CitiVentures + Parsons: Designing for the Gig Economy

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DESIGNING FOR THE GIG ECONOMY A Citi Ventures x Parsons Innovation Challenge MS STRATEGIC DESIGN & MANAGEMENT Integrative Studio 1 - Spring 2018

Aryanna Martin

John John

Mehul Sharma

Sundar Subramanian



The Gig economy is one of the major paradigm shifts in the 21st century. Expected to be more than 50% by 2027, its growth has been phenomenal, outpacing the growth of the US workforce by 3x and pumping $1.4 Trillion into the economy in 2017. A key driver of this change has been the rising prominence of the millennial demographic. As with any major systemic change, it breeds new challenges and opportunities. And when a major international bank gave us the initial brief, it provoked a deep eagerness in us to uncover them and design a new business model to capture this growing trend. In this age of VUCA, it is vital for companies to be on the constant lookout for white spaces. Innovation is no longer just a means to gain strategic advantage, it has become a necessary survival mechanism. This report presents a framework of the innovation process that led us to a viable solution that can be taken into the market in the near future, addressing a key problem faced by workers in the gig economy. It takes you through a journey of exploration and discovery, leading to synthesis and idea generation and eventually resulting in a tested hypothesis and prototype. To develop our process we decided to use the Design Thinking method, developed by designers in the 1950s and later popularized by the international design firm IDEO. It creates a framework for the process of innovation and converts the uncertainty and ambiguity associated with innovation strategy into a human-centered, iterative approach that goes deep and broad in the area of focus, while constantly zooming in and out of it.



CONTENTS Project Overview


The Team


The Challenge


The Process


Stage 1 : Empathize


Stage 2 : Synthesize


Stage 3 : Ideate


Stage 4 : Prototype


Stage 5 : Test







A lot of research has been done showing that more and more workers are shifting towards freelance/gig work, this is especially prevalent within millennials. According to a study conducted by Upwork, the largest global freelancing platform, the number of freelancers is expected to be more than 50% by 2027. This growth has been phenomenal, pdue to the prominence of the millennial demographic. To capture this trend, Citi Ventures, the innovation engine of Citi Group, posed to us a challenge to design a new business model that addresses the emerging needs of this growing workforce. Following the Design Thinking method, the team used a human-centered and iterative approach in understanding the problems faced by workers in the gig economy and the opportunities that surround them.


After conducting desk research to further understand this topic, the team reached out to freelancers, consultants, and independent workers to identify their experiences in the gig economy. The team synthesized findings, identified potential solutions, and tested these concepts to determine the business model that would best address the pain points of freelancers.



Without the protection of an employer, freelancers have to navigate through the complex work ecosystem on their own. This means finding their clients, building their network, paying for their own insurance, and paying for tools and software programs that are essential in delivering quality work. Because of the volatile nature of freelancers’ work and income, freelancers have to make smarter decisions on their financial choices and exhaust the most value from the expenses that they are making.


These findings led us to opportunities on solutions that allow freelancers to be able to deliver quality work amidst their independent situation and the volatile nature of their work and income.


Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.






Research, Product Management and Technology

Brand Strategy, User Experience, Research



Entrepreneur, Product Management, User Experience

Engineer, Product Management, Research


THE CHALLENGE The Gig Economy is one of the major paradigm shifts in the 21st century. Several research studies showed that more and more workers are shifting towards freelance/gig work, this is especially prevalent within millennials. According to a study conducted by Upwork, the largest global freelancing platform*, the number of freelancers is expected to be more than 50% by 2027. This growth has outpaced the growth of the US workforce by 3x and pumping $1.4 Trillion into the economy in 2017. As with any major systemic change, it breeds new challenges and opportunities. As the gig economy continues to grow, companies now have to be on the constant lookout for white spaces, especially on how to design for this growing workforce. To further understand this trend, it is necessary to look into the market size and potential for this market, as well as the gaps within the offerings for the gig economy.






Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

– Tim Brown CEO, IDEO


OUR PROCESS Our Design thinking methodology followed the traditional process of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test and Implement, but we modified the process according to the project brief and resources we used. Our Design thinking methodology followed the traditional process of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test and Implement, but we modified the process according to the project brief and resources we used.




Understanding freelancers and other key stakeholders.

Identifying key insights and main problem areas.

Identifying potential solutions and concepts.

-Industry Research -Desk Research -Ecosystem Map -In-depth Interviews -Survey

-Journey Maps -Personas -How Might We’s -Affinity Maps

-Value Horizon Matrix -Co-creation with stakeholders - Internal brainstorming

PROTOTYPE Validating concepts and features. - Paper Prototypes - Web Tests - Product/Service Development - Iterative testing workshops with stakeholders and freelancers

TEST Pivots and tweaks on business model and concepts. - Stakeholder engagement and consultation - Business Model Testing and Pivots - Better Prototypes



STAGE 1: EMPATHIZE Secondary Research Desk Research


Ecosystem Map


Primary Research Assumptions and Objectives








IDENTIFY PROBLEM AREAS To further understand the problem, the team conducted desk research to identify all the news, articles, trends, and studies that have been done in relation to the gig economy. The desk research proved to be useful as well in identifying the opportunities that are currently being explored on a macro and micro standpoint. The team then synthesized findings from the desk research and created stakeholder and ecosystem maps to further understand the problem space and the relationships that surround it. These maps were helpful in understanding the gig economy on a systemic level.

Buzz Reports

Stakeholder Map


Ecosystem Map


The objective of the desk research was to gain an in-depth understanding of the gig economy ecosystem and find areas of focus for primary research. We looked at news articles, reports made by management consultancies and gig worker platforms such as Upwork, and other reports related to the gig economy.

GIG ECONOMY DATA AND STATISTICS By Age 18 to 34 years old - 47% freelancers, 53% non-freelancers 35 to 44 years old - 34% freelancers, 66% non-freelancers 45 to 54 years old - 31% freelancers, 69% non-freelancers 55 years old and over - 32% freelancers, 68% non-freelancers * By Location 18 % northeast America 19% midwest america 37% South America 25% West

Choice 63% by Choice 37% by Necessity * freelancing-in-america-2017


43% urban, 40% suburban, 17% rural

Choice 63% by Choice 37% by Necessity

Work Hours 36 hours per week

* freelancing-in-america-2017

Segments of Gig Workers By Choice Global consulting firm McKinsey identified four segments of gig workers based on choice: Free Agents - individuals who chose to do gig work and obtain their primary income from it Casual Earners - individuals who do gig work by choice to have supplemental income Reluctants - individuals who prefer traditional jobs but are doing gig work as their primary living Financially strapped - individuals who do supplemental gig work out of necessity *

By Nature of Gig Work In a 2017 report made by Freelancers Union and Upwork, there are 5 segments of freelancers based on the nature of their gig work: Diversified Workers (35% / 19.8 million) - Individuals with multiple sources of income from a mix of freelance work Independent Contractors (31% / 17.7 million) - Individuals who are “traditional� freelancers who do freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a per-project basis Moonlighters (23% / 13.0 million) - Individuals with a traditional job as primary work who moonlight and do freelance work Freelance Business Owners (6% / 3.4 million) - individuals who consider themselves both as freelancers and business owners and have one or more employees Temporary Workers (6% / 3.4 million) - Individuals who have a single employer, client, job, or contract project where their employment status is temporary


