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How your company can take advantage of the gig economy, not fear it

(NEWS) The gig-economy is increasing in popularity and you shouldn’t be quick to write it off.

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Gigs are expanding

The gig economy is buzzing. The term has now come to signify any contractual, part-time, freelance work, and is not limited to the tech universe.

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Freelance freedom

Between 2004 and 2014, independent contracting employment increased from 12 percent to only about 18 percent. In the last several years the gig economy has exploded onto the scene.

The 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the rate of self-employment in America is falling, and yet more people are engaging in freelance work, which last year stood at an impressive 35 percent of the total economy.

What gives?

The answer, backed by several surveys, is simple.

People with full-time jobs are increasingly participating in part-time gigs.

And although the Uber driver has become the poster-child, the scope of the gig economy is much wider.

A growing gig nation

The BLS report clearly states, “Gig workers are spread among diverse occupation groups and are not easily identified (added emphasis) in surveys of employment and earnings.”

Linkedin predicts that by 2020, 43 percent Americans shall be engaged in gig economy.

Really not a shock

This should not come as a surprise. By now it is well known that our out-of-date model of success — “study hard—earn a degree—get a job” is failing.

There are too many graduates, and too few well-paid full time jobs.

The private sector has also struggled. In most American metro areas, more businesses are closing than new ones are opening up.

For many millennials, it is the sole source of income. For others, it is an easy way to make some extra cash. Today’s millennials have less purchasing power than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. But this picture no longer accurately portrays the essence of the gig economy.

Many of today’s gig economy participants, especially younger employees, actually have full-time jobs.

However, instead of opening their own businesses by quitting their full-time jobs (a common practice in the past), they are pouring their passion into these freelance gigs IN ADDITION to their full time jobs.

The gig economy today has thus become an outlet that captures their expressions of creativity.

Gigs reaching beyond their stereotypical niche

The tech industry is already well known for a thriving gig economy. Contractual Web-developers (~$31/hr), Software developers (~$48/hr), Graphic Designers, and Multimedia Artists are all experiencing high demands.

But gig economy culture is spreading to other sectors of the economy, largely facilitated by the internet experience.

It is infiltrating administrative & support services, healthcare and even real estate.

Seasonal gigs are still a thing

Some demands are very much seasonal. Contract Accountants (~$30/hr) are in high demand as taxpayers try to submit their returns before April 15. Other gig economies are in demand year round.

Truck delivery is one of the highest paid gigs, which got a boost through the popularity of Amazon and eBay.

Low barriers to entry also make gig economies attractive. Take for example, Airbnb. So long as you have a spare room in a well-located, highly visited city, you can partake in the hospitality business!
This is good news for our economy! The criticisms it faces are mostly unfounded, and must be resisted.

Don’t listen to the haterz

The media and the government often unfairly characterizes the gig economy. The contract worker is seen as a victim, as being preyed upon by the big businesses, entering an exploitative arrangement, often unknowingly and against his own best interest.
The advent of the gig economy is painted as the death of salaries, health insurance and vacation days.
The goal of such criticism seems to be to reduce the number of contract workers and increase the number of definable “employees”. This argument overlooks the fact that each of these contracts were entered voluntarily and fulfilled a service that was a gap in the market.

Too many benefits

A 2016 Fastcompany survey found that 75 percent of employees still prefer health benefits to usual industry benefits like remote work.

While that is certainly true of a job seeker without any other job, statistics show us that more freelancers are full-time employees fishing for side gigs.

Forcing contractors to supply fringe benefits would result in duplicative benefits.

Gigging is not predatory

The debate over how to appropriately regulate the gig economy shall continue.

Obviously, companies may come up with strategies to exploit contract employees.

But at a time when traditional employers are experiencing downward pressure on their profit margins and retaining employees while tackling soaring insurance costs has become a challenge, engaging the best and the brightest from the gig economy becomes increasingly necessary. Industries that engage in it should not be seen as predatory.

