What’s Yours is Mine? The New Sharing Economy and Small Business

In recent years, many workers have found new ways to earn a living, becoming their own bosses as they enjoy a freelance lifestyle. Whether they’re offering rides to the airport through Lyft or Uber, or running errands through TaskRabbit, people are redefining the way they earn a living and blazing a trail for future generations.

But there are downsides to working this way. For freelancers, the unpredictability of work and changing pay structures make it sometimes difficult to make a reliable living. But for businesses and the American economy as a whole, the impact can be far more widespread.

Pros and Cons of Our New Sharing Economy

Pro: Growth of Outsourcing Opportunities

The increase in freelance workers gives businesses a great alternative to hiring full-time, salaried workers. Instead they can outsource work on a per-project basis and continue working with those employees if they do well.

Additionally, errand services like TaskRabbit give professionals the ability to outsource mundane personal tasks, like picking up dry cleaning or running errands. They can then focus on their own work. For traveling professionals, Lyft and Uber have proven to be a better alternative to taxis and public transportation, allowing them to call for a car and pay all on their mobile devices.

Con: Shortage of Skilled Workers

Unfortunately, a sharing society also means fewer professionals in the workforce. As the unemployment rate drops, this could result in there being a national labor shortage, where businesses scramble for help from what is a much smaller pool of skilled workers who are willing to work a structured office schedule.

The Millennial generation is now filling the workplace, and they have expressed their preferences for a fun and flexible workplace. The workforce of the future will require a performance-based workday rather than one that is measured by time clocks and traditional 40 hour work weeks.

Pro: Entrepreneurs Working Together

The ad hoc environment can be very good for business owners, who can take advantage of the large variety of skilled freelancers available.

More shared work spaces like Canvs are opening up across the country, providing desks and meeting space for a variety of talented independent workers and small businesses. Co-working spaces encourage collaboration, prompting entrepreneurs to learn from and help each other as they build their businesses.

These centers also serve to help build the local economy by encouraging business growth.

Con: Wage Degradation

There are some who are concerned about these shared labor concepts. Economist Dean Baker pointed out to the New York Times, that the wages workers make in these gigs can equate to less than minimum wage. He expressed concern that in time, this could create a downward pressure on wages overall that could impact the earning ability of mainstream America.

However, for the most entrepreneurial-minded workers, this type of work can help build the confidence they need to start their own businesses.

The new sharing economy opens opportunities for both consumers and workers, allowing people to work on their own terms. With the unemployment rate still high, this sharing economy is enabling people to make money while they wait for job opportunities to open up.

It seems to me that the freedom of being your own boss is empowering and has the potential to inspire many to start their own businesses – which benefits the economy as a whole.

How to Use the Sharing Economy to Benefit Your Business

Running a small business has a lot of perks to it.

A huge budget usually isn’t one of them, so small businesses have to continually look for ways to stretch a dollar and make the most out of the operating budgets they do have. Finding ways to save on expenses while increasing profits is necessary to stay afloat.

One way for small businesses to save on costs associated with running a business is to utilize today’s economy of sharing.

With the nation’s workplaces being filled with Millennials, companies are changing the way they do business. Instead of larger corporations keeping their cubicles filled with life-long, dedicated employees, companies are now hiring employees who are more caring, sharing, and have a lower level of commitment than their older peers in the business world.

For smaller businesses with fewer employees, this millennial mindset and the sharing economy, sometimes called “collaborative consumption,” can save money on operating expenses and raise profits if done correctly.

Let’s look at a few ways that small businesses can utilize the sharing economy and make it benefit the bottom line:

Raising Capital

Unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the last 5 years, you’ve likely heard of crowdsourcing, and the sites that aspiring entrepreneurs, those raising funds for medical expenses, and others use in their fundraising efforts.

Instead of going door-to-door selling wrapping paper or candy, or hitting up relatives for capital, small businesses can turn to crowdsourcing as a means for raising capital. Although video games and movies are the most funded projects in crowdsourcing, anybody can put an idea out there and offer special perks to those willing to invest in it.

Crowdsourcing can save time for businesses when raising capital, and also be an easier way to come up with funding than applying and qualifying for a traditional bank loan.

Business Trips

With business hubs in the United States being mainly on the east and west coasts of the country, there will most likely be a need for business travel now and then for small businesses.

Costs in transportation and lodging can really add up, and since ride sharing for airplanes hasn’t really caught on yet, businesses can save the most by using shared car rides and accommodations. Whether it be a ride to the airport, or to a meeting from the hotel, small businesses can save on transportation costs by using services like Uber and Lyft.

Small businesses can also save on local transportation by using these services instead of purchasing and maintaining a fleet of vehicles. Small businesses can save up to 50 percent of lodging costs by using services like Airbnb.

Outsourcing Small Tasks

Small businesses can outsource a lot of small tasks to outside providers. Handyman services, painting, cleaning, and maintenance can be outsourced to the lowest bidder on sites like AskforTask. You can also find the services of a logo designer, app developer, and writer from freelancers on sites like Fiverr.

Monetize Space

Do you have extra offices in your building that aren’t being used? Space for a cell tower? Unused parking spaces? You can turn all of these assets into money for your bottom line by utilizing the sharing economy to rent them out. In some cities, parking spaces are worth $50,000 a year.

Hiring Temps

Using a service like Wonolo, you can hire temporary employees to work just 3 hours, 3 days, or 3 weeks. You can even use these services to hire temporary to permanent employees. You can use a service like this just to find temps to perform menial tasks like sending out mailers, but more and more businesses are using them to fill longer term positions like web design.

When done properly, and small business can use collaborative consumption, or the sharing economy, to save money in the short term and the long run. Small businesses can also form relationships with individuals and other businesses that can be mutually beneficial to both.