Portable Benefits for Gig Workers One of the biggest disadvantages of gig work over a traditional form of employment is the lack of portable benefits. “Portable” benefits are benefits provided outside of the traditional employment relationship, and which workers can take with them from job to job or project to project. Such a system would improve financial security and empower workers to take more control over their own economic future. [1] Gig workers push for portable benefits Gig workers are pushing for a legislation that charges fee on gigeconomy transactions and put money into an independent fund that would provide what are known as “portable benefits”—benefits that a worker accrues by working that she can access even if she moves from job to job. Earlier this 2018, legislators in Washington introduced a bill that would require businesses that hire independent contractors to contribute funds to benefit providers to be used for worker benefits. Uber advocates for portable benefits On the same note, CEO of the ride-sharing company Uber also co-authored an open letter with Seattle investor and workers’ rights advocate Nick Hanauer and David Rolf, president of the SEIU 775 labor union, that urges the state to put together a system for the non-employees of companies such as Uber that makes it possible for them to have a benefits package that would go with them as they move from job to job. [3]

Financial Implications of Gig Work 1) Gig workers save lesser than other workers: With the instability around finances and lack of a steady income, gig workers find it difficult to save for a rainy day. With the added complexity of managing tax filings/investing to save taxes, financial savings for savings was an area which we came across as having a lot of potential for innovation. 2) High service charge on platforms is a pain: For beginner gig workers, platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are the best places to find work in their initial stage, due to the high 3 1



demand for work and scale of these marketplaces. But these platforms are really high (Upwork charges about 20% for the first $500 earned and 10% of the earnings from $500-$10000 as transaction fee). For gig workers, this is a major loss of their productive income. But migration from these platforms also gets difficult as gig workers build up their entire reputation on them. 3) Gig work provides a financial cushion for educational or entrepreneurial pursuits : Doing gig work helps students and aspiring entrepreneurs get through an important passage in life without much financial struggle, and provides the ability for them to self-sustain and pay for tuition etc. Other Challenges that Freelancers Face[1] 1) Struggling to find client - Up to 49% of creative freelancers admit that securing enough gigs is among their biggest daily challenges. 2) Isolation - Because freelancing means doing work anywhere and at their own time, freelancers face isolation from other people. 3) Finances are too tight - When people move into freelancing, they gain quite a bit but lose a guaranteed income as well. Freelancers have to cover new expenses such as marketing, retirement fund, and health insurance. 4) No time for anything else - Freelancers have to step into many roles. There is little to no time for socializing, hobbies, or even winding down. Psychological manipulation to keep workers engaged longer Uber, the ride-sharing company, is one of the key drivers in the gig economy. The company has been accused of exploiting driver’s tendency to set earnings goals. The app alerts them when they are close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off, thereby prompting them to drive more to get incentives. Because its workers are contractors, the gamification strategies are not hemmed in by employment law, thereby putting the workers and drivers at a disadvantage. Full buzz report in Appendix A 2 uber-drivers-psychological-tricks.html




Some of the reports that we referred to were the following: 1)Independent work : Choice, necessity and the gig economy By McKinsey Global Institute independent-work-choice-necessity-and-the-gig-economy

2) Freelancing in America 2017 Conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence and commissioned in partnership by Upwork and Freelancers Union

3) Ultimate guide to gig economy data : A summary of every freelance survey that we can find A summary of various reports on gig economy by nation1099


ECOSYSTEM MAP An ecosystem map is a visual depiction of the landscape of the opportunity area, which operates as a means to identifying gaps in essential services and functions, strategizing beyond symptoms of a problem, and addressing the larger systemic issues and problems at play. It’s a way to graphically represent and grasp the complexity and dynamics between all the entities, functions, relationships, opportunities and environmental factors within a particular issue area.

We chose millennials as the user segments to target for primary research, not just due to their prominence in the gig economy, but also due to a higher rate of acceptance and adoption of new services, especially in the digital domain.


THE GIG ECONOMY ECOSYSTEM To get gigs and clients, freelancers must brand themselves and build their reputation. They tap on friends, family, or their existing networks for gigs and continuously build trust and deliver quality work. In doing work, they collaborate with fellow freelancers and use software programs and tools. In parallel, they also try to learn as much skills through trainings and online courses.

with financial planning schemes; and health insurance providers, with coverage provided to the freelancers and their families. To get additional support and benefits, freelancers enroll in a union. Without the protection of an employer, freelancers have to navigate through the complex work ecosystem on their own. Mapping the ecosystem helped us realize the different areas we need to probe into and the stakeholders that we will need to address in our research.

The setup of freelancers is further affected by external institutions such as the government, with tax structures and policies; banks,

KEY TAKEAWAYS From the desk research, the team identified key points which served as a guide in conducting primary research: • Focusing on free agents and casual earners as target users for primary research as there is an immense potential for a business opportunity because of the millenials in this category. • Looking at different segments of freelancers based on the nature of their work for primary research is also essential to check a pain point that may be common across these segments and can be addressed by one solution.

• Because of the volatile nature of their work and income, freelancers might have certain practices in managing their finances and making sure that they exhaust the most value from the expenses that they are making. • There needs to be more information as to how freelancers pay for their own insurance and coverage as this is a big factor on whether or not freelancers will keep their current situation. 29

“Empathy is the faculty to resonate with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering.”


PRIMARY RESEARCH Key Assumptions In conducting the primary research, the team had this key assumption: Freelancers have difficulties managing their finances and accessing benefits and coverage.

Framing the research objective The main objective of the research is to understand the problem areas and opportunities faced by millennials in accessing healthcare and managing their finances. Along with this, the research looked into struggles and pain points experienced by millenials with full time gigs. The research also probed on personal strategies that millennials with full-time gigs use in accessing healthcare benefits and in managing their finances.



Following secondary research and framing of the research hypothesis, we proceeded to primary research. Here, we immersed ourselves in the shoes of gig workers and derived insights which would guide the process of ideation and prototyping.


The following methods were used for primary research. We followed the approach of mixed-methods research, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques to effectively triangulate findings.

In-depth interviews



In-depth interviewing was used to understand the deeper needs and motivations of gig workers, using techniques such as the 5 whys methods. We used interviews as a way of uncovering potent stories that could help us frame the insights required for ideation and prototyping.

This traditional behavior observation method allows you to secretly collect information by looking and listening. We utilized the fly-on-thewall method to conduct observations at places where gig workers go to work,such as coworking spaces.

Surveys were used to triangulate and validate some of the initial insights that we uncovered from the interviews. They helped us prioritize and filter the insights obtained from secondary research and interviews to identify the key ‘hair on fire’ problems.

KEY INQUIRY AREAS • What were their primary motivations to become gig-worker? What were some of the pros and cons with respect to traditional forms of employment? • What are some of the challenges that they face in their profession as a gig worker? How do they cope with these challenges currently? • How do they plan and manage their finances? Are there any constraints/challenges they face? • Does the uncertainty of their income affect their lifestyle/ability to pay for living expenses? How? • How do they manage their health insurance costs? Where do they procure their insurance from and how did they make the choice?


