Entrepreneur.com published an interesting article entitled, "The Reason Your Business Isn't Successful Might Be That It Isn't Actually a Business". It writes a short blurb from a book that talks about professionals going from gig to gig to gig but not seeing much business traction. It also calls to mind a larger question, "Is a gig business an actual business?"
Let us first look at the definition of a business... According to BusinessDictionary, a business is...
...an organization or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money. Every business requires some form of investment and enough customers to whom its output can be sold on a consistent basis in order to make a profit. (emphasis mine)
Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/business.html
The second point is crucial and talks about two things:
(1) the investment, and
(2) enough customers
Let's unwrap each of these for a minute.
Your investment may be your personal intellectual property, garnered over years of experience, and packaged to meet a unique business need. You probably need to get some legal protection for the IP, and do some brand building. You might need a physical office space, or simply an online one. The other aspects of building the business like HR, finance, IT all constitute to your investment.
For others, the investment could be the purchase of someone else's IP, with the rights to monetise that. Take franchises, for example. Your have paid the franchise owner for the rights to sell his IP, although you don't own that. And for that investment, the franchise owner helps build brand awareness and takes care of operations. All you need to do as the franchisee is find the right location, add staff and you are on your way!
Obviously the size of the investment is not as crucial as the assets you own through that investment. Such assets are needed to shore up your competitive advantage in the market.
It is interesting that BusinessDictionary did not just mention customers but enough customers in order to sell your product consistently to provide a profit. This means that your business needs to have a market sizeable enough for you to build a strong pipeline. This pipeline should be able to fill itself organically - or at least with minimal push - so that it has sufficient numbers in each stage of the buying process. This allows the business to predict sales, and not just rely on chance requirements.
This is where the gig business may fall short on its definition of an actual business. Many a times, a gig presents itself by chance, and it is difficult to predict chance. If marketing is good, and gigs can be lined up in advance, there is a chance of turning it into an actual business. But what are the chances of lining the gigs up in advance, and for the gigs to remain in play two, three or even six months down the road. If fulfillment becomes your bottleneck, with no real chance to alleviate because the IP resides in your head, then there is a limited chance of the business growing.
It is for this reason that many businesses productise. If you can turn your IP into a product that can fulfill demand when it is needed, at the point of purchase, then you have a very good chance of building the gig business into an actual one.
But what is wrong with being a gig business?
If you enjoy hustling from one gig to another; if you are not concerned about the variability of income; if you want to take things at your own pace; if you don't relish the prospects of selling, then it is absolutely fine to maintain a gig business. You then keep your overheads low, your team lean, and your product highly customised.
Just understand that this business cannot be replicated, and cannot survive the sole proprietor.