Support services for the Indie Economy

Over the course of the past year, I have been interviewed a whole lot of times about the”peer economy” or the”sharing economy” (FastcoWiredNY TimesPBS Newshour), with the majority of the focus on the public policy considerations of this, specifically public security regulations and the effect on labour.

A question which comes up each time is:”are not all these new independent workers missing out on the stability given by full-time employment?” (e.g., health care, steady work, etc).

My response was: yes, for now. BUT, there’s an emerging tide of networked services that will offer this stability to independent workers, albeit in a different form than we are used to seeing.

My colleague Albert explains this as the”unbundling of a work ” — the notion that lots of the things which have traditionally been part of a project (not only steady money and health care, but also sense of purpose, camaraderie, etc.), will in the long run be extended by a mixture of different organizations, communities and services. Albert takes the thought a lot further than I will here, where I only want to concentrate on a few of the more immediately practical developments.

Up to now, this idea has not gotten plenty of press attention, since the amount of observable services providing this sort of support has been little. However, it is growing, and I hope we will see at least a small handful of these sorts of services gain traction within the next year.

Freelancers Union’s roots are in the pre-networked age, focusing mostly on individual creative forms in NYC, and their range has grown dramatically over time, developing nationally and incorporating services such as insurance and medical programs .

What we expect to find far more of are services which are tailor-made to encourage independent employees who reach customers and deliver their job via mobile and web platforms. By way of instance, Peers, that is basically Freelancers Union for the peer market.

So, what sorts of services are we talking about exactly? Here are Some of the kinds of services we have been noticing and think we will see more of:

  • Insurance: One of the largest challenges in this area has been the way to insure it. We are seeing established companies consider how to cover the space, in addition to brand new carriers which are tailor-made for this. 
  • Job discovery & Layout: lots of networked, independent employees make real-time decisions about the sort of work to do (e.g., forcing vs. assembling furniture), in addition to which platforms to utilize (uber vs lyft). Increasing discoverability and lowering switching costs are also a significant competitive vector to ensure employees’ interests are being met by platforms. This is a subject in its own right, rather than especially unique to the economy, but we’re seeing Huge experimentation and innovation in how independent actors Can Purchase health care (e.g., teladocmedigo to name two of many)

I guess that by the end of 2015 we will not just have a much longer list of example problems and services, we will see that some of them have gotten traction and began to make a gap for independent workers.

Therefore, if you are a reporter covering this beat, I believe this is an interesting angle to pursue. If you are a lawmaker or policymaker, I would consider this as a significant and growing part of this ecosystem. And if you are an entrepreneur working in this area, we would like to meet you )


  1. Another place is vehicle maintenance. When you get a car through Uber the first 2 decades of maintenance isn’t covered like when you purchase the car privately. Purchasing legit automobile maintenance packages that mimic mill suggestions are great.

    Also what if you can shop your Uber brokered rental from Santander? I would really like to have the chance to from paying $900 to say $600. a month.

  2. Very insightful. What is fascinating to me is the sharing market players (I like the notion of”peers”) will also be self-dogfooding (eating their own dog food!) By also being themsevles customers of the other services offered by their peers.

    How long until we see insurance companies assembled on the Uber or AirBnb version: where most”workers” aren’t employees anymore but contractor receiving their job from an algorithm that sends them incoming calls, together with all necessary files to make the appropriate decisions?

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