RESEARCH SNAPSHOT 18 In-depth Interviews

67 Surveys

18 - 54

Boston & NYC + 5 Countries

11 Amateurs + 7 Experts








We talked to a diverse set of gig workers, ranging from students, uber drivers, photographers, graphic designers and entrepreneurs using gig-work to make their ends meet. They were diverse in terms of race, gender and age. Some of the profiles were : Carissa Lintao - Age 21 | Freelance marketer and brand strategist Rob Whiting - Age 30 | Freelance Business Consultant Ashim - Age 30 | Uber Driver Melissa - Age 35 | Freelance graphic designer Eric - Age 30 | Freelance photographer Shahrouz - CEO of Designity - A freelance platform for designers Robin Albin - Freelance Creative director

Full research script in Appendix B


KEY OBSERVATIONS The interviews surfaced some really interesting anecdotes and pain points which we did not expect going in to the study. They revealed aspects of the freelance which are often overlooked in most of the reporting done by consultancies/government agencies. The needs and motivations underlying these observations often resurfaced in different contexts among the users we interviewed. - “Freelance work pays for college. It gives me the best look into the space that I want to get into like app marketing and a first hand view into what goes on behind a startup.” - Carissa Lintao, Freelance Social Media and Brand Strategist in the US

- “Things i took for granted at my full-time job - dont have them at the moment esp benefits. You have always had somebody else to take care of these benefits for your job” - Melissa, Graphic Design and Copywriting gig workers in the US

- “The biggest challenge (of gig work) is to stay disciplined.. you are your own boss..but when you check your balance then you know that you don’t have enough money” - Sulav, Uber Driver in the US

- “Softwares are really expensive. Would be great if there is a group buying option for gig workers” Rob Whiting, Business Consultant gig workers in the US

Full research script in Appendix C



To add further validation to the interviews, we sent out a survey and reached out to freelancer groups on social media as well as through personal networks and connections with members of Freelancers Union. We received around 67 responses to the surveys and they reinforced on some of the major pain points we discovered through the interviews. The key objectives for the survey were: • Find and prioritize the biggest pain points identified from secondary research and interviews • Identify some of the key resources used by gig workers for finding work • Rate the perceived benefits of gig work and identify the aspects they liked the most Full research script in Appendix D


SURVEY RESULTS The results of the survey showed us an interesting perspective on the different pain points that we had identified in our primary research. When we created a weighted score for the intensity of the pain (from 1-5) described by the respondents, we found out which were the ones that were a ‘hair-on-fire’ problem, helping us identify the ones that need to be solved the most. These were • • • •

Lack of benefits provided by companies Low payments from clients Lack of job consistency Expensive software subscriptions

The most frequent methods of finding work was through: • • •

Referrals from individuals Referrals from a network Social media posts

The biggest perceived benefits of freelance work were: • • •

Flexibility to work at your own pace Being your own boss Skill building

Full research script in Appendix E



In addition to the interviews and surveys, we also were interested in understanding gig workers in their natural work setting. For this, we visited The Yard, a coworking space based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They offer various amenities to gig workers such as free coffee, WiFi, storage options and conference rooms. We spent 4-5 hours in the space trying to observe the working styles and environments of gig workers in addition to having quick conversations with them over coffee. We followed the AEIOU framework to document our observations.





• Coffee breaks are an essential part of freelance work, and a spacious common kitchen provides the perfect opportunity to meet and chat with fellow ‘Yard’mates • Sharing personal goals with others openly was found really common • The freedom to use the space creatively added to the feeling of autonomy seeked by independent workers

• Ambient lights are not so common in workplaces, but at the Yard it is the norm. • Hipster/Artsy vibes for the interiors was a not so common decor theme that we found for a workplace • Hybrid workspaces merged comfort with productivity






•The Yard had partnerships with local fitness clubs • Storytelling events were held to build a better sense of community and belonging • A monthly event calendar was used to keep the excitement up, cleverly pasted on the Refrigerator door

• Minimalism and Simplicity is reflected throughout the space, exemplified by Anglepoise lamps and Muji Pens • With flexible work and flexible time, gig workers also used flexible workspaces and flexible devices

• Strong Ideologies were found throughout in the space - a signifier for the changing nature of work? • Even while being neck deep in work, you need those reminders of those whom you love • Open display of personal book collections was a common theme. Is it to generate curiosity? Or is it part of personal branding?



The following were the key insights that emerged from the study. • The coworking space was a hybrid workspace - merging comfort with productivity and providing ample flexibility for both • Goal sharing: Even those who had a room to themselves wanted to share their ideas/goals with anyone who passed by/peeks inside • There was a blurring of the work-life boundaries which was a recurrent theme throughout the coworking space (eg: partnership with yoga/fitness classes, storytelling events to build a better sense of community) • Minimalism and simplicity was reflected throughout the space, exemplified by Muji Pens and Anglepoise Lamps • Open display of personal book collections - a new form of self branding?

Full research script in Appendix F


STAGE 2: synthesize Research Synthesis


Insight Prioritization




How Might We Questions



RESEARCH SYNTHESIS OVERVIEW The extensive research led the team to a vast collection of data points and stories, which helped us understand and uncover the key needs and pain points of gig workers. The research also helped decode some of the behavioral motivations behind the booming growth of the gig economy. This human-centered approach to design led us to findings which we mapped out on a large whiteboard to get a bird’s eye view of the findings and connect the dots to unearth patterns. We used the technique of AFFINITY MAPPING[5] to connect the dots and synthesize the data.




Here is a short video tour of the affinity mapping process that the team had.


INSIGHTS Based on the research findings and affinity mapping, we arrived at the following major insights, which gave us a direction to address some of the the unmet needs and pain points that need to be addressed for gig workers.

1) Gig-finding happens mostly through word of mouth • Network of friends/past clients are often the entry point to freelancing

• Building networks and meeting new people is imperative

- “Started freelancing through projects I got friends” - “Got my freelancing jobs from previous employers” - “I started with a doing some work for friends before I realized that I could start doing gigs”

- “You meet people through other people” - “It is good to keep build connections, you never know who all will open the door”


2) Freelance is often transitory occupation for most of the users • Freelance work helps them financially in the job-finding phase “It’s tough to find jobs in this field” (Video Editing, which is his passion “I’m actively looking for a regular job” “It’s good to have a stable job where you have control over your finances”

3) Volatility and Uncertainty are consistent hurdles of gig work • Need for predictable income depends on the stage of life they are in - “Freelance work is good when you are 23, not when you are 40” - “There is high inconsistency in getting freelance work. Would prefer a stable job instead (she is planning to settle down in Europe)” - “I will keep freelancing for passive income but once I move out of my house (she is living with parents) I would prefer a full-time job for stable income”

• Very less control over the frequency of finding work - “Everybody wants you when you are busy with work” - “Freelance is a rollercoaster of work” - “There are different seasons for jobs. Work is not consistent.” - “You can never tell when it is going to be a busy day. You just have to take it as it comes”

4) There is a need to Manage Expectations and maintain Client Relationships • Interactions with clients are critical and sometimes exciting aspects of doing freelance work - “It is really easy to work with people whom you know” - “It’s sometimes beautiful to see that you are able to manipulate investors (to get excited about the project)” -“Through Uber I get to meet new people and see more parts of the city”

Challenges • Definition of project scope

• Receiving payments on time

- “Initially I felt I am doing something different from the project scope and I got frustrated with them constantly changing it. Communication of scope and deliverables is a big challenge” Sucharita - “I have to sometimes educate the clients on certain things to make the work easier” - Ranjith

- “I literally had to track down a client for payment for about 3 months. - I threatened him by saying that I would write an article slamming him on Medium. And then he paid the money” - “Sometimes it becomes awkward to ask for money because I’m not so comfortable doing it”

• Fear of losing the gig to lack of demand

• Erratic clients

- “I sometimes lower my hours in the invoice to build relationships and confidence”


- “Worst part of driving Uber is having to deal with drunk people throwing up in your car” - Ashim/ Sulav



5) Perception management is an emerging need

• Gig Economy is also a reputation economy - “My previous job title help me with the credentials” - “People look at my portfolio on behance and then approach me” - “When I wanted to shift from Upwork to other platforms it was difficult because all my reputation was built on Upwork”

• Sometimes there exists a perception of gig workers being cheap labour - “Clients expect free/cheap work from creatives, the same is not true for lawyers” - “70% of the people on Upwork are cheapskates” - “My uncle and step dad want me to get a real job”

• Experience bias is often a • How you present yourself challenge matters a lot as a gig worker - “I’m too young to be a senior designer and too experienced for an entry level job” - “I get a few jabs now and then based on how I look so young. When I started out I had to work for free.”

