Gig work in marketing and communications: preparing for growth in calgary’s creative economy.

The goal of this research study was to open a dialogue about how we might create the conditions in which Calgary’s creative economy – and Calgary’s creative industry workers – could continue to thrive in the midst of this nation-wide shift to a gig-based employment model.

To support a thriving gig-based creative economy in the 21st century, we must work to:

  1. Seed mentorship connections throughout the student, apprentice, and professional stages of creative employment.
  2. Find new ways to align creative careers with creative experiences.
  3. Strengthen professional communities to improve surge capacity.
  4. Initiate new training and learning opportunities into marketing and design curriculums to support a wider variety of creative practice and skill development.
  5. Establish strong networks of gig workers and finding new ways to integrate them effectively into existing organizational cultures.

Our study showed that creative careers exist on a continuum beyond that described by solopreneurship, entrepreneurship and workplace models. Gig economy creatives were more likely to describe their career journey as being cyclical or fluid than monodirectional. Contrary to expectations, the decision to transition from traditional employment to gig based creative work was seldom guided by a desire for solopreneurship or entrepreneurship opportunities. Instead, gig economy creatives described a career continuum of working in a traditional collective (agency, corporation or partnership), moving toward gig based work (solopreneurship, freelance, contract or piecework) and then experiencing a third phase of evolution where they either rejoined a collective, or formed a new collective through the partnerships they established in their gig-based network.

If we are able to seize these opportunities, Calgary has the chance to become a destination for freelance, gig and remote workers from the creative economy and beyond. By developing an adaptive creative labour force – one that supports the connections creative workers need to other creative professionals, to work that is personally significant, to existing sector specific networks, and to meaningful creative practices – we can help Calgary build a unique enabling capacity for gig workers, creative industries and the wider creative economy.