Thoughts from our CEO, Alex

Recently, our CEO, Alex has been very busy! As well as making sure everything is ticking along at Hassle HQ, she’s also found the time to write a great thought leadership piece on the sharing economy (it’s safe to say she definitely doesn’t like to be bored!).

But that’s enough from us now, we’ll hush up and let Alex’s piece speak for itself! Have a read and let us know what you think in the comments below.

“Recently the Gray Lady of New York – more traditionally known as the New York Times – ran an in-depth piece on the ‘sharing economy’. The article looked at this fledgling sector by using a Boston mother of three, Jennifer Guidry, as the centrepiece of its narrative; examining her efforts to feed her family using the tempting fruits of the new technology economy. The outlook was not portrayed as rosy.

For me it failed to distinguish between two different elements that make up the new economy. The difference between services such as Airbnb – which utilise spare capacity and provide additional income streams – to services like my own ( which give a platform to specialists in a particular field to find more regular and steady income.

Bringing in the new brooms

In the New York Time’s story Jennifer took a piecemeal approach to different work, in various sectors across a range of tech platforms. Her work ethic is to be admired as she strives to make the most of difficult circumstances.

But many of the services she used are designed to monetise people’s spare capacity – whether it be time, resources or space. They are not necessarily always going to be enough to support a full and stable income and, as a result, aren’t an indication of a failing of the sharing economy.

In contrast, platforms like enable and empower people who have the skills to do work in a specific area but not the soft skills needed to sell themselves. Many people would never think to hire a cleaner from an ad on a supermarket noticeboard for fear of the unknown. But technology breaks down this barrier and gives voice to those who previously had little chance to branch out on their own and reach a sustainable customer base.

It allows people to run their own microbusinesses and take control of their working life and earnings, rather than just be vulnerable guns for hire waiting around sheepishly and hopefully for a gig. Any gig.

Cleaning up the market

Staid economists mourning the passing of established models overlook the lack of options and hope for low-wage earners that exists in many industries. Many in low-skilled jobs, baulking at industry or agency conditions (which often come with lack of choice, low pay and unsociable working hours) may feel they have little realistic choice but to turn to the black market to find meaningful employment that is suitable to their personal circumstances.

An efficient and open sharing economy can help drive down demand from both workers and consumers for the unregulated market. Our platform offers cleaners the ability to choose their own hours, their own customers and to be paid well above minimum wage to do so. Workers can use digital marketplaces not only to find work but to protect themselves and make everything above board. Marketplaces record schedules, working hours, employment terms and other vital criteria wilfully ignored on the underground scene.

95% of the cleaners using our marketplace only work via us. They are not working with other cleaning agencies as there is no incentive to do so such is the steady, regular nature of the work they are receiving.

The sharing economy connects and builds direct relationships in a way the current model simply does not allow. Around half our customers have never hired a cleaner before. Many had wanted to, but just never knew where to look, how to connect or who to trust. Through technology neither consumer nor worker has to be subject to the inevitable injustices of dabbling in the black market.

Starting afresh

For me, the negative backlash presently stirring against the sharing economy is simply the inevitable wave of resistance that meets any major economic, social or political shift.

It also comes in part from a misrepresentation of what it is, with critics (often from the status quo) not differentiating between services aimed at helping those in a chosen career path avoid the pitfalls of the black market and build their businesses – to those tools simply offering opportunities to gain extra income for smaller, piecemeal projects.

People have informally hawked their skills and resources around the neighbourhood since time immemorial. All the digital revolution has done is simply move this process online.

Society votes with its feet. If the services from the likes of Uber and Airbnb are not up to the standard workers and consumers expect they will turn away.

The economy is transforming and we all – from CEO to job hunter – have a share in how to shape it.” – Alex Depledge