- “You need to dress like you care. If you look like you are serious then people will take you seriously” - “Everybody loves a lover”


6) Financial needs and behavior

• Paying taxes as a freelancer is a challenge

• Debt-free life is sought after - “I’m afraid of debt. It scares the living daylights out of me. In the future I do want to generate passive income to avoid debt” - “If this consulting job goes away I still have 4 months to survive on my savings. Have an emergency reserve ready”

- “Tax filing is painful. Especially when you have worked both on a full time job and freelance over a year. I had no idea what my effective tax was” - “I don’t like paying taxes to the government and that is a challenge with freelancing that it is directly taxable. Often take on lesser projects for that”

• Corporate benefits and discounts are a financial lacuna

• Giggers are often thrifty spenders and non-materialistic

- “I do not get corporate discounts. There are expenses you have never had when you - “See the ROI before buying were working for a company” something. Spending money is - “I’m jealous of my friends in the also an investment” corporate sector who can claim - “We cut costs. She (wife) moved their telephone bills” to her parents’ house. I moved to a slum rehab near Mumbai” • Lack of health insurance is a repeating pain point - “I was on my husbands’ insurance, now it is really expensive” - “Cost of health insurance is really high” 52



7) Following their passion, Self-Learning & Experience gathering are the key non-monetary incentives/ motivations • Gigs are often a way of channeling their passion - “I enjoy what I do. Everyday is an off day” - “I have always been interested in tech from a very early age. That’s why I got into Freelancing” - “I’ve always looked out for work that challenges and excites me” - “I’ve always been passionate about marine biology and ocean conservation. And I have done pro-bono gigs just to cater to my passion”

• Freelance gigs provides them an avenue for practical selflearning - “Doing gigs is a good way to learn things that are not taught in school” - “I recently attempted to make toys and I’m now selling them in mass, I also learned to make a logo, for which I learned illustrator, designed. One thing led to another. Now I’m trying to teach myself to code” - “Freelancing is good for practically applying the things that I learned in class”

• Gigs often earn them the required experience to find a full-time job - “Gigs help me understand the startup space better and also earn work experience to get a job in Tech” - “I worked of freelance projects when I was unemployed to earn some experience and apply for jobs”


8) Gig workers need autonomy but also seek collaboration • Some of the giggers have anti-establishment tendencies

• There is often a need for autonomy & freedom in work

- “I can’t wait to move out of the system once again” - “I have always wanted to be my own boss. I hate hierarchy and working under people who are intellectually inferior to me” - “I hate the bureaucracy” - “I just want to graduate from school and do my own thing, I hate school”

- “I want to stay independent and debt free. That is my major motivation” - “I love to control my destiny” - “I create my own title according to each project. I was a brand architect a few months back, now I am a workshop consultant” - “We have the ability to take on only the clients that we want”

• Collaboration and Co-working spaces are sought after, and loneliness is often pain point

• Co-working spaces are unaffordable for some - “I used to work at the yard but it became too expensive. Then I moved to spacious” - “Co-working space are very expensive”

- “Sometimes it can get extremely lonely while working” - “It can get lonely at times then I go to coffee shops/interact with other people” - “Freelance work is only meant for a certain kind of individuals” “I’m more productive when I’m at a coffee shop/coworking space”



9) Cost of tools and platform services are a big pain point • Monthly subscriptions are a major cost burden

• High service charges on platforms cause a lot of distress

- “Paying for monthly software is a pain” - “Tried group buying through freelancers union- but it was not really useful. The discounts are only valid for the first few months” - “Supplies and subscriptions are expensive”

- “Hate Upwork. They charge 20% service fee on each project and their client support is horrible”


10)There is a need for effective time management • Need for predictable income • Very less control over the depends on the stage of life frequency of finding work they are in “Everybody wants you when you - “Freelance work is good when are busy with work” you are 23, not when you are 40” “Freelance is a rollercoaster of - “There is high inconsistency in work” getting freelance work. Would “There are different seasons for prefer a stable job instead (she jobs. Work is not consistent.” is planning to settle down in “You can never tell when it is Europe)” going to be a busy day. You just - “I will keep freelancing for have to take it as it comes” passive income but once I move out of my house (she is living with parents) I would prefer a full-time job for stable income”


INSIGHT PRIORITIZATION Out of the 10 insights that emerged from affinity mapping, we chose to go ahead by addressing 6 of them for ideation, focusing on patterns which emerged the strongest, by combining the data from secondary research, observations from interviews and results from the survey.


1) A need for perception management

Quotes : “My previous job helped me get the credentials” “Everybody loves a lover” “You need to dress well” For gig workers, first impressions matter a lot. Intense competition and a power imbalance working in the favor of clients means that personal reputation, branding and image are high priorities for freelancers in finding work. Current platforms for gig workers (such as Fiverr, Upwork) manage this task for many of its users,

but the inability to transfer the reputation from one platform to another or to a personal platform can lead to frustrations at times. On top of their financial burden, gig workers, often face the psychological burden of always being presentable and put on a smiling face even in times of distress.


2) Sustenance between gigs is a challenge

Quotes : “Freelancing is a rollercoaster of work” “It’s good to have a stable job where you have control over finances” Athough finding a gig can be a challenging task, a bigger concern for freelancers is the financial instability during the hiatus period between two gigs. This often means cutting down on expenses, selling off things or even moving between apartments. All this leads to a highly volatile and rollercoaster

of a lifestyle, leading to emotional and psychological stress.


3) Relationship management (client) is a major pain point

Quotes : “The biggest problem I faced was that the client kept changing his mind too often” “I like working with people I know well” “Most clients on upwork are cheapskates” The problems faced by gig workers don’t go away once they found a gig. The mountain is still a steep climb. One of the biggest challenges faced by them is in handling client relationships, wherein a lot of negotiation happens in terms of scope, deliverables and payments. Vague expectations

and delayed communication often leads to a lot of frustration for gig workers, and they often lose the motivation and excitement that they get upon winning a new project.


4) Need for affordable benefits and work tools

Quotes : “Paying for monthly software is a pain” “Tried group buying through freelancers union - but got discount only for a few months” Without the help of an employer, gig workers are often stranded between the tough choice between making their ends meet/ spend money on the tools that would help them do better work. Whether this be in the form of coworking spaces/ software tools/cameras and other equipment, paying for work tools is a major recurring expense for gig workers, and something that they are really

looking for in terms of ways to be solved. The other aspect which gig workers miss out on are the corporate benefits in terms of health/auto insurance, gym memberships etc. The monthly payments for all those benefits and tools often burns deep holes in the pockets of gig workers, especially with the uncertainty of income that they generate by working independently.


5) Need for autonomy while seeking collaboration

Quotes : “I hate working under hierarchy” “Want to be in control of my destiny” “Sometime it does get lonely” One of the biggest reasons why gig workers prefer it over traditional employment is due to the independence and freedom that it provides. They like to be in control of their own destiny and to be independent of hierarchies/ systemic paradigms in decision making. But on the flipside, this independence often comes at the cost of collaboration and community. Many gig workers report feeling lonely and bored,

due to the highly independent nature of work. This is one of the biggest reasons why coworking spaces are becoming highly popular. Gig workers are looking for a way to balance autonomy and collaboration. They love discussing their work and ideas with others who might be similar to them, and finding like-minded people to collaborate with on projects.


