Labor on demand

The gig economy and how you can leverage it

The gig economy, defined as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs,” is changing the way we work and play. Have you ever taken an Uber or used a freelancer to create a logo or advertising piece? If so, you’re participating in the gig economy.

In addition to the conveniences it creates in our personal lives, it is having a significant impact on our businesses. As an example, a 2017 study for the Freelancers Union shows that 36 percent of the U.S. economy, or 57.3 million people, freelanced in 2017.

When coupled with studies like Gallup’s annual poll that shows only about 30 percent of U.S. employees describe themselves as engaged at work, the breakthroughs of the gig economy present opportunities to begin to shift from the traditional model of full-time, fixed cost employees to fractional freelancers who can focus on specific, short-term projects.

Looking for opportunities to take the gig economy for a test drive? Consider these points as a guide.

  1. Find the right projects. Often it is difficult to identify projects that could be done by freelancers because of the tribal knowledge retained within the business. Getting an external resource up to speed without having a long-term commitment to them can be scary, so lean towards new, innovative projects. These are often the tasks that your current workforce has a tough time getting to because of their current responsibilities.
  2. Assign projects to seasoned managers who can help manage the projects. Outside of picking the right project, the most critical decision in making sure you are effective is how well you have defined your project’s goals and milestones. Having this clarity will ensure you are able to identify the best freelancers early, or stop the project and refocus elsewhere if necessary. Schedule check-ins early and often to ensure you are getting exactly what you need.
  3. Leverage the best tools. With the size of the market exploding, the tools available to help identify and manage freelancers are increasing exponentially.

Here are a few examples of tools that will make it easiest to get your plan off the ground:

  • Toptal: This is mostly for freelancers with significant experience. They screen freelance applicants to only allow the top 3 percent of applicants to respond to posted projects.
  • Upwork: Very broad website that has experienced and entry-level freelancers across a broad range of tasks.
  • Fiverr: Originally launched as a website where people would define projects that they would complete for $5, this has expanded greatly into taking on projects of any size. This is best for smaller projects that need a quick turnaround time.

As technology changes the way we work, it presents incredible opportunities to leverage labor in a more flexible way than we have in the past. Where will you start?

Sam Falletta, CEO of Incept Corp., has developed successful customer acquisition and retention strategies for some of the largest brands in the world, including Microsoft, Ford, Honda and the American Red Cross.