Helping not hurting

In fact, it is quite the opposite. Gig economies empower the labor market in new innovative ways, when traditional markets have failed them.

Even the best schools in our land now advise their graduates to stop looking for full time jobs and participate in the gig economy.

Therefore, the caricature that the eager job seekers of the gig market must be bottom-of-the-barrel talent pool is also grossly erroneous.

Gotta up the ante

Yet, many companies have under-invested in this area. They have done too little to lobby for themselves and entirely miss out reaping its benefits.

Some still wait for traditional application to populate their inbox instead of actively recruiting from the gig-economy.

Their recruiting strategies are also failing. Mentioning “working remotely” as a reward on the job description is simply not good enough anymore.

Take the first step

Instead, companies should stress on their own unique story: a passion-driven project, with lots of creative leeway and good pay.

Research shows that the modern employee wants flexible hours, fair but few rules, and transparent pay structures.Click To Tweet

All of this can be easily achieved in a gig economy setting. What are we waiting for?

This editorial originally ran on March 21, 2017.

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Business News

How eBay can survive the Amazon era

(BUSINESS NEWS) eBay has long been an ecommerce powerhouse, but Amazon is now most folks’ first stop – how can eBay survive?

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While some of us are still lamenting the eBay-PayPal Break Up from three years ago, focus has shifted to the stock battle between the two brands of late, while most are wondering – how long does eBay even have as Amazon sucks all of the oxygen out of the room?

The ecommerce giant faces some heavy competition from Amazon and other online retailers and needs to reinvent its image if it’s going to thrive. Barely a year ago, nearly 15 percent more sellers were listing products on both ecommerce sites, but the trend towards Amazon has accelerated rapidly. The competition is even more messy given that eBay is very likely about to sue Amazon for poaching sellers.

How eBay moves forward will have a lot to do with how it rebrands itself. They have a huge marketplace, and unlike Amazon, they don’t continually put sellers in a position of peril. eBay represents an opportunity for big brands to sell not only on their own websites, but through a trusted, well-established seller who has been around for a long time (as summarized by ChannelAdvisor).

The brand has a number of woes to overcome to work with retailers, especially as Amazon boasts an impressive search engine optimization and is many people’s first stop shop. And Amazon’s reputation is, well forgive the joke, in Prime health – whereas some sellers still pass up Amazon to sell the slightly-attractive-but-isn’t-our-aesthetic dishes received as an inheritance or gift (despite the fact nearly 81 percent of items sold on eBay are brand new).

And the start of fixing that image is better marketing, and emphasizing what their strengths are, most notably:

  • eBay has a stronger global presence, and is in over 25 countries.
  • The relationship with sellers is much more positive – eBay is essentially a platform and a partner, an online storefront.
  • It’s much cheaper for sellers to sell than on Amazon (although it offers much less in terms of services).
  • You have more control over your brand than with Amazon, as again, it’s not competing with you.
  • The conversation around eBay is ongoing, and how the company appeals to large retailers and develops this brand is something sellers will be monitoring, because colorful tv ad campaigns won’t be enough to keep them afloat.

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Business News

Price-predictable subscription to legal help for startups

(BUSINESS) Startups in growth mode need extra help, and legal services is not where successful companies cut corners. Check out this subscription option for your growing company.

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If you’re running your own business or are planning to start one, legal help is probably low on your list.

Most of us have access to free resources from your local Chamber of Commerce or state website, or may have a “friend” who can help you with the forms and other things.

For a lot of things, a DIY attitude won’t cost you much. You could float your own drywall for example. But when it comes to the law, you must trust an expert. Trying to cut corners on legal expenses can cost you a lot in terms of liability or lead to a few headaches, disputes, and litigations. And even if it didn’t cost money, it will cost you time.

Fortunately, you may not have to pay a lawyer directly, as there are several online solutions, including LegalZoom or LegalShield that can help you with forms, provide advice or help you get your business started. Legal advice could cost you hundreds per hour, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although online legal services are available, one thing that may be challenging for startups is that it can be difficult to budget for: cost transparency isn’t always available and it may be contingent on demand, time and resources.

