The economy is not kind to those looking for steady work. More and more people are learning the hard way that long-term jobs don’t exist anymore because the cost is too high for companies to keep people on for 20 or 30 years. It used to be that people looked forward to having a 40 year run with a company, which is a long time when you think about it. That’s a lot of time to give up for one company. The Freelance committee is growing at a very fast rate and with apps like Uber and TaskRabbit taking over and replacing people’s source of income it is not uncommon now to run into people who supplement majority of their income with these apps.
Freelance work can get hard to keep a steady flow of work because you are the only person responsible for getting and keeping work coming in. If you do not have any work then you do not have any income and that can get dangerous for anyone with monthly bills that need to get paid. The trouble with working as a freelancer is that your income fluctuates, some weeks you are working everyday and making great money and other weeks you have nothing to do. The rise and fall of your income can make it difficult to get approved for anything with a bank that requires a past history of consistent income. This is why more and more people are switching to apps that help bring in more money. Of course this can create a very unsafe résumé of consistent work that more promising employers might look down upon.
The Wonders of Apps and Technology
The beauty of the world we live in today is that anyone can create anything to help someone else. It just takes a little ingenuity and creativity to come up with something to help others improve their life. Until now if you needed a more stable income base you had to find a “regular” job that provided regular hours to work. Most white collar jobs require a higher education in order to even be considered so jobs like that are out of the picture for most people but regular blue-collar jobs are easier to come by if you are good with basic math, can handle heavy things, and available whenever the company needs you. The pay you bring in though will not be anything great but it will be consistent and reliable.
The fast food and big box retailers are notorious for curbing people’s paychecks in order to keep them off of full-time benefits. Places like Wal-Mart make it a strict practice for their managers to work their employees right up to the minimum mark before they are considered for full-time benefits in order to get the most out of them. Rather than pay for the fair wage and service the employee provides, they would just call-in another employee who needs the hours on short notice.
This whole shuffling around of employees is very disrespectful and inconsiderate of people’s time and efforts because companies like Wal-Mart only worry about their bottom line and nothing else. (Side note: Wal-Mart is one of a few companies that actually explains on their company website to employees how to apply for government benefits because they don’t want to pay them enough) If you read that correctly, Wal-Mart actually puts more stress on the government to provide more support because they don’t want to pay their employees reasonable wages.
Many of the technology startups in the Silicon Valley focus on creating products and services that people don’t necessarily need. I don’t need Uber and I don’t need Airbnb to live my life but I do need a steady stream of income, just like everyone else. Startups tend to focus on just creating products to sell to people instead of creating something of value that can actually help and fix people’s situations. That is where Jon Schlossberg and Quinten Farmer come into the picture. They wanted to create something that truly had value to offer to people who used their app. Majority of apps on people’s phones are there to provide a service of some sort but nothing like what their app provides.
Perspective Follows Purpose
Jon Schlossberg is someone who always had an eye for human behavior. He was keen on finding repeat patterns in all the things people did with their time. He would notice these growing up and wonder why people acted that way or did that. He studied psychology at Skidmore so he could work for the F.B.I. in the forensic’s department. His dream job got side tracked when he became interested in money and went to work for Bonobos as product developer. It was when he was on vacation that he read an interesting study that explained how being poor can affect a person’s mental capabilities. It was this understanding of money, poverty, and stress that got him thinking of how to fix these problems all together.
One of the hidden problems of income inequality in America is that it can swing very widely for many people, especially the low bracket of poor people whose source of income varies. One week there might be a few dollars, the next none, and the next it might be more; the problem overall is that money is not a reliable source so they must live day-to-day on what they currently have. This kind of living can put enormous stress on a person or family who must make ends meet. The Federal reserve found that a third of American’s live in a constant state of income flux. The new economy we live in has only made this issue more wide spread since long-term employment is no longer a thing.
While Jon was researching more about the issue of how to fix this problem and turn it into a business he came across a blog article by, Quinten Farmer, who talked about how to use bitcoin to reduce the cost of sending money of migrant workers to relatives back home. It was in reading this article that he discovered who his new co-founder would be. The discovery of someone else online who is looking to solve the same issue as you could only have been found by reading and looking online. Jon requested a meeting with him and the two got together to talk about what they could come up with.
