Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Gig Economy Matchmaking: Two Case Studies
"Gig economy" is a relatively new term, but gig workers have existed for a long time. Before the pandemic consultants and gig workers sought clients at meetings and networking events. Digital services are now helping gig workers and people with jobs-that-need-to-be-done find each other.
Service Provider’s Story--A New Graduate
Jacob Richman, a recent American engineering graduate, sought tasks to complete while waiting to start his first full-time job. Without a track record, he had no success posting on upwork.com. He then used unique key words to describe what he could do and price ranges for the work and posted on fiverr.com. Customers reached out and set up phone interviews, questioning him at length about his skills and experience. Then, they agreed upon project parameters, a fee, and a deadline. The customers deposited the fee with fiverr.com, which Richman received upon satisfactory completion of the project. Projects consisted of videos for colleges and non-profits, coding projects, and website development.
This is a good way for students to obtain technical and business experience while also earning money, Richman said. He developed new technical skills while practicing communications, negotiating, and other essential business skills. And, he built up a portfolio of projects to use with future customers.
However, Richman once had to work all night to complete a video for a virtual graduation ceremony: The client had not provided photos until the day before the graduation. Time he spent on interviews and other exchanges with clients was unpaid time. Moreover, fiverr.com extracts a hefty 20% fee, and the work is taxable.
Customer’s Story--A Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Carol Perlman, a clinical psychologist, was about to present an online course on time management and needed help converting a Word document to attractive, accessible online course material. A colleague recommended a graphic designer she had found on Instagram. Dr. Perlman negotiated terms and posted her material entirely on Facebook Messenger. Besides the Word document, she also provided a business card and other material that conveyed her brand and her design preferences.
The designer had strong design and technical skills, and with little guidance she designed attractive and functional course material. Moreover, the price was right, and the course material was ready on time. Technology had made it relatively easy to conduct business with someone in the distant Philippines.
However, it took a few iterations for the designer to finish the project satisfactorily. And, according to the contract, the deliverable would be a pdf file that Dr. Perlman could not update. To obtain an updatable version, she had to pay an additional fee.
Digital marketplaces help people who seek side gigs to expand their technical and business skills while getting paid for their work. But, providers should set fees that include startup time. For customers this can be a convenient way to outsource tasks they don’t have the capacity to do themselves. For more critical, more complex—and more expensive—tasks, customers may still prefer to engage providers with a substantial track record and references they can contact. Both providers and customers should read contracts carefully.
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