6) Need for better time management

Quotes : “You have more hours as a freelancer than a full time employee” “I only sleep for 5-6 hours on average” Time is invaluable for gig workers. They are often at the mercy of extremely tight deadlines set by clients, and in the mad rush to complete the projects and manage their livelihood, they often lose out on things such as a sleep/time off work. A lack

of discipline was also cited by many freelancers as a challenge, when they find themselves not being productive enough or not working long enough so as to cover their monthly expenses.


MAPPING Mapping and visualizing data is one of the most important steps in synthesis. It helps in better digestion of the vast amount of information and conveys the data through storytelling, making them more retainable in the mind. The tools that we used for it were the following :










USER PERSONA From the various user profiles that we came across in our study, we created 4 distinct user personas. These are imaginary users whose characteristics are derived by extracting and combining the various individual traits that we saw in our users. This method of forming user archetypes helps guide the design process to be targeted towards catering to specific types of users, instead of catering to everyone.


JOURNEY MAPPING We also created user journey maps for the different personas that we generated. These journey maps document the complete journey of the various personas through the process of gig work, from finding a gig to getting the gig, working on it, getting paid and receiving references. Such mapping helps in contextualizing and understanding the emotional ups and downs in the journey of a gig worker, and find possible areas for intervention on a temporal scale.



INSIGHTS FROM MAPPING Mapping information through personas and journey maps helped us identify opportunities and contextualize them in terms of gig workers’ behavioral characteristics and on when they most need solutions. Furthermore, we realized that no single solution could suffice for all the different segments of gig workers we had talked to. Hence, we had to find the most relevant pain to be solved for each of the persona, which we then framed as How Might We questions.



HOW MIGHT WE’S Framing insights as How Might We statements led us to reframing the insights as opportunities for design. The How Might We statements acted as a launchpad for ideation and divergent brainstorming.


We had a reframing session with external stakeholders to prioritize the insights and come up with How Might We questions. We had the stakeholders (freelancers from different fields) look at the themes in a new way. Each participant acted as a stakeholder and prioritized the insights accordingly to arrive at the top-most ones.


PROCESS From a bucket of 10 stakeholders, derived from the ecosystem map, each participant picks one stakeholder For 10 mins, the participant reflects which problems are the most important to solve for that stakeholder. Each participant arranges these problems according to the priorities of the stakeholder that he/ she is representing. At the end, everyone looks at the problems which were prioritized the most. The top five problems were used as reference in creating How Might We statements. The stakeholders we assigned were the following : • Significant other of freelancer (relationship improvement) • Parent of freelancer (relationship improvement) • Clients of freelancers (business development) • Cafe owners/coworking space owners (business development) • Health insurance providers (customer acquisition) • Government (what problem if solved would get us all the votes from freelancers) • Banks (customer acquisition) • Freelancer Union Head (memberships) • Freelance work platforms such as upwork (business development) • Schools and Colleges (additional support for students)

We came up with the following How Might We statements that we came up with post the workshop. • How might we provide costefficient access to software tools for freelancers? • How might we help freelancers sustain themselves financially between gigs? • How might we prevent freelancers from being underpaid by clients? • How might we help freelancers collaborate with other freelancers? • Reframing Session



STAGE 3: ideate Brainstorming


Brainstorming Workshop


Value Horizon Matrix


The Idea


Solution Routes



BRAINSTORMING To generate potential solutions to the How Might We questions that we generated, we conducted a 30-min brainstorming workshop. The whole class, as well as external stakeholders, joined the team in arriving at possible solutions. The Brainstorming workshop was inspired by the style of The Situation Lab’s ‘The Thing from The Future’ game and MIT Media Lab’s ‘design(human)design’, where individuals imagine and generate ideas through card prompts involving the Gig Economy. The workshop goal was to populate ideas solving the key issues derived from our How Might We statements. The final ideas were then plotted on a value horizon matrix to measure their potential through the lens of customer value and scope for disruption in the market.



BRAINSTORMING WORKSHOP Framing insights as How Might We statements led us to reframing the insights as opportunities for design. The How Might We statements acted as a launchpad for ideation and divergent brainstorming.





How Might We’s


Journey Maps


IDEAS GENERATED Some of the ideas that came out of the workshop include: Cost-efficient access to software and tools

Financial sustenance in between gigs

• • • • • •

• Gig cryptocoin • Gigs under 24 hours • Aggregate all job boards and applications • Geo-location for Gigs • ‘Happen’ for Gig Workers

Shared Tools and Services Used Software Market Tool Service and Rentals Pay-per-Use Models Cheaper Access to Tools Aggregate buying

Collaborating with other Freelancers

Preventing underpayment by clients

• Coworking Homes • Work and Time/Schedule Planners • Collaborative Design Softwares • Concierge/ ‘Alexa’ for Gig Workers

• 360 degree rating for client and Gig Workers • Calendar Mapping for Gig Workers


We plotted the ideas voted most popular, on a matrix to map out its potential in terms of customer value and disruption.


THE OUTCOME The workshop provided us with a large set of ideas. We identified that a majority of these ideas resonated with a dominant theme that emerged from our stakeholder interviews. The ideas are related to the sharing economy, particularly to the need for aggregate buying power to access tools. After putting all the ideas together, the intervention point revealed itself.


THE IDEA A solution that provides affordable access to tools, services, and products for creative gig workers Leveraging on the trend of access over ownership, the team considered it important to provide such access as gig workers have limited means and resources in accessing the most advanced products and tools. Moreover, because gig workers work independently, solutions have to be accomplished on an individual level, while combining

these individual buying power and forming a collective. To further refine the idea, we mapped out tools, services and products used by gig workers. We ranked them based on multiple parameters including urgency of intervention and the financial strain that it brings about to gig workers. Through this exercise it was revealed that inability to afford access to multiple software subscriptions was a hair on fire problem that needed urgent intervention.


SOLUTION ROUTES We took two approaches to find solutions that would bring down the cost of subscription for gig workers.

Approach 1: Forming a collective of gig workers to improve their buying power. Solution 1: Group buying software subscription model This model acts as a service that negotiates prices on known software programs over a certain time based on demand. Users log in to the platform and browses deals that appeal to them. They choose a deal that they like and wait until a certain number of people avails that deal. This model was inspired by existing platforms such as Groupon and Kickstarter.

Groupon is a site that offers daily deals for goods and events in which discounts range from 40% to 70% off. Promotions become valid when they get a certain number of people who are interested in the service. Kickstarter, on the other hand, is a platform that brings projects and ideas to life through crowdfunding and contributions made by the community interested in these projects.


Solution 2: Friends plan software subscription model A service that provides you discount on known software programs based on the number of people in your “friends” plan. Users log in to the platform and chooses open plans that correspond to their needs. They choose a plan and receive

This model was inspired by family plans provided by mobile carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile where several members of the “family” share and split the cost of a monthly fee. The plan can accommodate a certain number of members, up until which the cost is divided.

Approach 2: Leveraging the growing trend of ‘access over ownership’ which is paving the path towards a ‘need based’ economy. Solution 3: Pay-per-Use software subscription model A service that allows you to use known software programs and pay only for the time you’ve used them. This model has two routes: monthly electricity bills and prepaid combo plans employed by mobile carriers in countries like the Philippines. With the monthly electricity bill model, software programs are charged on a time-based manner. Users freely use a particular software program

and are charged based on the number of minutes or hours that they have used the software program. With the prepaid combo plan model, users purchase specific short-term packages that are priced based on the number of days that users are able to access the software program. For prototyping, the team chose the monthly electricity bill model with the assumption that the model will prove to be more cost-efficient for freelancers.