Atrium is legal firm specifically designed for startups. This firm was founded by Twitch founder Justin Kan, and Silicon Valley lawyer, Augie Rakow in response to what his needs were as a startup: fast, reliable, and transparent services.

To date, Atrium boasts 890 completed startup deals; $5B raised by companies, and 10 companies started by it’s members. Atrium breaks down its services into four areas:

Atrium Counsel – which provides standard day to day legal processes, including board meetings, NDS, contract/personnel review, etc. – this is available as a subscription service or if you have unique needs, there are special projects available.
Atrium Financing – to help work with venture capital transactions and help explain the deal and it’s process, including upfront price estimates for advice with pitches.
Atrium Contracts – to help with contract review and form generations.
Atrium Blockchain – to help provide legal advice on the many regulatory issues involving blockchain issues.

Atrium’s major competitive advantage is the end of the billable hour paradigm and the focus on subscription models. This is great for a startup in growth mode because you can get a lot of value for a fixed price.

That said, Vitality CEO, Jamie Davidson said, “Just had a call with these folks. You pay a minimum of $1K a month (based on your company size) to be able to ask them questions. You then pay above-market prices for actual legal needs, like privacy policy/TOS generation ($5K), GDPR ($10+K), etc. Our current lawyer does not charge me to ask him questions, but he does charge for actual legal work.”

Others have noted Atrium’s technological advantage and expertise, so mileage could vary.

If you find that community resources aren’t available or not meeting your needs, Atrium could be the service that helps take you to the next level. If you’re considering shopping for legal services, check out Atrium’s site, get to know their team, and see if it’s the right fit for you. The bottom line is that there are a lot of places to cut corners for your growing business, but legal services are not one of them.

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Business News

Courts to decide if ‘overqualified’ is being used as a code word for ‘too old’ to hire?

(BUSINESS) Many have long held that job seekers are told they are “overqualified” when some employers mean they’re just too old and they’ll carry higher cost and leave quickly. The court system is considering this contentious topic as we speak.

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According to AARP, “age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well.” But a case before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago questions whether older job applicants can sue for certain biased recruiting practices.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the case “raises a critical question about whether job applicants can pursue” a lawsuit raising the argument whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects external job applicants.

Therefore, the question is, does 'overqualified' truly mean an applicant doesn't have the right qualifications, or is it a code word for someone being too old to hire?Click To Tweet

The case is Kleber v. CareFusion Corp digs into this challenge. Dale Kleber applied for a position with CareFusion. The job description asked for “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” Kleber had decades of experience, after all he was 58. The company never even interviewed him.

They ultimately hired a 29-year-old to fill the position. CareFusion insists that Kleber’s age had nothing to do with him not being considered for the role. Kleber argues that “overqualified” is a code word for “too old.”

The case has been working its way through the courts. The first judge dismissed the claim, ruling that the statue doesn’t cover external applicants, but that decision was reversed on appeal by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit which stated it “could not imagine” that Congress intended to only protect internal applicants from age discrimination.

CareFusion was given a rehearing in front of the full court in September. Depending on their ruling, the case could go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

What does this mean for you?

This case is just one of many that attorneys are filing with various courts. There is a case in Arizona in which two firefighters, the oldest in the district, were let go due to their age. Age discrimination could affect anyone, because everyone eventually becomes eligible. The courts are conflicted over the types of protection offered by the ADEA, but it’s also difficult to prove when age discrimination has occurred.

For small business owners, it’s imperative that you look at your hiring practices. Think about your recruiting practices. Do you simply look for talent at your local college? You miss valuable talent if you’re not looking at older applicants, and people are working well into their 70s these days, no longer retiring early. Think about the connections and experience an older team member could bring to the job.

If you (or your company) refuse to care about any of those things, fine. But consider this – based on the results of this and other lawsuits, you could be opening your business to being sued if you overlook age in the recruiting and hiring process.

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