Embracing the Gig Economy

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I don’t mean to date myself or anything, but back in the day “gig” was a term used by my musician friends who were playing a Saturday night show downtown at a little bar I know called Drink Beam ‘Til You Puke. (Ahem… *coughs*)

Not anymore, my friends. Not anymore.

There’s a whole lot of hoopla surrounding the word “gig” nowadays, and especially around the concept of the Gig Economy.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find millions of articles about it. Politicians are flying in experts to talk about it as they gear up for elections. Money mags are writing about it. Labor leaders are worried that the gig economy “threatens to undermine the very foundation upon which middle-class America was built.” Well…to quote Clark W. Griswold, “Hallelujah, holy shit… Where’s the Tylenol.” The middle-class is already in cousin Eddie’s proverbial shitter, isn’t it, folks?

Suffice it to say, the word “gig” means a whole lot more than hangovers, hot pho and lost bras. (*who? me?*)

What Exactly is the Gig Economy?

Put simply, the gig economy speaks to “freelance work.”

But, according to Google, there’s another definition: “A job, especially one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future.”

Sounds scary, no?


As a Visionary Business Coach I suppose you could say that I help folks move from the crumbling middle-class to set up shop in the gig economy and to live a work-life that curls their ever-lovin’ toes.

I myself have been part of the gig economy since 2003. And… I’ve had my fair share of scary worst-case scenario moments as I’ve waited for new gigs to show up. I’ve imagined myself “living in a van down by the river” and “eating a steady diet of government cheese.”  I’ve panicked and freaked out, and even considered one of those tiny houses that are all the rage at the moment. (That is, until I looked at my beloved bookcases, and slapped my own self with my first American edition of Animal Farm.)

I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be so scary, even through the ebbs and flows, and ups and downs. Because here’s the thing… none of my corporate jobs lasted forever. Even when I thought I had a certain future, it was a myth. Life is chaotic and ever-changing. There are no guarantees.

So… what if we were to wholly embrace the gig economy on a much deeper level? What if we were to consider gigs nestled within the gig economy? What if we said YES to temporary?

What would that look like for you?

How Can You Be Part of the Gig Economy?

  • First, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, people. All of the memories, tools, adventures and experiences you’ve had thus far in your life can come into play when considering what gigs you might offer to the world. We have a tendency to look at all of our past careers as “back then” or “over.” But I believe that all these seemingly disparate paths we’ve taken in our lives can coalesce into a big, beautiful lake of awesome that our clients can bathe in. (*eww*) These paths and experiences are what make us uniquely us. Un-copy-able. And these are the services that only we can offer in our own unique ways.
  • Second, you don’t have to quit your day job. Yet. In fact, I recommend that you offer up gigs in your down time until you have a steady flow of clients or customers. Unless, of course, you have a billion dollar nest egg and are set financially to soar off on your own with nary a care in the world.
  • Third, consider gigs within gigs. Let’s say your main gig is Life Coach. (Make no mistake, Life Coaches are a huge part of the Gig Economy.) Your clients, humans first of course, are also “gigs.” Meaning they aren’t likely to be with you until the end of time. If you’re a decent coach, in fact, they’ll be off and running and successful sooner rather than later, and you’ll likely never see them again. That’s sad to say when you grow to really enjoy working with them, but that’s your job. So… underneath the main gig of Life Coach, what are some other gigs you can offer? VIP weekends? Retreats? eCourses? Books? Group programs? Stuff outside of the box? Make a list of every single thing you love. Don’t leave a single thing out. And begin to look for patterns and start to imagine how these things might pool together into a gig only you can offer.
  • Fourth, understand deeply that everything is temporary. Even our cushy corporate jobs may be outsourced to squids at the bottom of the Atlantic. They are the smartest invertebrates, you know. The thing is… you never know. So… when you’re building a business within the gig economy, it’s important to fully embrace the temporary. You’ve gotta become zen, and Buddha, and non-attached, and all that shiz. You have to release one client who’s thriving to make room for a new client who’s ready to thrive. It’s ever-flowing, ever-changing, and awesome. An added bonus? You’ll likely never be bored.
  • Fifth, for crap’s sake, make sure you LOVE what you’re offering. Money is a great motivation. I adore money, and I firmly believe money is just a form of energy. But… often, if that’s the only motivation behind a gig, it won’t land and take root. I’ve found it to be more true that when I do something I’m absolutely, joyously in love with, that the money then follows.

