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#NextGenWork Part 1: Jessica Chou

Written by Ahva Sadeghi on July 15, 2019
4 min read

Symba is expanding beyond the scope of internships to all-things future of work. Our team is now making an exciting pivot to support one of the biggest transformations into the new contingent workforce, most commonly referred to as the Gig economy.

Work is shifting from the traditional model of full-time work engagements to mini-gigging using Uber and TaskRabbit, freelancing on Upwork and Behance, and a range of contracting through staffing agencies. This is a major global trend reshaping the way we think about employment. Deloitte reports that over 40% of the US workforce participates in the gig economy, and this number is expected to grow to the majority of the US workforce by 2027. There are many benefits as people can now tap into alternative and flexible work powered by new technology, and companies can save by hiring talent on demand.

Although there are many benefits to contingent work, with any major transformation comes growing pains and rising challenges. This new shift to contingent work is a monumental trend impacting worker’s rights, business operations and new innovations in technology. Symba is getting right to the source to learn more from contingent workers and everyone engaged in this new form of working model.

We are launching our latest series #NextGenWork to capture the voice of the new generation of work and better understand how Symba can use technology to create symbiotic relationships in this new ecosystem. In our first spotlight, we are excited to highlight Jessica Chou who speaks to some of the challenges and unique benefits to working as a freelancer from her own personal experience.

Hi Jessica, thanks for being our inaugural #NextGenWork feature! Please tell us about a little bit about yourself.

I’m a freelance creative producer based in Los Angeles with 8+ years of experience producing impactful campaigns and experiences across entertainment, advertising, and social impact. My projects have ranged from digital short-form content, to an award-winning feature-length film, social media campaigns, and experiential activations. Some of my past clients include Facebook, TOMS, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Paramount, AT&T, and the Grammys. My work has been featured in TIME, The Huffington Post, Variety, Today, and People, and have won marketing and advertising industry awards such as The Webby Awards Clio Awards and SXSW. I’ve been freelancing now for about 2 years.


Why did you decide to work in the gig economy?

I decided to start freelancing a few years ago because I wanted the freedom to work on my passion projects. I found that with freelancing, I could still make the same amount of money I was making full-time (or close to it) while working half the amount of hours and freeing up the other half to work on my passion projects. One of them being Paive - a community and career platform for Gen Z women.

What do you love about your work arrangement?

I love that I make my own schedule. On any given day, I could be doing a bunch of different things, but I am usually able to determine the order in which I do them. I feel a lot more balanced and much healthier now because I’m able to prioritize eating right, exercising, and of course, sleeping. It’s wonderful knowing that I can accomplish all of these things AND get client work done. Not the other way around. In the past, when I was full-time, I was often left to choose between more work, exercising, cooking, and sometimes even sleeping.

What do you find is most challenging about working in the gig economy?

Finding stability and maintaining my mental health. I’m someone who is a natural planner (you sort of have to be if you’re a producer), and not knowing when my next paycheck is going to come has been extremely challenging. Some months, I’m not making any money, and other months, I’m making a lot of money. This lack of stability has definitely taken a mental toll on me. I’ve become religious about budgeting…which is helpful, but can also be detrimental because I’m constantly thinking about how much I’m spending/saving.

If you could fix anything about your experience working on short term projects, what would it be?

While I love working on short-term projects, I wish there was more of a lasting relationship with the projects and clients afterwards. For example, I produce a lot of events, and while I see them through production, I would love to be kept in the loop post-event. I’d love to know the results of the event and feedback from the clients and sponsors. Understanding the insights post-event would help me grow in my career and become a better producer for future projects.

If you could give advice to someone interested in doing the same career as you, what would you tell them?

Network, network, network. It’s known that if you want to freelance, you have to have a strong network, but I didn’t take this as seriously as I should’ve when I was just starting out. I relied too heavily on former colleagues who knew me and knew the quality of my work to toss projects my way. Eventually, those referrals ran their course. I still get work through word-of-mouth, but in order to stay consistently working, you must put yourself out there, and let people know that you’re available and that you’re an expert in what you do.

Another piece of advice would be to find a niche and stay focused. The most consistent freelancers I know are extremely focused in their offerings. They’re not the ones who say they can do anything under the sun. They are at the top of their clients’ minds because when the client needs someone to do X, they know exactly who to call who’s good at that.

Thanks for joining us for the first post in our #NextGenWork series! If you’re a freelancer or contractor and interested in telling the world your #NextGenWork story, fill out our questionnaire.

By Ahva Sadeghi

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Ahva Sadeghi

Ahva is the CEO and Co-Founder of Symba. She is a passionate social entrepreneur, and was recently named Forbes 30 Under 30 and a Global Entrepreneur Scholar by the US Department of State. Ahva completed her graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science where she served as President of the Human Rights Students Committee and received the John Lewis Fellow with Humanity in Action.

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