Can Blockchain Unite a Fragmented Gig Economy?

Try googling “where to find freelance work”. There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of freelance job sites claiming their devotion to helping freelancers find work. There seem to be new job boards and marketplaces popping up every single day promising to be the ultimate source for freelance success.

Thanks to the technology behind each of these online job boards, it’s easier than ever to find freelance work––nearly 70 percent of current freelancers would agree. But 52 percent of freelancers are still searching for an online space that provides them with a steady inflow of work.

But do freelancers really need more options when 86 percent of freelancers we polled are already using more than one platform to search for freelance work? Typically, more is better than less. But if we take a step back, are countless accounts and profiles on innumerable job sites really making the process more manageable? Perhaps more sites is just more problematic for freelancers and those trying to hire in the gig economy.

Current Issues in Freelance Marketplaces

In the growing on-demand economy, more freelance platforms means:

Demand Dilution

More job boards and marketplaces mean more places to post jobs. While the number of part-time jobs is growing, freelancers can have a hard time trying to locate gig work they qualify for. It becomes a game of hide and seek, and the freelancer rarely wins.

Data Fragmentation

More marketplaces means more accounts to set up and maintain. Because no freelance platform is talking to its competitors there’s no data sharing. Freelancers have to create separate profiles, gain new followers, clients, and reviews on each platform. And just think of it from an employer’s perspective: if a freelancer is signed up for 5 marketplaces, and they have client reviews spread across all these platforms, which profile and set of reviews should be trusted as the most “accurate”?

Wasted Time = Wasted Money

Lastly, duplicate freelancer profiles means hours of wasted time on account set up and maintenance. That lost time doesn’t even include the frustration of having to learn each new system with different fee structures, rules, and regulations.

Today, freelancers are typically spending three to six hours a week looking for work. Could that time be reduced and turned into billable hours instead? What could you do with that extra money? How could the economy as a whole benefit from this influx of capital?

With this fragmentation and wasted resources plaguing the freelance workforce, more isn’t our answer. More just perpetuates the problem. Perhaps the answer lies instead in creating a unified system accessible to freelancers everywhere, a system that would give time and control back to the freelance worker. Perhaps that unifier is blockchain.

How Blockchain Can Help

For those of you not familiar with blockchain tech, what you need to know is this: blockchain is relatively new technology that acts as a collective verification system offering a huge degree of traceability, security, and speed. Because data is passed to, verified by, and stored on a network of computers, that data becomes decentralized, meaning it doesn’t belong to one central owner (in the case of the gig economy, it doesn’t belong to one particular job board or marketplace).

How does this help freelancers?

Profiles Can Be Taken Anywhere the Freelancer Goes

If freelancer profile data is stored on blockchain instead of just within each freelance marketplace (what we have now), then freelancer profiles could essentially become portable: accessible from any participating partner marketplace and those same marketplaces could then also contribute back to the same profile.

This could mean one profile for each person, rather than one profile for each platform. Imagine the time savings you could achieve with a one-time setup and maintenance of one profile.

Profiles Will Belong to the Freelancer

Data that is verified by and stored on blockchain will no longer belong to a single centralized entity. Instead the data will become decentralized, allowing the freelancer to own their own data and take it with them to any participating freelance marketplace. This is how Moonlighting plans to democratize the freelance economy. Who wouldn’t want ownership of their data?

The Current Challenges of Blockchain

Since blockchain is still a (relatively) new technology, we are not exactly sure which freelance marketplaces will choose to decentralize their data. However, there is the hope that participants like Moonlighting will unite with them to empower the freelancers they serve. The only certainty is that with advancements like blockchain comes disruption, and we will continue to see fundamental shifts in the way people work in America and abroad.

There is also the fact that blockchain tech is still young. The types and amount of data that can be stored on each blockchain is currently fairly limited. To store a truly robust freelancer profile (inclusive of more than just the basic bio and pic, but also user review ratings, comments, video, a portfolio of work, and identity verifications) blockchain tech will need to improve. But blockchain development continues to innovate and improve every day to support these ambitious ideas for implementation.

But will the other marketplaces participate? It might be that case that older, larger job platforms will not be nimble enough to pivot quickly or adopt new technology without substantial work. But those new freelance marketplaces that are agile and responsive to the tech climate continue to pop into existence every day. Those innovators who build a user-centric platform backed by innovative technology will be the future of the gig economy.

The Great Online Hiring Disruptor

The dominos will fall if we can just get them all lined up. Moonlighting is working to lead this innovation. With blockchain, Moonlighting will give the data back to the freelancer so you not only own your own profile but can also can take it wherever you want with little effort. Together, blockchain and Moonlighting are the redrawing the blueprints for the future of work.

Here’s to uniting freelance marketplaces for the good of the freelancer! To building better systems that truly empower freelancers and employers to hire safely, work more, and futureproof the gig economy.

Read the original article on IBM.

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