In Thoreau’s words: “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” Then create a gig or two or three out of it. You can even make gig soup.

What say you? What gigs might you offer up in the world? And, if you’re already neck-deep in the Gig Economy, how’s it going? Have you considered any gigs within your gig?

For my visual peeps out there:


Who is Your Ideal Client? (You Might Be Surprised…)


I love Aha moments… more than mashed potatoes with a pound of real butter… more than snoring puppies sleeping soft-belly up… more than baby violet crocuses punching through the last bit of spring snow.

A few weeks ago I was coaching a client through some business “muck,” and I asked her to write an ideal client profile.

You’ve heard of those, right? The process is pretty common, but essentially you’re getting clear on your perfect client by writing down their attributes, perhaps what they struggle with, and maybe even detailing their personality a bit. I do this process with most of my business coaching peeps. If you don’t know who you want to invite into the folds of your business, they’re not likely to show up, eh?

I’d grown to know this particular client fairly well over the weeks before I asked her to create her Ideal Client Profile, but when she read me the results, I was dumbstruck.

She was describing herself.

Well… duh! I know it seems obvious. Maybe you’ve already realized this for yourself. But I’d certainly never made the connection.

As soon as our call was over I sat down and wrote out my Ideal Client Profile to test my hypothesis:

My ideal clients are heavily focused on spiritual and emotional growth. They’re full of depth and are ready to dig deep. They’re committed to doing what it takes to get where they want to go. They’re ready to take responsibility for what they’ve created. They’re introspective, philosophical and pretty self-aware. They’re smart too – whip-smart. Often, their work is in being of service to others. They’re great storytellers, but their stories don’t always serve them. They want to become masterful storytellers, weaving tales that empower them. They are well aware that they are the hero or heroine of their own journey and they come to our sessions bearing a scythe to clear the brambles and briars from their path. They listen to the Afternoon Delight station on Pandora. <—- Cut that last one. I don’t really expect my clients to love The BeeGees as much as I do, though that is a bonus.

Yup. I had just described myself.

That was my first Aha, but there was another.

My second Aha came during the conversation that ensued after said client read her profile to me. I felt like I was channeling someone much, much smarter than me. (Boy! That there, folks, is the magic… the reason I love coaching… what keeps me showing up – when I get out of my own way and allow something bigger to speak through me.)

I told my client that I think the fact that we are our own ideal client is the reason that we so often attract folks to us in coaching who are going through something we’ve just passed through ourselves. This is a super common phenomenon that happens in coaching (and in therapy.) I don’t have a name for it – maybe there is one, maybe not – but, inevitably, clients come to you in the throes of an eerily similar situation/feeling that you’ve just worked through yourself. It’s insane and it happens more often than not.

(Disclaimer: As coaches, if we’re still stuck in something, we can’t effectively coach another person through it. We need to either do our own work first to get unstuck or find someone who isn’t sticky to work with that client.)

I then told the client to imagine a cave. If we’re trying to “lead” someone through the darkness and we’re four miles ahead with our flashlights bobbing ahead of us, the client can’t often see their way out. If, instead, we’re walking just slightly ahead, flashlight trained on the ground in front of their feet, they can make the whole journey that way. Borrowing from E.L. Doctorow, “You never see further than your [flashlight], but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Now, is this true 100% of the time? Nope. I have clients who are miles ahead of me, and I have clients who are just getting started. There is something to be said for hiring someone who’s already arrived at the destination you’re headed to.

