Trade Shows & The Gig Economy : A Perfect Match

Put simply, the term “gig economy” refers to the exchange of labour for money between individuals, companies or organizations by way of digital platforms. These exchanges actively facilitate the pairing of providers (gig workers) and customers onto a payment-by-task or “gig” plan, that is often a short-term engagement. So how do the gig economy & trade shows relate to each other?

This free market system has a wide variety of advantages and merits, and as such has been gaining immense popularity as of late.

Gig Economy

Within a gig economy, customer parties will tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of taking on full-time employees that require long term contracts and other logistical headaches.

This is essentially a progressive step away from the traditional economy of full-time employees working towards career development for one organization, which has until more recently been the accepted norm.

One of the most significant upsides to a gig economy is the fact that it provides services that are in general less expensive and more efficient for those who are willing to take advantage of them.

Examples would be services like Uber and Airbnb, these two organizations are huge players in the gig economy that has developed over the past decade. The gig economy is full of different types of “gigs” or jobs.

Things like being a passenger driver for Uber or delivering food, writing articles as a freelancer or being a part-time, freelance working teacher are all examples of gigs.

Is The Gig Economy Here To Stay?

One of the more prominent questions that is being asked in regards to the future of the gig economy is whether or not it is truly something that is here to stay.

Given its relatively new found popularity, people are wondering whether this new style of service exchange is going to stick around in the long term. There are a number of important statistics and resulting projections that point directly towards the sustained growth and development of the future of the gig economy.

Let’s discuss some of these aspects.

The global gig economy has been projected to grow from $204 billion in 2018 to well over $400 billion in the year 2023. This shows a compound annual growth rate of 17.4%, which is quite impressive. There are a number of reasons for this projected growth.

It is quite obvious that we are moving towards the abandonment of the traditional model of education and work, where our lives revolve around a workplace.

Instead, more and more people are looking into how to transition into a remote work setup, where the workplace instead revolves around our lives instead. In fact, over 50 percent of the American workforce is hoping to transition into a position of remote work permanently.

The gig economy is incredibly appealing for that reason alone, as people would have so much more control over their personal lives given the opportunity to work remotely.

This would also contribute to the end of incredibly overcrowded megacities and the high pollution metropolis infrastructure that has been created by constant commute to the workplace day in and day out. It would contribute to the downfall of the aggressively overpriced housing market in certain ways, as well as inherently help reduce the effect of our carbon footprint on the earth.

When it comes to the relative income and satisfaction of gig workers in their respective industries, there are a number of important statistics to note.

The average hourly rate charged by freelancers internationally is approximately 21 dollars. In the United States, the number of high-earning freelancers (reported income of over $100,000), is showing steady growth year over year. It is currently standing at 3.1 million people, which is approximately 20% of the current workforce!

The number of freelance workers is steadily increasing in the western world as a whole. For example, the total number of US freelancers is estimated to grow from 57 to well over 80 million freelance workers by the year 2027.

The United Kingdom’s gig economy workforce showed a doubling in its numbers from the year 2016 to 2019 as it accounts for 4.7 million total. In the United States, 44% of gig workers considered freelancing to be their primary source of income, with 60% of workers engaging in freelancing activities at least weekly.

Based on all of these analyses and the resulting projections for growth over the next few years, it is safe to say that the gig economy is here to stay.

Connection Between Trade Shows And Gig Economy

Airbnb on tradeshow

The connection between the gig economy & trade shows is one that may not be readily obvious, but when you think about it, there is a strong correlation and a great chance for gig workers to expand their operations via trade show interactions.

Gig workers, the majority of the time, report being significantly more satisfied with their work life than they were at a full-time workplace occupation. At the same time, statistics have shown that there is in fact a large portion of freelance and gig workers who do not feel financially stable, as they rely on steady work in order to maintain a livable income.

There is also the aspect of gig working that involves a lack of face-to-face interaction and communication, which in many cases does not help foster a trust connection between the customer and the contractor.

The nature of gig working is that most of these work relationships are built via the internet, and often are short-term commitments. There often is not much room for trust and integrity to be built before payments and deliverables are thrown into the mix.

This is where the connection between trade shows and the gig economy proves itself to be incredibly positive and ever important. Gig workers are almost always looking for ways to expand their business, make new connections, and branch out in order to increase their income potential as a sole proprietor.

Trade shows are known as one of the most effective ways for customers and consumers to discover business owners of all kinds in a face to face environment where personal connections can be made.

The connection between the gig economy & trade shows is one that should be nurtured and appreciated. These events provide the opportunity for gig workers and freelancers to participate as exhibitors to showcase their business and their services, and ultimately expand their customer base. At the same time, they can simply participate as attendees, network with other freelancers, connect with businesses who may be looking to take on freelancers for contract work.

The beauty of this connection is the fact that it can be mutually beneficial for both parties. Gig workers and freelancers have the chance to network and find more income opportunities, while organizations also have the chance to find new talent for their business operations. Freelance workers do not typically need any training, are self-sufficient, and work on short-term contracts that do not involve much commitment.

These aspects are incredibly attractive to businesses looking to bring on new team members without expending unnecessary amounts of resources. Trade shows provide an awesome sort of middle ground for these relationships to be cultivated.

