The number of freelance workers in the United States is growing steadily. Some of the startups that have just been through Y Combinator’s first season of 2016 are focusing on this trend in the employment world, providing innovative solutions to assist this new generation of workers and the people who want to hire their services.
According to ‘Freelancing in America: 2015’, a report jointly produced by US non-profit organisation Freelancers Union and Mountain View, California-based global freelancing platform Upwork, 54 million US citizens, i.e. a little over a third of the working population in the United States, are now freelancers or on-demand providers. There are two reasons for this recent increase in the number of on-demand workers. Firstly, parts of the working population are now unhappy with the traditional model of working for a single company and are looking for greater freedom and flexibility. This is especially true of younger people from Generation Y and Generation Z: some 43% of all US freelancers are ‘millennials’. Secondly, the advent of the on-demand economy model allows firms nowadays to hire experts in a given field, often with highly specialised skills, to meet a precise need for a specific length of time. This development is of course a boon for employers.
Report: Freelancing in America 2015
During the Y Combinator Demo Day, several startups highlighted this shift from traditional modes of employment to the freelancing model. Below is a roundup of Y Combinator graduates’ solutions in this field, ranging from putting companies and freelancers in touch with each other to providing dedicated services for freelance workers.
Helping companies accomplish day-to-day tasks
Konsus, a startup with offices in Oslo and Palo Alto, California, specialises in putting companies and freelance providers in touch with each other, both for company-internal day-to-day tasks and for more complex jobs requiring specialised skills. A Powerpoint presentation whose design requires some improvement, data that needs modelling on Excel, or job designing a new logo – all you have to do is send a request to the Konsus chat room or use the Slack communication tool and Konsus will find a freelance professional whose profile meets your need and is available to get on with the job right away. Launched in August 2015, Konsus already has a portfolio of some 250 client companies and is currently growing 10% per month.
Konsus finds the best freelancers to accomplish your tasks
Platforms for on-demand experts
Stealth Worker has also created a site designed to put different parties in touch with each other, this time specifically in the cybersecurity sector. Ken Baylor worked as a Chief Security Officer for over ten years and this experience taught him that the traditional employment format – full time on an unlimited contract – is no longer suited to the need of most companies, especially when it comes to the new information and communication technologies. Today firms need to be able to call on experts with state-of-the-art technical skills in this area. Cybersecurity is one of the most striking examples: one million jobs in this field are currently vacant worldwide due to a shortage of people with the right qualifications.
In order to alleviate this problem, Stealth Worker has listed the profiles of cybersecurity experts on an online platform, so that companies can call on these human resources at need. Launched in January this year, the startup has already acquired 20 corporate clients, is posting monthly growth of 105% and claims to be profitable already!
Bonsai automates freelancers’ contracts and payments
Lightening the admin load for freelance workers
As the number of freelancers in the world of work increases, there is also a growing need to protect their interests by creating new types of support services for this new type of worker, to replace the systems which company HR departments traditionally provide for a full-time waged workforce.
Accordingly, Bonsai has taken on the task of relieving freelancers from tedious administrative tasks and ensuring they get paid promptly. Bonsai’s founders estimate that 50% of freelancers are currently either paid late or do not get paid at all. By automating contracts and the invoices and payments passing between freelancers and the companies to which they provide their services, Bonsai gives such specialists as web designers and software developers the freedom to concentrate on their core business rather than wasting precious time submerged in non-revenue-generating administrative tasks. Launched in December last year, Bonsai already manages payments on behalf of over 15,000 freelancers. This indicates a rosy future for the fledgling company.
See the first article in our series on the first Y Combinator season of 2016, on the subject of Robotics.