How Technology is Enabling Solopreneurship
Business and professional success in America has always been associated with entrepreneurship. Indeed most of us, when asked to point out business success stories would immediately think about people we know that have built a successful businesses, small or large. Many of us would have liked to be able to build a business too but for some reason or another we never had a chance. Instead we chose to go work for established large companies, seeking security of a regular job at the expense of entrepreneurial risk/reward. Building a business always required capital, lots of effort and offered uncertain future.
However, we are all standing at the beginning of one of the largest changes in our economy. No, we are not talking about robots taking over every job. Contrary to what you may read, robots are not likely to take over the world in the next five years. Even if research shows that nearly half of all U.S. jobs are currently susceptible to automation and robotization, this eventuality is still in the distant future and robots are not yet ready to steal our jobs.
The change that we are talking about is the rise of the Gig Economy driven by the latest advancements of technology. Gig economy refers to a model of the labor markets where work is performed by independent individuals working on specific projects and tasks outside of traditional employment.
Gig economy has received a lot of press recently but it is still a rather new concept and many of us have not thought about how to take advantage of this shift. However, the trend is growing and likely to accelerate. Indeed, it has seen 27 percent more growth than traditional payroll employment over the past two decades. Its growth is giving new hope to aspiring entrepreneurs and leading to the rise in prominence of what are known as “one-person business” or solopreneurship.
One-person businesses aren’t just run by young people who are building an app or trying to change the world. They also don’t just represent traditional freelancers who temporarily fill a role for a company or provide typical freelance work such as technology support or blog writing. More and more “normal” people join the gig economy and launch their own one person businesses because they see it as a way to achieve the best outcomes for themselves. It is particularly appealing to Baby Boomer professionals who no longer want, can or able work full-time. Solopreneurship is a way to remain active, work and get paid, and perhaps do what they feel passionate about. And after a project is complete, they can move on to the next assignment elsewhere at their leisure.
Advanced technology is making it easier than ever for one-person businesses to find rewarding and steady stream of work. Technology is also becoming increasingly simple to use, more accessible and more widely adopted.
The Talent Marketplace Revolution
In just the past few years, many on-line talent marketplaces have emerged that connect one-person businesses from across the globe with companies and individuals who need specific tasks accomplished. Just a few years ago any company willing to use freelancers or outside resources had to deal with creating and maintaining their own lists of resources. Then, whenever they needed to outsource a project, they would go down their lists one by one until they found someone willing to complete the assignment. Many companies still work this way, for example in publishing or editing.
Today, companies can go online at any given moment, browse through a list of high-quality candidates, and find someone who will happily get the job done on time and on budget. What is more important, these marketplaces are open to companies of any size, substantially increasing the number of prospective clients for anyone willing to launch their own one person business.
As awareness builds around how easily knowledge workers and professionals can find meaningful work in gig marketplaces, we’ll see even more one-person businesses emerge in the coming years. Baby Boomers will likely to join this trend and may even drive its widespread adoption. After all, while late to the game, they are now one of the fastest adopters of social media and other new online tools. The gig economy will continue to grow, and before we know it, marketplaces will exist for every niche skill under the sun.
However even with all this growth and development of online talent marketplaces we are only at the early stages of how new tools will drive the growth of the Gig Economy. Several other trends will provide additional boost and more widespread adoption.
The cloud has taken the technology and business worlds by storm. All of us are exposed to the cloud in our everyday lives. The cloud refers to the ability to store your data (documents, photos, etc.) on the Internet. But the cloud is also a great booster for the Gig Economy. It allows businesses small and large to distribute work geographically using secure online storage for document sharing. As a result, the cloud removes the need for individuals to be in the same office to get work done, allowing one person businesses to get the job done wherever they are.
Time and Teak Management
One of the biggest concerns for anyone considering joining the Gig Economy is time and task management. Boomers willing to start are concerned about the need to keep track of everything they need to do and work related tasks when not in the office. Companies hiring freelancers from marketplaces are concerned that they do not have visibility into what their vendors are doing. Fortunately many of the talent marketplaces are now offering tools to manage tasks and keep track of activities. Such tools offer transparency and visibility to both parties, further increasing levels of trust in the new model.
Collaboration technology today moved way past email. Many of us are using tools such as Facetime in our daily lives. These collaboration tools are also key enablers of the new way of work in the Gig Economy. With rise in telecommuting, being able to work outside of the office is key. Online tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype and other similar technologies offer Boomers a wide range of choices to work together with a remote client. It is possible to share documents, have a presentation, discuss ideas and hold a video conference from virtually anywhere.
The Gig Economy has grown materially over the past decade, but we would argue that its impact is yet not fully realized. As technology and business adoption continue to grow, and it’s only a matter of time before companies of all sizes meaningfully gravitate toward hiring more one-person businesses to cut costs, increase productivity, and gain the ability to quickly scale up or down based on their real-time needs.