The gig economy, best described as engagement of independent workers on short-term contracts has taken the world by storm. It has given many businesses and individuals’ alike access to a wide spectrum of talent from both the white and blue collar segments.

A blessing and a curse.

On one hand it has opened up multiple revenue streams for talent that is now able to choose when to work or even filter from a pool of available opportunities that may be present at any particular time while on the other hand it has introduced risks such as depressed market prices, increased competition, uncertainty and job insecurity outside the moat of regular employment where benefits and perks are often part of the package.

Having started off as supplemental work for most, it has now evolved into ‘full time’ work with the freedom associated with ability to control ones working hours, connectivity and tooling, touted as being central to this.

Reaching scale

In my opinion, the latter is a faux-freedom as informed by keen observance of the larger ecosystem.

Freelancer and other on-demand platforms are where these independent agents seek out work, or as positioned by platform owners, where work finds them. The biggest challenge for the platform owners is to hit scale and distribution having a good balance on both the demand and supply centres of their operations.

I have discovered that it is near impossible, even with nuanced perks and incentives to keep gig workers loyal to one platform, unless of course it is the only platform available in a given market.

Faux freedom

This is also where the notion of faux-freedom comes in with many operatives simultaneously live on multiple platforms in an attempt to maximize on visibility of available jobs.

It is not uncommon for example to hail a motorcycle taxi, popularly known as the boda boda for the operator to arrive with a reflector jacket from one service, the helmet from yet another service, all of which compete with the one whose service you just ordered; or for your just in time taxi driver to regale with tales of their experience across a number of different apps.

The biggest challenge with gig work, that has a net negative effect on user experience, is that of creating, distilling and entrenching culture that upholds service excellence.

The camaraderie that if often found in traditional work settings is missing and many often carry themselves around with a lopsided boss mentality. This results in the now common social media exposes of service providers gone ham, with platform owners scrambling to save face.

The human condition is near impossible to control.

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