“There is no utopia at companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Handy, whose workers are often manipulated into working long hours for low wages while continually chasing the next ride or task.” – Excerpt from The New York Times article, The Gig Economy’s False Promise
As of 2017, 34% of the American workforce has been deemed part of the gig economy. The CEO of Intuit, Brad Smith, remarked earlier this year during an earnings call that he expects that number to swell to 43% by 2020.
While Smith was referring to freelancers of all kinds, not just the Lyft driving, task rabbits that normally come to mind, this is nonetheless a bold statement.
Because freelancers account for larger portions of the overall workforce, there is a decent chance that this type of short-term work could replace the traditional 9–5 job in the coming years and decades.
The rise of digital independents has developed as a result of various online freelance marketplaces, like TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Upwork, Uber, and a wealth of others. These types of platforms effectively connect freelance workers to those in need through a centralized platform leveraged by both parties.
On the surface, these platforms present the belief that every working man and women is empowered to be their own boss; the CEO of their lives.
While these opportunities are very real, and many are finding great success with gigging, the prevalent optimism is a gross simplification of what is really transpiring within this world. To rise above and find success, we must be real about the current state of freelancing.
The Challenges Of The Gig Economy
What lures most folks into a gig-based business are very real and magnetic perks; things like flexible schedules, discernment with who and what one works with, the absence of an incompetent or overbearing boss, and the prospect of infinite travel, to name a few. The whole idea is that it puts the power back into the hands of the individual, along with a few extra bucks.
This gig economy narrative is not in the least bit false; all of this and more is possible with freelancing. There are many new tools and platforms emerging in this space that are creating the balance of equality for all. One such innovation is called CanYa.
CanYa describes itself as “. . . a hybrid between an on-chain cryptocurrency payment layer using CanYa Coins, and a fast off-chain service that enables users to find and book services.”
What enables this system to maintain itself and to bolster its community lies in the trustless payment system that the company employs as a result of its blockchain foundation.
Under this design, users purchase “CanYa Coins” to pay service providers. When an exchange takes place, the coins are placed in escrow to protect from any cryptocurrency valuation fluctuations that may take place. This ensures the agreed amount is always paid and received. CanYa Coins create stability in a dynamic decentralized world.
Tools like CanYa reflect that there is a lot more to the gigging story than we’ve seen thus far. Freelancing is experiencing a true transformation.
A recent gig economy study from Cision analyzed, “. . . one year’s worth of news and blog mentions, or more than 500,000 posts. They then reviewed more than 132,000 social media comments about independent workers.”
What the company found was a great divergence. Overall, the media’s portrayal of the gig economy is largely positive. [pullquote]What actual gig economy workers were saying, however, painted a much different picture: Fears about not having enough to retire, fear of lacking work, confusion over how to handle taxes.; all of these issues deserve to be addressed.[/pullquote] Doing so only improves the overall community.
Yes, it’s true the gig economy can deprive workers of their rights and benefits such as sick days and health insurance. In many cases, organizations like Uber are even robbing freelancers of appropriate pay.
A recent report from Frank Field, the UK’s former work and pension committee chair, details that without benefits or protection of employment, many end up working for “poverty wages:”
“Complaints raised by staff interviewed for the report include being fined hundreds of pounds unless they worked while ill, while others said that self-employment meant they ended up earning as little as £2.22 an hour, or even losing money.”
The report strongly advises the UK government to stage an “emergency intervention” to protect workers and assure that they are getting the fair treatment they deserve.
By understanding the hurdles that gigging manifests, you can be better suited to carve out the ideal scenario.
The Problem With Centralization
Organizations like Uber and Upwork are all based on supply and demand. As with any centralized system, the folks that benefit the most are the executives at the top.
Under the centralized model, marketplaces can (and often do) alter their internal fees, testing the limits around what consumers will pay, and how little workers will require.
This is what enables freelance platforms to charge outrageous fees that eat away at an independent’s profits, causing them to earn substantially less. For example, Upwork charges freelancers a whopping 20% of any income made on the platform. And they aren’t the only ones, as this is close to the industry standard.
On top of such egregious fees, most sites charge a substantial withdrawal fee for freelancers to obtain their money as well.
These marketplaces are also scattered with fraudulent activity and fake reviews. This type of malicious behavior has been able to permeate online platforms because of their lack of transparency.
All of this begs the question: How can freelancers gain back their power? How can we create transparency and level the playing field?
The Blockchain Solution
Blockchain technology is proving to be the perfect solution to many of the problems the gig economy presents freelance professionals; which the exact reason that platforms like CanYa are beginning to employ it.
Blockchain serves as the distributed digital ledger for transactions and exchanges that cannot be altered. Blockchains are supported and maintained by a peer-to-peer community of users across a set of devices, with each person contributing the resources required to maintain the blockchain.
Through this model, independent entrepreneurs are no longer susceptible to price gouging or manipulation as there is no single entity controlling the marketplace; in fact, no one controls it.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder of the blockchain platform Ethereum, describes it like this:
“Blockchains automate away at the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer.”
Under this structure, the users of the platform are actually in control.
More than that, the transparency that blockchain technology provides (as it is maintained by a community of peers) ensures that all users can be reviewed, verified, and rated, thereby eliminating the potential fake reviews and fraudulent accounts. This creates a secure and transparent meritocracy for talented freelancers to thrive within.
Best of all, since there is no private party controlling the platform, users are typically changed far less in fees and are presented with no withdrawal or transfer fees, effectively providing fairer prices for users and enhanced profits for the self-employed.
It’s clear that the gig economy has its issues, but that doesn’t eradicate its high appeal and empowerment. No new system has ever emerged without flaws. What people are experiencing now is merely the first iteration of the gig economy. As blockchain technology continues to proliferate the ecosystem and more blockchain-based marketplaces emerge, the power the people were initially promised will continue to manifest.
If you are interested in even more cryptocurrency-related stories and information from us here at Bit Rebels then we have a lot to choose from.