But make no mistake, we’re all here enrolled in this school called life and we’re all learning from each other.

There were all sorts of Aha’s that stemmed from this. For example, if you are your own ideal client, then your business will morph when you change, no? It also may be why “the WHY” of your business changes.

Help me with this little experiment, won’t you? Write out your Ideal Client Profile and tell me if you see yourself in it? Or give me a kind and gentle chiding and tell me where I’m wrong. Let’s discuss here in the comments.

Melanie Bates – Professional Flashlight Holder

Copycat, Copycat


I’m not sure who learns more when I’m coaching a client – me or my client.  Perhaps it’s how a teacher feels when a genius kid shows up in their classroom and starts to school them. Either that or they mix up a stiff vodka cranberry, eat the ends of their pencils and curse their fate, I’m not sure.

I’ve been pondering the occurrence of copycatting as of late.  You know what I mean, right? When someone close to you, or even those not so close, try to either become you or they do every single thing that you do, just one or two steps behind. Most of us do this as teenagers. If I had been given a hunk of gold every time my mom told me, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, you would follow them,” I’d not only have a golden palace, I’d probably have a golden kingdom. The answer then was, yes, of course I would have. I was fifteen, indestructible and my friends were my life.

But I see it today too, and I still do this.  When I first met Martha Beck at her ranch in California I wanted to crawl right into her and wear her skin like a little meat tuxedo. There was such a peaceful presence within her and an inner power that felt palpable. I felt as if she were talking to me without saying a single spoken word. It was quite dizzying. I so admired the life she had built, I loved the inner tribe of spiritual seekers that she surrounded herself with and I too wanted a life where I was enveloped by horses, mountain lions and bears, oh my. It’s likely, in part, why I signed up and completed her Life Coach training. Not to mention the fact that I felt like I had come home and was able to see that there was a term for someone doing what I was doing in the world – Life Coach.

I’ve had people try to replicate my life as well. Folks who have wanted to become a coach like me. Peeps who have modeled their businesses after mine. Women who wanted to write in a similar voice. Girls who have gone back to college later in life because I did. Some have even copied my signature hair-do (which is the most egregious of all because, most of the time, my hair looks like an errant Q-Tip that has been shuffled around in a travel bag for the past twenty years or so.)

The thing is I never really understood why, until a few days ago on a coaching call with one of my dearest clients.  Jill Dryer, (who has graciously given me permission to write about her and our conversation) is probably one of the most creative women I know. Her energy is that of hummingbird meets eagle and you can literally feel her creative juice crackling through the phone line on our weekly calls. As we began to talk about copycatting which, by the way, is how it goes in coaching – if you’re noodling something in your own life, invariably your client will bring it up. (Is it collective consciousness? I don’t know, but it’s sometimes just flat out eerie.)

Anyhoo… as we were discussing this phenom, Jill said, “Think of the Tour de France.  If you’re trying to find your rhythm or you don’t know your way, it’s okay to ride behind the person in front of you, it gives you momentum and helps you to see where you’re going. It’s called drafting.”

My jaw dropped to the floor as this lil’ gem sunk into my bones. That’s why we do this.  I don’t want to be Martha and wear her meat suit. Truly I don’t, plus it would be completely psychotic and gross. I just needed to draft along behind her for a bit to test my speed, the wind, the climb and the terrain until I had the gumption to push out on my own and let the wind hit me straight in the face without buffer.

And all these peeps who are trying to replicate me, well, I don’t know why they’d ever want to, for one, but I get it.  It’s because they haven’t quite figured out what they are supposed to do so they’re riding along behind, using the momentum of the path I’m forging to test their own paths.

