Picking Up a Gig: Advice on Entering the Sharing Economy
Nothing under the sun is new — except maybe the internet. Since the onset of the internet 30 years ago, the way that people do business, travel, and work has changed enormously. In many ways, its effect is still playing out. But one of its most evident effects is that it atomized the economy, wiping out the middleman and streamlining workflow and product placement all on your laptop. That suddenly puts us in a gig economy, app economy, sharing economy – various definitions that pinpoint how the market continues to change. So if you’re interested in entering the small business world via the sharing economy, here are some tips to think through.
What is the “Sharing Economy”?
So what exactly is this “sharing economy”? The term is somewhat of a misnomer because you’re not truly sharing anything – there are still profit and loss involved. But what distinguishes it is that the exchange of commerce occurs between peers rather than between customer and the old-fashioned shopkeeper or CEO. Gone is the taxi service. In its stead, Uber, allowing people to switch from driving alone to picking people up and taking them places for a profit with just a few taps on your phone. Other well-known examples of services in the sharing economy include Lyft, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit.
Entering the Small Business World
Despite all the trumpeting about the dawn of the sharing economy, it’s also necessary to note that most workers in this economy don’t make that much money. On average, people signed up for top sharing economy apps (Doordash, Postmates, Etsy, Fiverr, and the other ones already listed) bring in about $299 per month. (The outlier is Airbnb, which nets $924 per month for most people.) One take on the discrepancy in those numbers ($299 per month vs. billions in revenue) may be that it’s more profitable to be a business owner than a worker in the sharing economy.
How to Grow Your Business
If you’re thinking about becoming one of these business owners, then you should have a strong idea of what your product is from the get-go. After that, look into what makes the most money in the burgeoning “swap market.” Food, jewelry, clothes, errands, housekeeping – figure out which of these (and more) you’re passionate about building a business around. Then, come up with a brand that will let you stand out. Keep in mind that the ways to launch your business in the sharing economy might differ from good old-fashioned business dicta. While companies normally start out by assessing whether there’s enough demand for their product in a given market, you might determine whether there are enough suppliers, instead. Screen and train the employees you do have and foster trust between them. Finally, make sure that payment is simple and clear so that no task ever goes unpaid.
Especially if you’re starting out in business, it’s essential that you cut overhead to maximize profitability. That might mean moving your office to an at-home workspace. If you don’t have enough space in your current home to do so, it might be time to consider an upgrade, though make sure you can afford to move before taking that kind of financial plunge.
To navigate distractions, stay away from the hubbub centers of the house (kitchen, living room). Also, invest in the right equipment. A laptop and printer are must-haves. Don’t be afraid to decorate with indoor greenery, and consider painting the walls with a coat that’s airy and bright.
Starting out in the sharing economy might seem intimidating, especially if you’re used to the normal nine-to-five grind. However, anyone can easily get started with some forward thinking, a smartphone or computer, and a handful of apps.
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