OK, let me get one thing out the way; I don’t like the term Slashie. In fact, I hate it quite frankly. I don’t think it’s possible to dream up a more pretentious or ridiculous sounding name, but there you go. I’m only here to commentate on the state of the gig economy, not define what terminology we use. So I guess we’re stuck with it. But more importantly, what is a Slashie?
I must admit, despite writing about the freelance and gig economy on a more or less daily basis, I wasn’t familiar with it until it appeared in the news.
Looking online, there’s evidence of the term going back until 2012, perhaps even further. However, it seems as though recently the term Slashie has jumped into our councious due to the exponential rise in gigand freelance workers. So what does it mean?
Essentially, the principle of being a Slashie is being a worker who have multiple careers, or positions.
A worker could be classed as a Painter/Photographer/Writer. Hence the slashes, hence ‘Slashie’ (I told you it was ridiculous!). Think of it as the renaissance man for the millennial age. Either that or someone who can’t make their mind up.
Whilst it’s certainly nothing new for a worker to hold multiple positions (think of the architypical single mum working in a second job to make ends meet) the nature of the multiple job gig worker is certainly a signifier of the current state of the economy. So why is that? Why are workers taking on multiple positions, rather than the single, safe and boring 9-5 career?
Why be a Slashie?
From what I’ve read and what I gather from speaking to different workers and freelancers, there seems to be a number of different reasons making becoming a Slashie either appealing or a necessity.
1. Flexibility. Many workers these days are shunning the traditional 9-5 work pattern. They don’t want to be chained to a desk all day, taking orders from some pretentious boss. They want to stride out on their own, making their own way in the world. Creating. Dreaming. With flexibility though comes more of a risk. When you choose to go freelance, rather than having that steady wage coming in each month, there might be a need to market yourself in multiple roles to keep an income coming in. For example, you might fancy yourself as a photographer. You love the lifestyle anf the flexibility, but it’s not paying the rent currently. So you take on a few hours as a delivery driver. And hey presto, you’ve got yourself your first slash.
2. Neccesity. The sad truth of the economy at the moment is that it simply isn’t working for many people. While official government stats point to a rosy, booming economy with record low unemployment, that doesn’t tell anything of the real state of play for workers. Their leisure time. Their disposable income. Their job security or opportunities.
The fact of the matter is, for many people this is getting worse. Working in multiple roles is simply a fact of life for many people now. There might be a zero contract hours job available at the factory, and then you make ends meet by picking up work as a dog walker and childminder in the rest of your time. Officially, you’re employed and a happy tick in a box for a government employee, but it’s a hard slog to juggle these commitments and try and make a reasonable living.
3. Entrepreneurship. According to statistics, record levels of people are now making a second income by running their own business or side project, alongside their current profession. It’s not difficult to see why this might be the case. The Internet has opened the door to anyone with a laptop and a bank account to set up an eBay store, a website on ecommerce business and try and make a bt of money from their own home. You can manage your business from your phone on the go, during your lunch hour or even on holiday, which has opened up an enormous market that would previously have been unthinkable for working people. Hence so many office workers/business owners out their able to call themselves Slashie.
4. Lifestyle. Another reason people seem unhappy with keeping the one profession is the lifestyle that brings. I wouldn’t say boredom per se, although this will clearly be a factor for some people. It’s more the relentless strain of working a single, intense career driven profession. For example, a sales manager or retail worker has to have a daily interaction every day with customers and clients, constantly responding to managers and targets. It can be overwhelming. Although it might be something you enjoy fo 3 days or the week, 5 might be simply to much. Especially if it’s an office job where you’re chained to that desk, unable to move for days on end.
So that’s where the Slash comes in. People are looking to reduce their hours, or change their career altogether and take on new, different challenges. 3 days a week in the office, 1 day looking after the elderly and one running your Etsy store. So your slashes would be Office worker/Care worker/craft maker.
Do you think Slashie are just a phase?
Almost certainly not. The trajectory of the economy means that working in different, flexible positions is almost inevitable going forward, except for the most qualified, or wealthiest amongst us.
Britain especially is a highly service based economy, but with automation eroding the number of workers needed year on year the number of stable, full time jobs is simply declining.
So if you combine the workers struggling to get full time hours, with the millenials who want to work in flexible positions as a lifestyle choice then it’s difficult to see how the number of Slashie will do anything but rise.
In many ways, that’s a sad state of affairs. I personally find the industry new and exciting, but for many people having one reliable, permanent position would suit them down to the ground. They would thrive, and not feel shackled or contained as so many of us do.
But if Slash working is the reality of the economy going forward, then better to embrace it than get left behind! Or at least start having a think about what second job you might be good at, should the situation ever arise for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up that paintbrush, start that blog or start building that luxury watch empire that you’d always dreamt of. After all, if you can’t beat em, you might as well try and join em.