STAGE 4: prototype Paper Prototype and Class Workshop


Co-creation session with freelancers


Concept testing targeting the general public



PROTOTYPING The Prototype phase is focused on testing the three solution routes and identifying which route has garnered the most interest and presented the most potential in solving the pain point of freelancers when it comes to high software subscriptions. Hence, in the trifecta of innovation, this phase focuses on understanding the market desirability of any of the three solution routes. The team decided to employ various prototyping techniques simultaneously to garner ideas and continuously iterate on each idea.





PROTOTYPING METHOD 1: CO-CREATION SESSION WITH FREELANCERS To test the three concepts that the team had, lowfidelity paper prototypes were created using Adobe Illustrator to reflect the process that users would go through in using the platform. The workshop intends to identify the following: • Which concept resonates the most with users. • The strong features and loopholes that each concept has. • User perceptions and emotions associated with the concept and existing service design. These prototypes were tested with some members of the class.







• Unpredictable waiting period was an issue, especially when freelancers have urgent projects that they need to deliver at a certain time. • The number of individuals buying a particular discount should not be too big to avoid long waiting periods.

• The negotiation power of smaller groups may not result in a significant reduction in cost. • Users were concerned about contract commitment and the consequences on the group when certain users leave the platform.

• Users felt conscious of their usage time. This was a bad sign especially since it could hamper their creative process. • The concept of tracking usage also came up and users were concerned on whether they would be tracked when the software program is open in a separate tab on the computer, even when they are not using it.

• Design a solution to eliminate uncertainty during waiting periods. • Discounting scheme should be based on algorithms that calculate discounts based on the number of people in a given offer.

• Reevaluate cost mechanism. • A cap should be placed on the number of people who are joining a specific plan, with additional fees when the plan exceeds the cap.

• Move away from per-minute or per-hour billing to short-term subscriptions.


PROTOTYPING METHOD 2: CO-CREATION SESSION WITH FREELANCERS To further test whether any of the three concepts would resonate with freelancers, the team conducted a co-creation session in class.

The session was attended by members of the class as well as freelancers. All participants were divided into three groups, with each group giving feedback on the three concepts. We give them a brief explanation and overview of each concept and allowed them to envision its mechanism and business model. The session allowed us to gauge the following: • Flow of logic and service • Requirements that each concept should have • Any concerns that freelancers have with each concept


The exercise ended with a presentation and discussion around each prototype.



The pay-per-use model resonated the most with the teams because this model fits their needs the most. The other models presented the option of waiting for the discount, a feature that might not work especially when freelancers have an immediate need in using the software program.

A main concern for the pay-peruse model was its viability - in terms of getting the software providers on board and not cannibalizing their existing customers.



Several software programs should be available on the platform so that users would have more incentive in being in the platform

Users want to know their usage record and do not want to be overcharged without them knowing.


PROTOTYPING METHOD 3: CONCEPT TESTING TARGETING THE GENERAL PUBLIC Aside from the prototyping sessions done with freelancers, the team also conducted prototyping methods targeting the general public.

ADVERTISEMENTS ON INSTAGRAM The team created assets which were published and advertised on Instagram. Advertising these posts was deemed essential because to generate awareness and prompt the general public to sign up to know more about the model. RESULT Although the advertisements were run only for a period of time, the landing page for the pay-per-use software subscription model generated the highest amount of visits.


WALL SURVEY The team also decided to put up a wall survey in three different locations across The New School. Based on observations on the school surroundings and on the initial research that we did at the beginning, we know that students also do freelance work to further hone their craft and sustain themselves financially. Currently, the school provides a free subscription to software suites such as Adobe Creative Cloud, yet we thought that students also understand the pains brought about by high costs of software subscriptions. For a period of three weeks, three survey sheets were put up in bulletin boards. Students who are freelancers or consultants can put up stickers under the concept of their choice.

RESULTS The wall survey generated 105 responses from the three weeks of implementation. Among the three models, it was pay-per-use that generated the most interest. Group Buying Friends Plan Pay-Per-Use 16 votes 34 votes 55 votes 15% 32% 52%


ONLINE SURVEY The team also conducted an online survey with members of Freelancers Union NYC to understand which model resonates with them the most.

RESULT The online survey generated 23 responses. Among the three models, it was pay-per-use that generated the most interest. Group Buying Friends Plan Pay-Per-Use 7 votes 6 votes 10 votes 30% 26% 43%

FLYER SURVEY A flyer survey was conducted with freelancers at 2 coworking spaces in Manhattan and with student freelancers from The New School. MODEL



Group Buying



Friends Plan













Among the three models, the pay-per-use model resonates the most with freelancers as they have control on their usage and how much they want to pay for this.

The pay-per-use model should not be designed on per-minute or per-hour basis as this provides additional pressure on the freelancers and can hamper their creative freedom.

The platform should house several software programs so that users would have more incentive in using the platform and trying several platforms.



There is a need to further test the viability of the payper-use model, especially in terms of getting other stakeholders on board and not cannibalizing their existing customers.

The feasibility of the payper-use model also needs further testing, especially as it provides certain technical capabilities and would involve redistribution functions for software programs.


STAGE 5: TEST Service Blueprint


Testing Viability


Testing Feasibility


Testing the Final Product


Business Model



SERVICE BLUEPRINT The service blueprint shows the journey that a user goes through when using the platform. Along with this journey, there are front-end and back-end capabilities that should be in place. One key insight from this blueprint is the technological capability needed to provide the user a pay-per-use model and the corresponding agreements that has to be made with software providers. As such, the succeeding sections will focus on these two areas: • The business value to software providers • The technology of our service.



VIABILITY OUR BUSINESS VALUE TO SOFTWARE PROVIDERS One of the feedback that we received from the client and the class is the business value that the platform brings to software providers. Currently, users can access and use software programs on a month-tomonth subscription basis, which sometimes have lock-in periods. KEY ASSUMPTION The current subscription model of software programs highlights the following assumption that needs to be tested further: Offering a pay-per-use model can provide implications on their existing paying customers as they may move from subscribing monthly to just paying on a usage-based manner. MARKET RESEARCH The team conducted research on the software market to understand current business models, trends, and opportunities. The research helped the team in identifying an untapped opportunity with design and productivity web applications currently operating under the freemium model.


to paying customers). Spotify was the best performing player in the market with a conversion rate of 27%. Upon examining the design and productivity web application industry, we found the conversion rates to be at ~1%.

On average, web-based applications such as Spotify, Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive - all of which are using the freemium model - saw a conversion rate of 1% (free users


“Freemium Conversion Rate: Why Spotify Destroys ... - Process Street.� 29 Mar.

2016, Accessed 3 May. 2018.


For example, as of January 2015, Piktochart, a web-based infographic application, had only 20,000 paying customers out of 1,906,000 users. Furthermore, Canva, a photo editor and graphic design application, has approximately 300,000 paying customers out of 10 million users.[7] The team interviewed users of Freemium services and uncovered the insight that users are unwilling to commit to upfront monthly subscriptions

for these tools without being able to determine its value. With these two insights, the team reached the idea that the pay-per-use model that our platform provides serves as the ideal testing ground for users to determine the value of a software. As for software providers, this model would accelerate the customer conversion process between free and paying users, thus providing an additional stream of revenue to companies.

CONSULTATIONS WITH EXPERTS We discussed the viability of this proposition with 2 representatives from the software industry, 3 Startup consultants, an Operations consultant, and a Legal consultant. Based on consultations, the team reached the following as a value proposition for software providers: • Platform discoverability • Additional revenue through increased paying customer base • Hosting and database management • Business intelligence and data analytics For emerging SaaS startups, our platform would be financially risk-free. We would be paying companies for these licenses with corresponding upfront and reselling fees.

