Bridging the gap between freelancers and the gig economy
Role: Mobile, UX/UI, Product Strategy
Project: Intuit Idea Jam (Make-a-thon)
Timeframe: October 2017
For their 2017 Idea Jam, Intuit gave teams one week to research, ideate, and design an app or software using Intuit-backed financial services like Quickbooks and TurboTax to resolve the proposed case.
How can we increase the predictability of future work and income for the self-employed?
The “gig economy” has contributed to a massive increase in the self-employed workforce over the past several years. More and more people choose to become independent contractors as opposed to up taking the traditional employee-employer work environment.
Though drawn by the flexibility of their career choice, these individuals often struggle with the fact that time is money, and that no work means no income. Without the backing of a consistent salary, the self-employed segment grapples with the issue of high income variability and no means of predicting when a “dry spell” is around the corner.
Narrowing down the challenge.
Given the broad nature of the challenge itself, we wanted to frame the question right to understand exactly what problem to solve and drive towards actual impact.
Evaluating current job boarding platforms.
To avoid generalizing the self-employed narrative, we talked to a few freelancers — Pam, Arjun, and Aakash — to envision the reality they face on a day-to-day, month-to-month basis.
After getting in touch with them, we began forking through the web and Reddit archives to see what other freelancers had to say about the work structure and existing platforms like Upwork and Elance.
Going through at least 10 different threads on a wide array of topics regarding freelancing, we made sure to account for various job niches and tallied up repeated complaints on the freelancer and client side.
What overarching problems do different freelancers struggle with?
We identified a divide between freelancers on the web and freelancers like Pam, Arjun, and Aakash, who, as established business owners and entrepreneurs, did not have to deal with online freelance nightmares as often as sole contractors.
While freelancers like Pam, Arjun, and Aakash struggled with invoicing and getting paid on time without the safety net of a third party to ensure payment, independent freelancers faced more logistical issues: posting on job boards, skill tests for certifications, marketing themselves, and outbidding other freelancers.
Accounting for identity mismatch.
As we began to ideate, we kept the overarching cause of the pain points in mind; apart from timely payment, most problems stemmed from the flawed nature of the bidding system inborn to these sites.
This price-competition business approach, however, is only successful when the same “product” exists in large quantities and the “seller,” or freelancer in this case, can manage making extremely thin, volume-based margins. In this very sense, freelancers cannot be treated like retailers.
How do these findings inform our design decisions?
Our idea is an all inclusive solution that ensures timely payment and hassle-free job fitting within the framework of Intuit’s Quickbooks and TurboTax.
Though the app is a “free-for-all” in terms of who can join, there is extra accountability as small businesses that have history filing 1099 tax returns with Quickbooks are invited to create a “queue” of available work for freelancers. From here, we implement the factors that necessitate quality over price.
Final Design: Matchwork
Similar structure, different approach.
Match at the Speed of a Swipe
With matching largely based off the one motion left or right swipe championed by the social dating app, Tinder, we want to one, eliminate the fuss of searching for work connections by gamifying the process and two, encourage users to hone their sales pitch by putting their best foot forward so others “swipe right” on them.
Leaving Bids Behind
By completing their profile and customizing their job preferences, freelancers can find gigs personalized just for them (by pay, industry, etc). This means no jobs that require bartering and undercutting their own standards. Once there is “mutual liking” between both parties, they can message each other to discuss details and the freelancer can choose to accept or decline the gig.
Intuit Payment Backed
At each projects end, freelancers and clients are asked to rate each other. Freelancers are prompted to send an invoice, wasting no time to get compensation. Businesses that are Intuit payment backed ensures that freelancers will be paid on time and in full.
Our team came out as finalists! Shout out to Linnea, Jeremy, and Alex for an awesome first make-a-thon.
With more time, I would’ve loved to develop a full prototype as an assessment of existing job boarding systems. Because the core of the issue stems from more than just a design problem, I think taking this to real life freelancers for testing and further research would have better captured if the app resolved any true pain points.
Though it is just proof of concept at the moment, with better implementation and development of edge cases, I would have hoped to seen some market restoration and redemption for the integrity of the gig economy.
Up next — Pinterest Redesign Challenge