How White-Collar Professionals Can Make The Sharing Economy Work

Introducing the white-collar sharing economy, complete with liberated workers and high wages.

As of late, the sharing economy has taken a substantial number of hits in the press: Just last week, Medium published "The Case Against Sharing" and in March, Fast Company published a piece titled "Pixel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In The Sharing Economy." However, both of these pieces focus on the blue-collar sharing economy, or the idea that people are being paid low wages for low-wage jobs.

As Felix Salmon recently countered, Uber drivers, for instance, make pretty decent wages, as do folks who rent their homes or spare rooms out via Airbnb. The white-collar sharing economy, complete with liberated workers and high wages, will ultimately create a system where everyone wins—both consumers and companies willing to hire white-collar independent workers who partake in the sharing economy.

The white-collar sharing economy that I envision is one that liberates office workers from the drudgery of working on projects they loathe, being forced to travel to godforsaken places that their bosses would never want to go, and not having the freedom to choose what work they do. In my opinion, if you can get work done from a beach in Hawaii as well as you could from an office in Boston, then you should be able to work from a beach in Hawaii.

In a white-collar sharing economy, how companies hire consultants will no longer be the archaic process that it is today.

On one hand, you have large consulting firms that charge you a 500% markup for their work. The bulk of your fees go into the pocket of the partner who sourced your project. What is left is eaten up by large firms’ extravagant offices, armies of administrators, first-class travel habits, and other frills. Very little money goes to the consultants who do the work!

The alternative to these luxury brands is to select from one of the independent consultants or boutique consulting firms out there. How many of these 250,000 independent consultants and small consulting firms in America alone did you search through? How do you filter based on their past ratings or skillset matches? Do you know that the consultant you hired is the best person for the job based on price, geography, industry, experience, and education?

If you’re a consultant, the system is equally broken: More than 70% of your time is spent doing business development. The chance that this approach gets you a project that matches your skillset, pay rate, and availability, is slim to none. Then, dealing with service agreements, invoicing, and billing departments is a nightmare.

As was written in the Deloitte Review in 2013, "What the open source model did for software development, the open talent economy is doing for work. Today’s younger, connected, globally mobile people are managing their careers on their own terms. Where their parents may have sought job security, they prize engagement and meaning."

Talented people will always be well-paid. In 2014, you simply don’t need to work for McKinsey, Bain, or BCG to make a significant income as a consultant.

Similar changes are taking place in the legal industry: Whereas you once had a legal field dominated by large firms with ridiculous retainer costs, legions of paralegals, and tons of overtime payments—not to mention the ludicrous $800 per hour prices that are billed to the minute—today you have online firms like Rocket Lawyer, UpCounsel, and LawDingo that have made finding lawyers far more affordable.

In the sharing economy, let’s think about what is typically being shared: The ability to get a task done at an affordable price. For anyone who needs to hire white-collar workers that would have previously cost you an arm and a leg, utilizing members of this economy to help you and your business is truly a no-brainer.

Stephen Robert Morse is the co-founder and head of marketing at SkillBridge. He previously founded MyTwoCensus.com, worked for Quirky.com, Seamless.com, and Lightbox.com. Follow him on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Robert Sheie]

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3 Comments

  • If you are interested in becoming part of the white collar sharing economy then be sure to register at www.mbaco.com which is the largest marketplace for skilled consultants in the world.

  • Great read. It's heartening to see a positive spin on how the sharing economy can benefit those doing white-collar work. In THE FIFTH AGE OF WORK, Andrew M. Jones—business professor and and Conjunctured partner—offers a how-to for businesses-- how big and small firms can harness the potential of free agent talent, including consultants of all stripes, editors, web developers, designers. With the right strategies (i.e. partnerships with coworking spaces), the sharing economy can be a win-win for both freelancers and businesses.

  • Great passion, and agreed with many of your thoughts. To add to this piece, I wanted to true up some figures, as the issue is perhaps even more pronounced than these figures indicate:

    Per a recent study by MBO Partners, entitled the State of Independence in America", there are 17.2 MM people in this country who self-identify as being in business for themselves. Certainly not all of these workers are the "white-collar" variety, as you describe them, but there are no doubt many more than the 250,000 number you quote.

    In fact, a business survey by Ardent Partners, found that about 30% of company workforces are now made up of non-full-time employees – up from an estimated 10 to 12 % before the recession. A significant segment of this population are non-employees ICs.

    Take a look at www.MBOPartners.com -MBO advocates for The Project Economy, and for bridging the gap between independents and the companies that employ them, making it safe and easy for both groups to work together