Our Story – Piktochart’s Growth from 0 to 2M+ Users in 36 Months.”


blog/our-story-piktocharts-growth-from-0-to-2m-users-in-36-months/. Accessed 3 May. 2018.


FEASIBILITY OUR BUSINESS VALUE TO SOFTWARE PROVIDERS To further understand how the platform would deliver the pay-per-use model, the team consulted 2 software engineers, a computer science engineer, a programmer, and a technology strategist. From these consultations, the team was able to arrive at the following features: • The platform will generate a unique token that will activate the short term subscriptions for the software companies using a login. • Users would be able to access multiple softwares through our platform, through a single ID.

• The platform will start with freemium services to avoid issues on data loss at the end of subscription period.

For software providers, they would only have to do minimal changes to the backend. Software providers would have to activate the full response only when the request comes through our website - similar to how business accounts are required for employees to access software services paid for by the company.



TESTING THE FINAL PRODUCT OUR BUSINESS VALUE TO SOFTWARE PROVIDERS Given the key insights that the team got from market research and consultations with experts regarding the viability and feasibility of the platform, the team reached out to software providers to pitch the idea and gain more information on what value they see from the platform. The team was able to speak with SaaS startups as well as employees from a large multimedia and creative software company. Due to confidentiality agreements, their identities will be kept anonymous. Below are the summarised responses that the team has received:



Senior Adoption Program Manager for a leading cloud SaaS company (Ranked amongst top three in market share worldwide in 2017)




“Our company has a number of different options for freelancers but currently that is not our most profitable market, but going by the numbers that you have shared on freelancers i.e if this market is going to sustain or expand then we might have to relook at our strategy. Your platform could be what is needed”

“Software providers may want to evaluate how much this service will cost them in terms of backend management. What is the trade off between additional revenue gained and additional expense?”

“Software providers could outsource additional service management to your platform if it works out to be more efficient than doing it inhouse”

“I see a lot of benefits in your model for users who may want to use a software for one or two days. Maybe subscribing for a whole month might not make sense to them...and of course this means a higher usage fee for software providers.”

“ If the service management works out to be expensive for the software provider or the third party who this service is outsourced to, then that would drive up the price that the platform offers its services for.”

“Consider the socializing your product to maximize visibility. How can you get short-term users to get talking about the software vendor to their peers?”

“Maybe software providers are missing out on an opportunity to gain revenues from users who are currently not paying monthly subscriptions”

“The only way I see your platform being able to offer data analytics is if you can share data that the software company does not currently have access to.”

“Let software companies realize that they are missing out on an untapped market where they are currently not spending enough time on. Your platform can do that for them and bring in incremental revenue.”



Customer Success Manager for a web based infographic application (impressive customer acquisition rate of 0 - 2 Mn+ users in 36 months)

Former CTO of a leading SaaS based design software firm




“This could be really beneficial to freelancers. I would personally use it if I did not have enterprise support for software”

“How would you ensure that the companies (especially big ones) do not implement the short term subscriptions themselves?”

“Targeting freemium services is a good idea”

“I see a lot of potential in aggregation. Companies would be interested in knowing/comparing their products with others through this platform”

“This could be a potential big technical change for the companies on the backend. You might to really convince them of the upsides for being on this platform”

“Create a value proposition that is enticing enough for companies. Testing ground/aggregation might be good but think about whether the cost and time of implementation is worth the effort for the companies”

“This is an interesting idea, our monthly subscriptions were targeted at freelancers but you are suggesting that there is a market for usage based pricing. This is worth exploring.” “Yes, the amount of free users on our platform is disproportionately high. A usage based platform could help improve our conversion rate.”









VALUE PROPOSITION • Our platform aggregates and resells various softwares and allows our target customers to discover and access softwares at a cheaper rate • Individuals can access shortterm packages for softwares and pay only for the time and package that they have chosen.

• Sample Packages include 1-day, 3-day, 1-week, and 2-week plans - duration of which were based on the project timelines that freelancers usually have. • The packages are the same across all software programs, with the pricing for each package following a specific percentage of the monthly subscription.



SERVICE FLOW • Users create an account with Glide. • Users are asked to share their current freelance occupation and the types of software they are looking for • Glide recommendation engine provides them a list of possible solutions, along with additional search and browsing options • Users browse the software programs that they need.

• Users choose the specific program and choose which package to avail (Daily/ Weekly/Biweekly) • Users pay for the package • Users receive confirmation of payment. They can use the unique glide link to access their short term subscription • Users get notified by Glide before the end of their usage period, with an option to renew if needed



CUSTOMER SEGMENT • Creative Freelancers • Entry level • No financial and Institutional Support • Use software in an intermittent and unpredictable manner





COST STRUCTURE • Software Licenses • Labor (Database Management, Servers, Website Development, Support Chat) • Advertising and Marketing





Increased customer base Enhanced brand value

(Piktochart, Infogram, Instapage, Quikbooks, Dropbox)




Enhanced brand value Brand recognition for the freelancers and millenial generation

(Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, Discover)




Enhanced brand value Increased member base

(Freelancers Union, Fiverr, Upwork, Coworking Spaces such as The Yard and WeWork)

Member loyalty



for Freelancers



Customer chooses his package and pays for said package before being able to access the software program.

for Software Providers


With the platform’s access to data, we can provide added benefits to software providers such as automated billing and invoicing, customer data storage, payment gateway integration, automated notifications and auto-payments.


Software providers can purchase data on usage and purchase behavior of customers - which can be helpful in developing new software programs


Software providers in the customer cloud services space can avail affiliate marketing services (in terms of paid ads) from the platform to fastrack their customer acquisition and business growth.








The platform provides information and data on the workflow and tools used by freelancers.



The platform presents the opportunity to be integrated with financial planning & management services of Citi such as Clarity Money to help gig workers to save more.



The platform acts as a strategic entrypoint for the fast-growing market of SaaS commerce and payment solutions, especially those under the Citi Ventures lineup.



APPENDIX A - BUZZ REPORT Tax break for gig economy workers The new GOP tax law has a provision in the tax law allows sole proprietors — along with owners of partnerships or other so-called pass-through entities — to deduct 20 percent of their revenue from their taxable income. The tax savings, which could be around $15,000 per year for many affluent couples, may prove enticing to workers. The provision may also turn out to be a boon for employers who are trying to reduce their payroll costs. Workers hired as contractors, who tend to be cheaper, may be less likely to complain about their status under the new tax law. Uber pushes state-funded benefits program for gig economy works Geekwire reports that Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has co authored an open letter with Seattle investor and workers’ rights advocate Nick Hanauer and David Rolf, president of the SEIU 775 labor union, that urges the state to put together a system for the non-employees of companies such as Uber that makes it possible for them to have a benefits package that would go with them as they move from job to job. Psychological manipulation to keep workers engaged longer Uber has exploited some driver’s tendency to set earnings goals — alerting them that they are ever so close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off. It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over. Because it mediates its drivers’ entire work experience through an app, there are few limits to the elements it can gamify. Uber collects staggering amounts of data that allow it to discard game features that do not work and refine those that do. And because its workers are contractors, the gamification strategies are not hemmed in by employment law.


