It’s Time to Destroy the Gig Economy: An Open Letter to the Independent Worker

It’s Time to Destroy the Gig Economy: An Open Letter to the Independent Worker

Dear freelancer; Dear gig worker; Dear driver, bartender, photographer, designer; Dear independent contractor; Dear independent worker,

It’s time for us to destroy the gig economy.

It was a pretty good run, in some ways. The gig economy brought us new ways to earn cash and introduced hundreds of millions of businesses and individuals to the idea that they could hire independent workers for all sorts of jobs. Tending bar at a party. A website design project. A photoshoot. A quick ride across town. But...

In some profound ways, the gig economy is failing independent workers.

It’s dominated by middlemen like temp staffing firms, work platforms, on-demand apps. Their rules do not align with a few core values that many independent workers hold. Here are a few examples:

  • They keep the worker’s reputation locked inside their walls. Workers can’t use the reputation they’ve built in order to find new opportunities and earn more.
  • They don’t let the worker own their network of contacts. Workers can’t tap into their network of (in many cases, thousands of) past clients to find new opportunities and earn more.
  • They prohibit workers and customers from working together directly. Workers are prohibited from going back to past clients and working directly with them without the middleman taking a cut (with repercussions that include permanent banishment and huge penalties for both parties).

These types of rules dominate the gig economy, and the consequences are bleak.

Workers are kept stuck in a never-ending gig-to-gig cycle, unable to move into higher-paying roles. In short, workers aren’t able to actually build an independent career.

What we need is not a modification to the gig economy. What we need is an entirely new set of rules which are more humane and equitable.

New rules that empower independent workers to take ownership and control of their reputation, their network, and ultimately, of their own independent career.

We call this new set of rules the Trust Economy. In the Trust Economy,

  • People—not platforms—own their reputation data and their network of contacts
  • We can work together freely without middlemen
  • The highest relationship is the service relationship between worker and client, not between middleman and client

The team at Jolly has dedicated the past two years of our lives to building a platform that enables the Trust Economy to exist.

Jolly is a set of tools designed to do just a few things:

  • Enable people to establish, build and own their reputation as an independent worker
  • Enable people to grow their professional network of connections to people and businesses
  • Enable people to work together freely without anyone taking a cut
  • Enable people to get support, ask questions and share information in a community of independent workers helping each other

We believe that when these capabilities are combined, a new set of rules will emerge that will destroy the gig economy and replace it with a better Trust Economy. One of our mentors, the ever-inspiring Joe Edelman, calls this a “flight to higher ground.” So, let’s fly.

Launching Jolly today, I feel a mix of emotions: excitement, anxiety, fear. But mostly, I feel grateful.

Jolly has been truly co-created with a team of over 30 independent workers (designers, programmers, writers and more) and a community of over 40,000 beta users who have given their time and feedback to help us make Jolly better. My amazing co-founder — and lifelong friend — Zach and I have been supported by our families; by some amazing advisors, mentors, investors; and most recently, by the incredible team who runs Techstars Austin and the 9 other companies who completed that accelerator just a few months ago.

So, for today, we’ll celebrate the milestone of launching Jolly publicly. But we won’t celebrate long. Jolly is far from perfect. We have a long way to go before Jolly lives up to its promise and its full potential.

I hope you’ll join us on the journey:

Onward and upward,

Shelby


Also published on Medium at Let's Destroy the Gig Economy