You Need These Skills and Characteristics to Master Gig Work

Determine if you have them and learn how to hone them

Not everyone is built for a nine-to-five office job. The same goes for gig work. Doing the hustle in the new gig economy takes grit, determination, and a specific set of talents and personality traits. If you don’t have these skills or qualities, don’t despair; you might be able to develop them. Or you can work on sharpening them to increase earning potential.

Interpersonal skills

If you tackle gigs in the hospitality or healthcare industry, having people skills is a must. But even if you work from your kitchen counter, you likely still have to interface with clients on occasion. Interpersonal skills are desirable for any job, of course, but people in salaried positions aren’t always on the hook to get the next gig or secure a positive rating or review. Gig work offers very little room for getting lax with how you interact with others. People skills that are fundamental for being an independent contractor include patience, empathy, and the ability to be an active listener.

Patience:If any kind of waiting frustrates you to the point of anger, likely you lack patience. We need patience to remain calm in many job situations. One of the top ways to develop this key soft skill is by practicing it, according to Inc. Make yourself wait more often. Becoming aware of the things or events that make you impatient and why they do can also help you rework your thoughts surrounding the frustration. Over time, you can learn to relax when impatience crops up.

Empathy:The capacity to understand or identify with how someone else feels is called empathy. If you have a hard time putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, that’s an indication you might be low on this skill. Empathy helps you go the extra mile in customer service situations, and it can even help you anticipate a client’s needs before they arise. Some medical conditions may impact one’s ability to empathize. Plus our capacity for empathy is partially inherited through genetic makeup. But we can also teach ourselves to be more empathetic, according to an NBC Better article. Try these six empathy-building methods published in Greater Good Magazine. A proven approach involves reading more literary fiction, according to Scientific American, so pick up a classic or something new at your local bookstore.

Active listening:When we truly listen and hear what someone else is saying, we are active listening. Active listening means not thinking about what you’re going to say next, not making the conversation about you, and not checking your text messages. It’s a skill that can help you with gig work and also strengthen relationships with family members, romantic partners, or friends. On the job, active listening can be tricky, especially if you’re using a navigation app during a rideshare trip while your passenger is talking. This Psych Central article offers 13 active listening techniques you can practice so they become second nature.


The term professionalism can often get confused with formality. Perhaps it brings to mind the image of dressing in stodgy business clothes and being overly stiff. But professionalism as a skill has more to do with your combined interpersonal aptitude, your attitude, and your dependability.

Treat people with courtesy. If you can master the interpersonal skills mentioned, you’ll behave professionally toward the people you interact with during a gig. Think about how important that is to the folks doing the hiring. If a company contracts you as a freelance photographer, for example, that company is much more likely to offer you a future shoot if you’ve treated the people on set with respect and even made them feel at home.

Attitude is everything in the gig world. Negativity will breed more negativity within yourself and with the others around you. Doing gig work with a bad attitude in a restaurant, for example, is a fast way to a bad rating. And even if you’re in your home office toiling on a solo programming project, attacking the work with a pessimistic mindset won’t increase your enjoyment of it. Instead, the negativity will impede your ability to do a good job, and your client will sense your lack of enthusiasm. Inc. offers eight ways to improve your attitude.

Be dependable. You might be the best copy-editor around or the most in-the-know concierge, but if you don’t show up, show up late, or miss important deadlines, you’ll stop getting gigs—plain and simple. None of our skills really matter if we aren’t reliable.


The very nature of gig work means that routine often gets disrupted. Instead of a paycheck every two weeks, you might have ten different paychecks coming in that vary in amount from month to month. Your work hours might be sporadic and based on gig availability, peak gigging times, or client needs. Some people thrive on the excitement of all of this change. Plus, they like the freedom that gig work gives them in return. Of course, you can find ways as an independent contractor to set and meet income goals, achieve a semblance of a regular schedule, or communicate with clients to understand their needs in advance. However, gig work or freelancing will always involve a lot of moving parts, so being adaptable is critical. If flexibility isn’t your strong suit, work on your problem-solving skills, your patience, and your empathy.

Hustle and drive

Getting work done, time management, seeking gigs, setting your hours, networking—all of this takes an immense amount of self-motivation, a must-have skill for any independent contractor. This Forbes piece says, “motivation is a muscle.” That means you can indeed strengthen it if you feel yours is on the flabby side.