The D.I.Y. economy has created a whole new class of workers who now reply on the technology of apps to piece together a living wage. These apps allow people to become, what is known as microentrepreneurs, because they are not necessarily running their own business as they are juggling their own hours to work within a mired scope of apps. There are people who are signed up on all the ridesharing apps just to cover all their bases. At the same time they are looking around Craigslist all the time for simple jobs to pick up and now that Amazon has opened their Home services program, that will put more stress on people to keep track of any jobs that pop up.
The lifestyle, as great as it may seem of working your own hours and doing only the work you want to do, has its many drawbacks. One of the biggest is that you are required to constantly check the job postings which means you might be required to leave at the most inopportune time. TaskRabbit requires that anyone interested in a job respond within 30 minutes of the posting if they are qualified for it. This behavior of constantly checking produces stress for people working in this temp-like-economy because it means that if you miss a job that could be a missed payment for one of your bills. That kind of stress can build up, especially when the whole ecosystem of freelance work is based off of personal demand. There can only be so many jobs that require someone to help clean up after a party and there can only be so many jobs that require someone coming over and assembling something you bought.
The service app economy allows many people to find work in different places but if everyone is jumping on this bandwagon then there can only be so much work available and when it comes right down to it the one with the fastest internet connection will win out every time. Microearners are the people who lose out the most because it is very hard for them to transition back into the workforce at a major company. Saying on your resume that you worked at TaskRabbit for 2 years helping with odd jobs here and there makes one seem more like a maintenance worker than that marketing degree you got from college. Companies only hire people who are current with their skills and industry trends so the new service economy is great for anyone who doesn’t want to go back but once you do leave your office job, be prepared for an uphill battle trying to get back in.
Evening Out the Stress
The challenge with taking on all these jobs is the uneven income you bring into your life. One day you might pick up three jobs and make $135 dollars and then next you might only get 1 job and your income drops down to $35 bucks and then next it might be five jobs at $175. The problem with this income fluctuation is that you have no clear idea what you will make by the end of the week, unlike a regular office job. This is what Jon and Quinten set out to fix with their app called, Even.
How Even works is by smoothing out your income and giving you a regular slice of life knowing that every friday you will have the same amount of money available to you. When you install the app, it will request access to your bank account. After you agree it will then analyze your account to determine if you qualify for the program, if you do, then you will be shown how your income will become stable based off of the number of deposits in your account to determine how much you will have available to you every friday. (I’m only using friday as an example since Even uses other metrics to determine how often to pay you.) Not everyone will be able to qualify for this service and for the millions of Americans who don’t have a bank account they will not be able to use the service. Here is an example of the service. There are some weeks you might earn more money then usual so Even will take the surplus from the difference of the average you make and put it into a buffer account. Then on bad weeks when you drop below your average earnings Even will pull from your buffer account to help spread out the difference and if there is not enough then Even will help cover the rest with an interest-free loan.
Basically this app makes sure that you have the same amount of money available to you every friday at the end of the week. The only cost to you to use the service is $3 dollars a week ($156/yr). For anyone that works in the freelance community this app is a much needed service to help smooth out the rough weeks with the good ones. Jon and Quinten have learned that when the stress of worrying about money are reduced people can focus better on improving their lives. An app like this provides more value than most other apps out there since no other app really makes this much of an effort to help people.
Challenges and Shortcomings
The concern with this app is that it is a business and all the funding they have received has been from big time VC firms. Venture Capitalist firms do not invest if they won’t get a return on their investment so how does Even plan to meet the demands, if and when, they plan to go public with this company if the only charge to use their service is a weekly $3 fee? The founders said that they don’t plan to add any advertisements into the app because that would only cause more stress if someone decided to take out a loan to help make ends meet. The whole purpose of this app is so that people do not have to do that anymore. They will have to come up with something if they plan to make their investors happy though.
Right now the app is invite only with about a thousand users testing it out this summer. It will be made available to everyone in January 2016 so make sure to mark your calendar down if you plan to add this cool app to your phone. In the meantime you can check out their website to learn more about it and share it with others you think might benefit from such a service. I have also listed a few articles below that go into more detail about the new economy of freelancing with apps if you wish to study the latest trends.