The best part of figuring all of this out was later realizing that no one is ever in the lead, really.  Even though some folks may be further down the path, (like Oprah or J.K. Rowling,) it’s not a race.  There’s not a first place or a second place or even a last place because we all have a different finish line that is as individual as we are.  Not only that, our paths are wholly different. While I have started out drafting behind some amazing women throughout my life, my course has veered and each time I’ve found my own way. (But… boy am I thankful they were peddling before me.)  However, just as certain as I am in this moment that I’m going it “alone”, invariably I will ride up behind someone who models something else for me, and I’ll rest a spell in her draft, getting a sense for the speed and route, before I forge on “alone” again. And so the “race” goes.

This is dedicated to all those trailblazers and all those fierce peddlers who have gone before me, gracious, amigas.  I’d love to hear who you would like to thank for allowing you to draft behind them. Tell me about your copycat stories.

With burning thighs,


P.S. For those of you who read my Hysterectomy? Or No? blog, I’ve gone and done it… I’ll be having the surgery next Thursday, 4/10/14. Prayers and healinig juju welcome. This means I’ll be off my blog for a bit eating sugar-free JELL-O and counting the number of invisible bugs on my skin.  But… rest assured, I’ll be back.

An Ode to Sugar (From an Addict)

sugar heart candy

I’ve long had a love affair with Almond Joy pieces. Every night we would climb into bed together and I would caress the blue bag, pulling them out one by one to nibble at the candy shell, hoping upon hope that when I finally bit into the luscious chocolate there would be an almond surprise waiting for me.

Before that it was Nerd Ropes. Our passionate tryst lasted a good couple of years and I would twirl them around my finger like rainbow locks of hair, gently pulling the big Nerds off the gummy and popping them into my mouth.

Once upon a time, I was even married to Rice Krispie treats. We lasted about ten years. Unfortunately, after so much time together, the relationship grew stagnant and we fell into a comfortable routine wherein I would no longer bother to shave my legs and the krispies would no longer conform to a pan or squares. They would show up as a blob on my dinner plate accompanied by a fork. They just really let themselves go. We were quite the threesome when the utensil came along. Eventually I realized the dysfunction and we parted ways.

I’ve cried over a good strawberry rhubarb pie.

Lemon bars have broken my heart wide open.

Warm brownies topped with vanilla ice cream have done me in. Over and over again.

As a kid I was less discerning about who I cavorted with. There was Hubba Bubba, Big Hunk, Snickers, Pop Rocks (though, admittedly, he was a bit old for me), Baby Ruth (he was too young), Mike and Ike (I was too young), Watchamacallit… Ah, lovers all. The only two I couldn’t hang with were Peeps and Candy Corn. We just couldn’t get along no matter how much I tried.

Like any decent addict I wasn’t always in integrity when it came to my relationship with sugar either. One summer, when I was about ten, my seventy-five year old Grandmother came to stay. I was in dire need of a sugar fix, but my mom didn’t keep much on hand in the house. I cried to my Grandma that I had a project due at school – a mammoth sculpture comprised of colored miniature marshmallows and toothpicks – but my parents wouldn’t get me what I needed. She looked into my tear stained face and agreed to walk the two miles with me to the store and purchase my goods. That night in bed, I stared at my masterpiece composed of about twelve mini marshmallows and saw the empty bag lying next to it and clutched at my heaving stomach. Then I prayed to God for forgiveness for my lies in the name of my addiction. Okay, in reality, I probably just said, “I’m sorry, God” and uttered about half a Hail Mary.

I’m forty-three now and not much has changed (aside from the integrity piece now that I have my own money to get my fix.) When I walk into the grocery store during any holiday I head straight for the middle two aisles. It’s like opening the door to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The colors are so bright, the lighting so optimized, and there are shiny tinfoil chocolates for every season… and Valentine’s hearts and Cadbury eggs and jellybeans and Christmastime… Forget about it.

On January 10th, due to some pretty severe health issues, I cut out the sugar.


I’m in mourning.

Coupled with fits of denial.

What about Stevia? What about pure maple syrup? What about coconut palm sugar? What about certified organic pure maple sugar?


