How to Get The Most Out of the Gig Economy

When I took this new job as a Marketing Manager, I was under no illusions that it would be structured, and it is one of the few times I had realistic expectations. No two days since I began the job have been same. From networking related challenges, to breaking news in the HR software industry that I track for our organization, it is exciting and unpredictable.

Being a technology evangelist, I jump with enthusiasm and my voice gets a little too excited when I discuss new weartech, or just about any way technology helps to make our lives easier. Today I want to share one of the successful practices I helped start at StarGarden’s marketing department. And by the title you might have guessed it – it’s the use of Giggers or Freelancers. For those new to that term, it means contract workers who work on specific projects with you on an intermittent basis and can be found through sites like upwork, freelancer or fiverr, just to name a few.

From tracking the HR industry, I know all the consulting gurus are saying that the Gig economy is one of the biggest trends that will impact 2017, and it will change the composition of your personnel and employee-employer contracts. And they are right. Being an early adopter, over the past few years I have seen first-hand how this sharing economy is great for small and mid-size organizations. From the pickup of brochures from a location, to designing smashing presentations that will impress your audience, picking up the phone and few taps is really all that it takes to find great talent.

As easy as it is to use the services, it is just as easy for an individual to become a provider, so one needs to exercise caution in choosing the right people to provide the needed services. All well and fine but what is the challenge then – why isn’t everyone jumping on board?

Gig economy challenges

The biggest downside for your organization’s use of gig economy will be in the standardization of quality. And when you spend money on a gig, and the outcome is less than what you expected, then you run the risk of looking bad in front of your boss. Price fluctuation is another big issue - you can get services and people to bid on anything: From $5 to thousands of dollars on an hourly rated project. But each time you use these services, you will always be in suspense waiting to see if the new contractor will provide quality work, on time, and keep you in loop on progress. You can’t just keep saying in staff meetings that the gigger is working like black box testing. While people say the past is not a prediction of the future, when it comes to gig economy usage, that is all you as a client can rely on and learn from – and you MUST.

From my experience, the cost of producing good multimedia collateral, ebooks for example, can run you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars based on what your own input in the content will be. But unless you understand this price variation and what it means to you, you will (trust me) get excited with the low cost alternatives. But be very cautious. Here is why:

  • Most giggers are literally all around the world: I get bids from giggers from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, India, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Russia, Poland, South Africa, Romania (you get the picture), so time zone differences will affect response time and be a challenge. While most giggers are great with responding to their clients you don’t always know about for their national holidays and chosen work hours.
  • Their first language may or may not be English: While the freelancing sites do a really great job of displaying certificates of their English proficiency, what that really means is that they are good test takers. And we all know being good at taking tests doesn’t necessarily mean a person has a real skill.
  • Some giggers will bid at a lower cost and then negotiate at a later time: Since you’ve already invested a lot of time in screening, you often don’t have the time to start again, especially if you are on a timeline. While the sites rate on quality and response time, most lack a rating on an individual’s integrity throughout the process. It’s one thing to deliver on time, but another to do so in a forthright manner. You can only learn this after it happens to you so be cautioned.
  • Gig economy is a two way rating system: This is great to preserve the integrity of the shared economy however some giggers expect just positive feedback and lambast you on every digital media possible if you provide areas for improvement. Unlike traditional employment there is no authority-power dynamic to count on. All you can do in such instances is to take note of such providers and avoid them in future.

So as a client what can you do?

Tips for being an effective consumer of freelancers in gig economy

  • Write a detailed description of the job, its requirements, and your definition of quality. Attach samples of work you like to give them a picture of your expectations.
  • Be clear on timelines and make sure you state that you are on schedule. If you choose to use freelancing sites, plan ahead so they are not urgent tasks but rather tasks that are a bit lower priority and therefore good opportunities for cost cutting.
  • Put up a clear roadmap of how you will get work done. Communication guidelines – i.e. do you expect reply in 24 hrs? Most sites will tell you how many hours it takes for a provider to respond. I overlook this if the quality of work is great, but this depends on your requirement. Mention what will disqualify a bidder (for me it was renegotiating after being shortlisted).
  • Ask and look at the samples provided instead of going by the ratings or response time. It can be tedious, but to get good quality, this is the only way. Some giggers are new – while taking a chance on a new comer may be risky, their samples will be a good indicator of what you will get. Going by what the site recommends is generally fine but you still should see if they are the best fit for your work.

With the gig economy it is important to realize that high price doesn’t mean great quality and low cost doesn’t mean bad quality. I believe there is a right price for a job, and that optimum level is reached by experimenting. For small and medium size businesses that are more agile, it is a great tool to improve your pool of available and creative resources.

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Salma Sultana - Marketing Manager at StarGarden Corporation, VancouverAbout the Author:

Salma Sultana is the Marketing Manager at StarGarden Corporation. She has over six years experience working in various roles in Research, System Analysis and Project Management. She holds a MBA from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

Follow her on twitter: @salmasultana

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