Beyond the Gig Economy: How New Technologies Are Reshaping the Future of Work

Beyond-the-Gig-EconomyBy Jon Lieber, Chief Economist, and Lucas Puente, Economic Analyst, Thumbtack

Skilled professionals are turning to the Internet to build their businesses using online, cost-effective, performance-based platforms, which weren’t available 20 years ago. They make more on average, have higher job satisfaction and do not need a college degree to earn a middle-class lifestyle. Thumbtack’s recent study,“Beyond the Gig Economy: How New Technologies Are Reshaping the Future of Work,” looks at the so-called gig economy and distinguishes between:

  1. Marketplaces for skilled professionals to build and grow businesses by plying specialized trades (e.g., Thumbtack).
  2. “Commoditized” platforms that offer “gigs” or on-demand, low-skilled services that are likely to be automated away (by driver-less cars, package delivery drones, etc.)

Our report predicts that:

  • Jobs done by skilled professionals will not only resist automation and outsourcing. They also offer a new, wider avenue for people to enter the middle class.
  • On the other hand, the jobs doing on-demand “gigs” will cease to exist as we know them.

In addition, the report offers specific policy recommendations to ease the regulatory and compliance burden on these skilled professionals and improve specialized training opportunities to create new middle-class jobs. It features an assessment of:

  • Current gig economy
  • Glimpse into the workforce of the future
  • Some specific policy recommendations to support the emerging class of small business owners and entrepreneurs

The report draws on Thumbtack’s proprietary data from tens of thousands of small businesses, as well as the latest economic data, labor statistics and forecasts. Thumbtack features more than 200,000 “skilled professionals” – individuals who use their vocational skills and passion to build long-term, self-sustaining careers – that generated more than $1 billion in business last year across all 50 states. Skilled professionals include everything from carpenters and electricians, to tutors, to personal chefs and massage therapists.

Key Takeaways From the Report

Here are some key takeaways from “Beyond the Gig Economy”:

  • The low-skilled gig economy job is unsustainable, but skilled professionals have skills that have the advantage of being difficult to outsource and resistant to automation.
  • It is easier and cheaper than ever for skilled professionals to take part in the gig economy. Technology solutions like Thumbtack and new laws like the Affordable Care Act have removed obstacles that previously prevented many people from starting their own businesses.
  • Skilled professionals report higher job satisfaction. Of skilled professionals surveyed, 84% “love what they do” versus a Gallup survey of the general working population found that only 29% of Americans said they were “engaged” at work.
  • Skilled professionals can earn higher pay. Because they are operating under their own brands, and negotiating their own prices, skilled professionals can work for rates that work for them. Skilled professionals without a college education report gross revenues for their business that are up to $20,000 higher than the median income of other similarly educated workers. Because they are working full time, they tend to earn more than the part-time income of their low-skilled gig economy counterparts.
  • Skilled professionals overall have better job opportunities. While the commodity-focused gig economy exists primarily in major metropolitan areas, skilled professional marketplaces are growing and thriving in every pocket of the country. Moreover, online professional marketplaces such as Thumbtack allow skilled professionals to grow their business more than before (on average 20% more), by connecting them to customers and assisting them with marketing services.
  • Skilled professionals are career-focused, not “gig” focused. Two-thirds of skilled professional respondents revealed they are using technology-powered marketplaces to build and grow their primary business (vs. people who are doing this work to earn extra pocket money).

The Thumbtack report concludes with specific policy recommendations to support the skilled professionals, including minimizing regulatory barriers and complex tax policies, strengthening the social safety net, and creating more opportunities and incentives for vocational training. The full report is available via Thumbtack Journal.

About Thumbtack

Thumbtack (www.thumbtack.com) is an online service that connects consumers with skilled professionals to get things done. More than 200,000 professionals, ranging from handymen and housekeepers, to tutors, photographers, wedding planners and more, use Thumbtack to connect with millions of customers, collectively generating more than $1 billion in annual business across all 50 states. Founded in 2009 and headquartered in San Francisco, Thumbtack is backed by Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global Management, Javelin Investment Partners, Baillie Gifford, and Google Capital.