What about a bullet to my nucleus accumbens, then? (I mean, I no longer really need that part of my brain associated with reward now, right?)

Now I eat bananas every. single. day. A staple that was never before included in my diet because I hate the texture. Mush anyone? In my previous life the only use I had for banana was as a flavor in my Runts candy conveniently shaped just like a banana and oh-so-delicious. Now this, um… soft fruit has  become my saving grace. My savior. My best friend. I blend it up in shakes and I mash it up with coconut oil, pure vanilla extract and cinnamon and pour it over baked apples for a mock apple pie.

And still I mourn.

Valentine’s Day is approaching. Those candy hearts taunt me in their bright red bags with their sweet sayings stamped into succulent sugar.

As for my health issues and this new anti-inflammatory diet, I’ll be writing about that another time when I’m over the withdrawals and have shed my black veil.

I’d love to hear about your relationship to sugar. And… any tips you might have for my cravings would be oh-so-welcome.

In sweetness, sort of,


Dear Women, Enough with the “I’m Sorry”


I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago. I needed a package of Almond Joy pieces and some celery. (Don’t judge.)

I had taken one of those little mini carts, just in case I got a hankering in the chocolate aisle. Upon returning it, I was met by a lovely woman unloading her groceries from her own itty bitty cart.  As I approached, she looked down and muttered, “I’m sorry.”

I uttered my cheerfully automated, “No worries,” pushed my cart to the side of hers, and pulled my bag of bliss from the cart.

And then I stopped.

Why was she sorry? She wasn’t in my way. She wasn’t even near to being in my way. And… even if she had been in my way, I would need to wait. She was there first. I’m not one of those creepy apes on 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was in that moment when I realized that she was apologizing for her very existence.

Maybe you think I’m exaggerating.

I don’t think so. It seems to me that women are constantly apologizing for just BEing. My rote “No Worries” made me realize that I’m so completely oversaturated by these occurrences that it doesn’t even phase me and I’m constantly responding with, “No worries” (a.k.a. = “It’s okay that you exist.”) To a dozen. women. a. day.

Holy shitballs!

Since I’ve had this epiphany, I’ve been hearing “I’m sorry” for weeks. It’s been like a symphony – from the woman at Target browsing for a new book as I stood next to her; from the gal at 7-11 searching for a sugar fix as I searched for more Almond Joy pieces; from another woman just trying to get out of the bakery that I was about to walk in to.

And… I just don’t commonly hear this phrase from men. Not that it NEVER happens, but in my experience it only happens about 1% of the time. In fact, just yesterday as I walked into the grocery store, a burly dude in Crossfit paraphernalia with three carts full of what I can only imagine were protein powder and bananas took his ever-lovin’ sweet time blocking six of us from being able to grab a cart and not a peep came out of him. Ten minutes later a line of twelve rushed for the carts as he strode past with forty plus bags on each arm.

Typically, I only hear men tell me they’re sorry when they actually have something to be sorry about.

So what is this, dear women? Aside from an apology for our very existence? Are we all hanging on to the adages of our childhood, “Be nice,” “Apologize,” “Say you’re sorry, Melanie, that’s not how little girls act.”  I don’t have a definitive answer, but I’ve caught myself apologizing all over town these past few weeks, despite myself. How many apologies have I uttered in my lifetime? I bet I can’t count that high.

And… don’t get me wrong, I’m all for good manners. Saying “thank you” and “please” and not being that creepy ape I mentioned earlier, but apologizing for book browsing or sugar fixes should just never happen. Ever.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, why do you think women are so quick to say “I’m sorry” when it’s clearly not necessary? Any theories? Any experience of this yourselves?

Aside from helping me to figure this one out, I challenge each and every one of you to stop saying you’re sorry. Unless you accidentally punch someone wearing Crossfit gear in the groin, then an “I’m Sorry” might be in order.