneurs have discovered how they are uniquely positioned to tap into income-earning possibilities that not only offer financial benefits, but also improve their overall quality of life.
How do direct selling companies attract talent from those interested in flexibility and freedom in how they work which are attributes that have fueled the growth of the gig economy? My research illustrated that six percent of workers participating in the gig economy were doing so as direct sellers. Why is that number so low? When we conducted additional primary research in October of 2021 the percentage of gig economy participants was down to four percent. What changes are needed in order to better attract the talent that is flooding the gig economy?
A New Way to Work
The Great Resignation we recently experienced left a lasting impression on the workforce as we know it. Traditional forms of work are an essential thread in the fabric of society, but a growing number of workers—not only the youngest generations, but also displaced Gen X employees and retirees witnessing their retirements dwindling—are discovering that there are opportunities for multiple streams of income and flexibility that can’t be found in a nine-to-five setting.
Approximately 50 percent of traditional workplaces adjusted their work models to appeal to this hunger for flexibility through the designing of hybrid work models or customizable work hours.
Work from home is no longer a temporary adjustment to a pandemic. It has become a new norm in many cases. Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of Airbnb recently announced the importance he now places on flexibility. His company wants to attract the most talented into its ranks and the most talented may not always be living, or even want to live, in close proximity to the geography which his offices currently reside.
Shopify Founder and CEO Tobi Lutke announced in 2020 that he predicted the office-centric era to be ending and therefore, Shopify employees would not return to an office-centric environment. Shopify, one of the most valuable companies in Canada, allowed most employees to work remotely permanently. In March of 2022, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon insisted that all employees return to regular work hours five days a week. It is reported that barely 50 percent showed up!
Those who have leaned into the gig economy, however, find income earning opportunities that are built on more simplistic models. Gig opportunities are typically easy to understand, quick to engage with and don’t require consuming interviews to get started. Pay is prompt and performance based. Gig workers basically hire themselves so they become their own boss as the work is always flexible and dependent upon how and when they would like to work, not a predesigned schedule. The manner in which the work can be done is not dictated by the gig providing company.
Creating multiple streams of income in a world where inflation is outpacing the average wage increase by three or four times is becoming a possibility, not simply a dream. Through the concept of leverage, workers can learn how to better utilize their underutilized assets to develop these new income possibilities. Underutilized assets can be physical, like a car or extra bedroom, while others relate to time, knowledge, skills, experience or even personality traits.
But assets alone do not a possibility make. Simplicity makes it easy to embrace a new opportunity because it aligns well with the assets you currently possess or minimizes the complexity of a new venture. Where simplicity removes barriers, flexibility removes limitations. Finally, the freedom to choose is the lever which removes restraints. Freedom of choice is not automatic, but rather must be a deliberately chosen path. Freedom of choice now allows the employee to become their own employer, choosing their work terms, their earning potential and their tasks.
The Duo of Direct Selling and Personalized eCommerce
The pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of eCommerce, and the growth now looks to be exponential. By 2040, it is expected that 95 percent of the global retail market will be happening online. This is a generational change, meaning it’s unlikely to be easily reversed.
This paradigm shift has been a boon for online influencers. The personalized marketing touch provided by affiliates can lend incredible benefit and credibility to the big-name brands they partner with. Much like affiliate marketers, direct sellers can earn commissions on the purchases made by customers as a result of their influence. In many cases, direct sellers also benefit when they sponsor others who also influence purchases made by more customers.
Unlike eCommerce offered by the company solely, direct sellers, as intermediaries, can add personality, personal and persuasive attention and follow-up which demonstrates a customer focus. The result: more personalized eCommerce enhanced by more personal relationships, increasing the probability of repeat purchasing and growth through a network of customers. There are no boundaries, limitations or geographical constraints because the direct seller is the intermediary. The company fulfills all of the business-related infrastructure needed to serve customers and other business partners.
The cultural shift that makes online sellers a trusted source and name brands adopting affiliate marketing programs means direct selling, as a channel of distribution which engages people as the intermediary, is in the perfect position for success. Direct selling can be a more preferred choice for those seeking ways to leverage their underutilized assets while seeking new income possibilities. However, direct selling opportunities are often muddled with unnecessarily complex product trainings and confusing compensation models.
The direct sales method can be as simple as find a product you love, share it with others and allow the company to ship directly to customers on behalf of the direct seller who influenced the transaction. Values such as flexibility and freedom of choice should always be honored. Hierarchy, deadlines (if any) and imposed requirements to participate might be reconsidered to become more competitive with the many choices made available by a gig economy that is forecasted to continue to grow at an impressive CAGR of 16.18 percent through 2027.
The New Ultimate Gig
The emergence and success of the gig economy is proof of concept that the marketplace is ready for and receptive to flexibility and freedom in how work can be accomplished. Choices are now abundant, and 2023 represents a year when direct selling companies have the opportunity to flawlessly execute on the shifting views surrounding work that we’ve seen widely accepted over the last two years.
This could be the year that direct selling becomes recognized as the Ultimate Gig!
John Fleming is the author of Ultimate Gig: Flexibility, Freedom & Rewards which provides an in-depth glimpse of the future of work and how the gig economy has fueled the growth and appeal of flexible work opportunities. John is principal of Ideas and Design Group, LLC and in both the DSA Hall of Fame and DSEF Circle of Honor. John is also a recipient of the DSN Bravo Lifetime Achievement Award. John has recently released LEVERAGE, a free eBook download.
From the January/February 2023 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.