While the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is within arm’s length, the last 16 or so months have forced society to make some changes to our lifestyle, which includes working remotely. This transition was difficult. However, what we faced in adversity also opened opportunities to build stronger relationships with those we interact with daily and created space for flexibility and grace.
Just as we saw a significant shift in working models at the dawn of the gig economy, we should expect an even bigger transformation to take place as it evolves into an independent service economy, accelerated by the pandemic.
There is no official name for it yet, but I’m calling it solo-commerce.
Breaking Down Solo-Commerce
The solo-commerce model has new opportunities for those who are looking to step beyond the gig economy. Solo commerce — in which all of the service-based industries, from caterers, to professional services (this includes companies that are physical goods-based)—helps people grow easily from contractors to solo-practitioner businesses to micro-SMBs and beyond.
Let’s look at an example – drivers of ride-sharing services; these are gig workers who have a ceiling to their business potential because their employer sets prices, assigns jobs and owns the opening and closing exchanges of the transaction. However, if they were to build a relationship with riders and develop a core group of clients, cutting out the ride-sharing service, gig workers could elevate themselves to become independent driving business practitioners.
An Economic Shift
There was an increased demand for freelancers when thousands of talented professionals were furloughed or laid off by their employers. Many found a lifeline in freelancing, giving the workforce an injection of skilled gig workers. Projections show that freelancers will go from making up 36% of the U.S. workforce now to more than half of it by 2027. I predict that this trend will become permanent. As independent workers begin leveraging the new digital technologies, there will be a major economic shift over the next three to five years as they manage their own businesses, cut out the middleman and decide their destiny. A decade of normalization has turned job flexibility from a luxury to an expectation.
Additionally, the benefits of the gig economy, while still compelling, have not concealed its flaws. The best and the brightest, once applauded for being contract employees, are realizing that the gig economy has become a trap. Service workers are realizing that they aren’t beholden to the intermediary hub or aggregate services provider (think Upwork or Fiverr) that first drew them online.
More people are starting their own businesses earlier in their lives, they’re succeeding, and this movement is just getting started.
So to those of you service-workers who are evolving to solo entrepreneurs, how can you take your business to the next level?
Become a business owner
Entrepreneurs deserve to call the shots. It’s a well-earned luxury that comes with running your own business. This autonomy should be brought into your digital space, meaning that your company’s platform, customers’ data, transactions and more are fully controlled by you, the business owner. Fiverr, Thumbtack and similar gig-based platforms are great for attracting customers, but ultimately you’re going to want an integrated view of your business with multiple growth channels.
You’re not alone
While running a successful business requires a lot of time and energy there are many resources and organizations such as the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and Small Business Administration that can help you. They provide services, benefits and more for small business owners and their employees.
Additionally, LinkedIn also hosts a variety of resources tailored to entrepreneurs. Searching for relevant hashtags can often direct people toward posts where other professionals share their personal anecdotes and advice.
The post-pandemic world is here. And as an industry, we need to support these potential future entrepreneurs by creating more opportunities for them to succeed via solo-commerce.
Solo-commerce is in its infancy, but the opportunity for growth is exponential, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this pandemic shift becomes permanent. I think we should all be rooting for entrepreneurs to follow their passions and build successful careers around them; we’ll do our part by providing the technology to back their drive.
Mark Lenhard is the CEO of Invoice2go.