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What is an anchor gig, anyway?

Updated: May 13, 2022

An anchor gig is the job that gives you the most economic, creative, or psychological benefits. If you have one source of income, then that is your anchor gig; if you have of passel of gigs (like me), it’s important to identify which one is your anchor (and why) and understand what it can provide so you can mentally place it in your overall career trajectory.

Why is it important to identify an anchor gig as such? As a creative professional, I know how easy it is to become distracted, especially when I’m juggling several different gigs or side hustles. But when I take a moment to say, “this job is my anchor gig,” a slight mental shift occurs. In other words, were I temping, I’m not “just a temp,” or even “I’m wasting my education by sitting here smiling and nodding”; instead, “I’m choosing this position so I can be temporarily tethered to something while I do other, more creatively dangerous stuff elsewhere that will yield dividends down the line.” Being intentional about the choice to label the gig as such is a lot more positive and hopeful; it also wards off any shame and negative voices saying “is that all you’re doing with your life?” and “why aren’t you further along?”

Isn’t ‘anchor gig’ a fancy way to say ‘day job’? Kind of, but suppose you’re juggling three different side hustles, all of which are vying for equal or near-equal amounts of your attention. If you say you have three day jobs, well, that just sounds overwhelming and awful. Designating one as your anchor that takes priority for now can help you focus your energy and attention and at least take the burden off you mentally.

Why not just get a sugar daddy? Or collect unemployment?

First of all, you do you. Second, though I can’t speak to the former, having collected “funemployment” a couple times, I won’t soon forget the tax bill that came with them. Ugh. In the long run, you don’t get as much free money as you think you do. Besides, you typically can make more in an anchor gig, learn more about people and yourself (important no matter what your dream is), develop skills that can help your dream (on someone else’s dime), and make valuable contacts.

What if my anchor gig doesn’t feed my bank account as much as it does my soul? Great question. If you have two or three other sources of income, one of which is your passion, you should create a plan to make this one your anchor gig. Now there are a ton of variables here and usually it can take some time to get the passion project off the ground, but it can be done.

What if you hate your anchor gig? I recently contributed was fortunate enough to contribute to Deepak Chopra's blog about this very subject, but to put it in a nutshell, you may want to change your attitude before you change your circumstances. See if you can't find rational solutions within your control. If this issue can’t be fixed (i.e., everyone’s toxic and awful and I hate the dress code anyway), look for another. The main thing is: always be professional and always leave well (the world is smaller than you think, and your reputation matters. Besides, life is short, so be a good person).

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