These are all incredibly strong reasons that support the effectiveness and validity of the connection between trade shows and the gig economy.

How To Use Trade Shows To Boost Your Gig


There are a number of things to be aware of as a gig worker looking to find and/or boost their service at a trade show. Here are a few of the most important things to remember.

Develop Your Material

One of the incredibly crucial things to remember is the customization of your showcase’s material in a way that allows it to have maximum effect in a relatively small space.

Trade shows often have hundreds of booths, each with a small assigned space to use for their display. Do your best to develop and optimize your material and your display in a way that attracts attention and instigates engaging conversation.

Research Your Event Options

Finding the right trade show for your business and the services that you as a gig worker provide is another very important factor to consider.

Choosing a trade show that aligns well with your business is not only in itself a good gig, but can also be a truly invaluable networking opportunity to connect with businesses in your industry. Be sure to take advantage of local and regional conferences that align with your gig by researching expo/convention centers in your area on a regular basis.

More than likely you will find that your local exposition venues will have up-to-date online calendars, as well as important contact information if you need to reach a trade show representative, organizer or other governing party.

If you are open to the idea of traveling, it can be useful to find an international directory for upcoming trade show events.

Find a few that you think coincide with your business and take a look at each one individually. They will usually have a website that you can visit to gather information, and ultimately make a decision as to whether or not it would make sense for you to attend.

Post-Show Pitching

Once the trade show has concluded and you have networked your tail off, you should have a nice list of contact information for businesses and individuals you would like to follow up with.

For the ones who have given you an email to contact them at, you will want to either write a personal follow up email in order to establish an online connection, or send them your best possible marketing material, depending on the nature of the relationship.

Be sure to spruce up your latest email marketing templates so that they are as effective as possible. Businesses will often be used to receiving promotional emails on a daily basis, so do your best to make yours clear, concise and to the point, without sounding too “salesy”.

In some cases, more so for sole proprietors, they will give you a phone number to contact them at.

In these cases, you should make sure you have brushed up on your warm lead phone call scripting, as these are incredibly important calls to make as a form of following up. If you have been given both a phone number and an email, use your discretion as to what the best form of contact is.

Regardless, timing is everything. It is important not to wait too long after making a business connection before following up and moving forward with the relationship.

The gig working and freelance world is quite cutthroat, so act accordingly. A rule of thumb, unless otherwise specified for whatever reason, is to follow up with a lead within the first 48 hours after the connection has been made.

To put it simply, stay on top of your contact list post trade show. The early bird will often get the worm!

Best Trade Shows For Gig Workers

Here are the best tradeshows for gig workers

The Freelance Conference

The Freelance Conference, often referred to as “FreeCon” for short, is an event held by freelancers for freelancers. This conference is geared towards helping gig workers to develop and build their business, while also providing a place for new and curious individuals to learn!

Since the year 2014, the Freelance Conference has been one of the go to destinations for freelancers to connect with each other, share knowledge and opportunities, and simply have a positive experience with like minded people.

This event runs for three days and is definitely one of the best trade shows for gig workers to attend!

SXSW (South By Southwest)

The South By Southwest (SXSW) conference is known as one of the most successful and actively attended conferences in the United States.

This event can provide so much value for freelancers who choose to make an appearance. Attendees will have access to the latest knowledge in regards to important trends and tools on the rise, while at the same time providing top notch networking opportunities within a crowd of accomplished business owners and creative individuals.

One of the awesome features is the fact that the South By Southwest has prepared themselves for a potential cancellation of the in-person conference due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As a result, SXSW Online has been rolled out and will be happening in the event that the in-person conference is cancelled.


SPARK is a local freelancing community that provides a free resource for freelancers to learn, network, share and grow their business, all at the same awesome event.

This organization carries out a meeting as often as once a month in cities across the country to address and discuss the latest in freelancing topics. Everyone from small business owners in industries like graphic design, copywriting and music, to people who are simply interested in the world of freelancing are in attendance.

Topics like business building, client acquisition, quoting for jobs, how to pay taxes as a freelancer and other important aspects are all on the table for discussion. These monthly workshops are completely free, and truly provide an incredible resource for anyone and everyone.

SPARK is an incredible organization that offers a truly invaluable experience for freelancers of all shapes and sizes. Definitely one of the trade show style events that gig workers should be checking out!


The gig economy is inevitably taking its place in the spotlight of our economy, especially with the recent appearance of COVID-19, the ensuing pandemic, and the struggle for job security that has resulted.

Gig working and freelancing is becoming increasingly popular in all areas of the world, and as a result, there is demand for high quality resources that can help with business growth.

The connection between trade shows and the gig economy is one that should be emphasized and nurtured. Trade shows provide an incredibly effective place for freelance workers to make connections, expand their network, and find the resources and information that will help them become financially stable.

We have discussed the ins and outs of the gig economy, including its projected future growth and sustainability.

We also discussed the important connection between trade shows and the gig economy, and how gig workers can use trade shows effectively in order to build their businesses and achieve financial security. It is a great time to be a part of the gig economy, take what we have discussed here today and apply it to the future plans for your business!