How to Grow Your Business in the Gig Economy

It only takes an idea and $50 to create an LLC online today. From a technology perspective, a small business owner can replicate anything that a larger corporation can.

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Bill Furlong, founder, and CEO of SquareStack and author of “Appify Your Business” says today’s economy is often referred to as the gig economy. This is about the trend of companies to hire both part-time or temporary workers who work on a project and on an as-needed basis. In the gig economy, the classic small business is the one-person business. According to a 2017 report from employee staffing firm Kelly, there are approximately 50 million free agents in the U.S., a full one-third of our domestic economy.

“You have this emerging class of solopreneurs, which are both millennials and zillennials and of course, boomers, who are just guns for hire. They want to do their craft as a single freelancer. So, all these sorts of societal trends are building up to this ecosystem called the gig economy,” says Furlong.

It only takes an idea and $50 to create an LLC online today. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are doing just that and often, more than a handful of companies. While that is only one small step, the trend confirms that more small businesses will be created.

“What is very apparent in this world of Uber, DoorDash, and just remote working, especially with COVID now, is that many, especially millennials, don't want a full-time career job. They want to build a balanced lifestyle,” he says. “Not that I don't, but they like to surf in the afternoon, drive an Uber car near evening, and go to school in the morning. So, this idea of not working for one company is instilled into the millennial generation.”

On the other hand, technology is a game-changer for the small business owner. From a technology perspective, a small business owner can replicate anything that a larger corporation can.

“And now what's powering that is software as a service companies such as, Shiftgig and BookIt for example, where folks can submit their credentials and the hiring companies check out their resumes and their work, and they get hired,” he says.

Millennials and the soon-to-join-the-workforce zillennials, are looking at their careers with the aim of eventually owning their own businesses. They see life as a balance of work and play and, thus, view themselves as long-term contractors as opposed to employees of a single employer. The idea that you own your own small business is spreading and becoming commonplace.

“So, you have these huge platforms that are now empowering the gig economy and put them to work. When you talk to any Uber driver about how cool the Uber software is, they go on and on, they were waiters, or teachers or still are, and then they enter the Uber system. And they just love the software, that they just booked their time, and they get a check in their bank account,” Furlong says.

As you’re going to see through the magic of building your AppStacks and leveraging business apps, you can now orchestrate a complete integrated technology platform. This might consist of your financials, HR, advertising, social media, supply chain deliveries or any combination of these and more, with very little effort all on your own.

“Software has hastened and enabled the gig economy. The gig economy requires you to have software tools to be networked to the hiring opportunities, and or be plugged into the systems how you get paid,” he says. “A lot of workers to small business owners are contractors, and freelancers, and so they're gig workers, even though they may not know it. More and more companies are going to move to that model, given the COVID era we're now in.”

With all of the apps available to entrepreneurs and small business owners today, you have all the tools you need to be as creative as you can possibly be. Especially with apps being able to deliver the tools for you to be as creative as you can possibly be.

“We are now in a new era where software is the underpinning of our whole economic system,” Furlong says. “If you're not up on that, even if you're a dry cleaner owner, you're going to miss out and there's no vertical industry that is not being reinvented by the cloud. GreenApps, is this great platform for you to consult as a landscaper to see what baby steps you can take without risking your current business model.”

Simple Action Steps to Take Now:

  • Head out of the office early one afternoon and find a quiet place. Spend a few hours mapping out who you see as your competitors. Do this both in terms of traditional (for example, another local similar supplier like your firm) and nontraditional (for example, some web-based company, or perhaps another product category that competes for the same customer dollar). Be sure to write out the advantages and disadvantages they have. Then take a break and review this with your team. Identify what new direction can be planned for a competitive advantage.
  • Take one of those very direct competitors, a company possibly you aspire to be like, or find very successful. Go directly to their websites, social media, and take note of what, if any, apps they have enabled for their customer base. I’ll bet that they’re enjoying success for some of these technology commitments.
  • Whatever industry you’re in, conduct a Google search “apps for your industry.” For example, if you’re a dry cleaner owner, Google “apps for dry cleaners.” Or if you’re an appraiser, try “apps for appraisers.” Select one of the companies listed and set up a demo of the business app. Ask for a proposal. Take the leap on testing the app.
  • Formally or informally, ask some of your best customers to meet with you to discuss their user experience. Five to ten meetings should suffice. Look for their feedback on their digital and in-store experiences. If you want to be more formal in this research you can always create a survey and send it out via email and yes, try using a business app like SurveyMonkey to do it.