Workers push for portable benefits Workers’ groups are pushing for something bigger—legislation that charges a fee on gig-economy transactions, and then put money into an independent fund that would provide what are known as “portable benefits”—benefits that a worker accrues by working that she can access even if she moves from job to job. Earlier this year, legislators in Washington introduced a bill that would require businesses that hire independent contractors to contribute funds to benefit providers to be used for worker benefits. 4 Challenges Freelancers Face Struggling to find client - Up to 49% of creative freelancers admit that securing enough gigs is among their biggest daily challenges. The isolation gets to you Your finances are too tight - When you move into freelancing, you gain quite a bit. Unfortunately, you lose a guaranteed income as well. You have to cover new expenses such as marketing, your retirement fund and your health insurance. You don’t have time for anything else - As a freelancer, you have to step into many roles. You have little to no time for socializing, hobbies, or even winding down. Fiverr Announces Acquisition Aimed at Freelancers and Sole Proprietors “As a marketplace, Fiverr has built all the tools necessary to conduct your business as a freelancer. This includes everything from efficiently creating invoices and receiving payments to managing one’s time and projects. But even still today, 97 percent of freelancing is done offline, and we believe those freelancers should also enjoy access to these premium tools, and it shouldn’t have a cost associated with it. For now, making AND CO’s services free has been the only tangible change implemented by Fiverr’s takeover of the company.


Why Startups Should Consider Outsourcing Work to Freelancers Few reasons why should startups hire freelancers. 1. To Cut Down on Rising Costs: Start-ups have tight budgets and strict deadlines. Outsourcing saves costs and simultaneously getting the job done ASAP. 2.Get High-quality Work on Time: Hiring is a gamble, you’re not sure if the resource will add value to the vision and mission of a start-up. One interview isn’t enough to assess anyone. Contractors or freelancers become a good bet in terms of work & quality assessment in a short span of time. 3. Accommodating for a Short-term Project: If the work is short-term and the company doesn’t want to commit to a fixed cost and try out people then freelancing option may make sense. If you are looking at setting up certain crucial and sustainable functions and the role requires complete commitment then freelancer may not work. 4. Partner With Best Minds: Freelancers are constantly upskilling themselves and networking that allow bringing a different perspective to the business. They aren’t physically bound by geography, you’re able to partner with the best minds on any project. The Gig Economy Is Especially Susceptible to Sexual Harassment Employees have fallbacks for dire circumstances. Collective bargaining, Human-resources or federal laws. Freelancers are accountable but not accounted for, their roles tend to have little job security: they’re easily replaced. They can fall victim to the whims, iniquities, and weird ideas of whoever happens to be paying for their work. Minimum of ¼ of women report having experienced workplace harassment, and it might be as much as 85%. Those who gig with algorithmic ratings systems must stay on the good side of capricious clients. Others, who depend on word-of-mouth referrals, are obliged to embrace any gift horses that come. 54% of the freelancers reported being sexually harassed in the course of their work. Of those, 74% “unprofessional comments” about their appearance, ¾ were called “demeaning nicknames” on the job, 60 % reported physical intimidation. 87% never reported these incidents. We can’t fix what we don’t see, and we can’t protect what we do not see whole.


The Economic Downturn and the Gig Economy Due to the recession in 2008, millennials trying to find work faced companies that instituted hiring freezes and lowered workers’ salaries. The job market was in a drought. This created a massive division between workers under 30, many of whom are doing well in established careers, and many of whom are unemployed. For the unemployed, the gig economy represents both opportunity and challenge. Because lots of small, part-time jobs are available, even non-full-time employed workers can find gigs to help make ends meet. Because gigs are more affordable for employers, it’s harder to find the full-time jobs, with 91 percent wanting full-time work.

Workers in the ‘gig economy’ covet stock options Independent contractors in the “gig economy.” , are not entitled to health insurance, overtime or expense reimbursement. They don’t get free lunches and don’t get stock options. Stock compensation is limited to employees. Butforms of stock compensation available to employees and nonemployees, such as contractors, consultants and directors. Friends and family shares,” which don’t outright grant stock to anyone, but give people the opportunity to buy a company’s stock at its IPO price. For startups, one of the biggest challenges they face is convincing potential investors that the millions of freelancers will remain loyal. The next competitive frontier could involve stock, according to IPO experts, which could mean a revival of the friends and family shares. Three Ways Technology Will Change The Gig Economy In 2018 A New Marketplace Will Emerge: A technology-driven marketplace will emerge where people are connected with diverse side-gig or “side hustle” opportunities. Similar to how Amazon as a marketplace for goods people will find gig work that matches their skills, schedule and financial needs. 2. Collect precise, relevant data on gig workers, including their work patterns, needs and desires.


3. The Gig Worker Population Will Explode The emergence of user-friendly applications that intelligently help people find the right work when they want it will enable more people to be independent. A previously untapped population of gig workers will emerge. From a leadership perspective, it’s time to go back to the drawing board: What does it mean to work? Who should do the work? And how should they do it? By asking the right questions, we believe we’re well on our way to creating the future of work. Driven to despair — the hidden costs of the gig economy “A survey shows a remarkable link between wellbeing and the option to “take an hour or two off during working hours to take care of personal or family matters”. White-collar “gig economy” workers who do administrative tasks for clients from home flagged this same positive factor. “ Then there are the longer-term health consequences any gig job that combines a lack of control over how the work is done, insecurity of income, low pay and isolation represents an “absolute recipe for a stress-related illness”. In a hearing, the judge ruled in the drivers favour, saying it was “faintly ridiculous” for Uber to present itself as “a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform”. At last, paid holiday for ‘gig economy’ workers. But what happens after Brexit? A European court of justice ruling has real consequences for businesses owing their workers millions of pounds in holiday pay – while we’re in the EU The law will now recognise the millions of pounds’ worth of holidays that “gig economy” businesses owe their workers. Under the Tories’ proposals on workers’ rights in a post-Brexit world, we would not have had this verdict – and people would not be getting the holiday pay to which they are legally entitled. Flexibility comes at a high price, not just in the gig economy


Uber last week failed to overturn a UK legal ruling that it should treat drivers as “workers” rather than independent contractors without any employment rights. But critics will miss an important lesson if they do not ask themselves why millions of people choose to work in the gig economy at all. It is true that, for some people, gig work is a last resort. Others have found themselves locked in by financial commitments such as car leases. It serves gig companies’ interests to give the impression that flexibility and security are mutually exclusive, but there is no fundamental reason why they should be. Analysis of job adverts by the consultancy Timewise has found that, of all the roles on offer that pay £20,000 or more a year, only about one in 10 offers some degree of flexibility. As a result, the economy is under utilising the skills of people who have settled for jobs that are too easy for them. Official statistics show there are about 1.5m people with good qualifications (A-levels or above) working in low-paid, part-time jobs.


APPENDIX B - INTERVIEW SCRIPT General Research Objective To understand the problem areas and opportunities faced by millennials in access to healthcare and managing their finances Specific Research Objectives To determine struggles and pain points experienced by millenials with full time gigs To uncover the personal strategies that millennials with full time gigs use in accessing healthcare benefits and in managing their finances Questions (icebreakers) Can you tell me your name? What is your current gig? What are your interests? What do you do in your free time? What books do you read? Where did you last go for vacation? Doing full-time gig work (what are they doing and why they are doing it) When did you start doing full-time gig work? How many ‘gigs’ do you have currently? How long have you had them? How did you get these gigs? Can you tell us more about the kind of gigs that you’re currently working on? What motivated you to become a full-time gig worker? Are there any challenges that you face being a full-time gig worker? Can you share with us a few instances related to these challenges? Have you figured out a way to deal with these challenges? Have you found a solution? We just wanted to know a little about how you manage your Financial Management Do you have expenses that you incur on a regular basis? How often do you incur them? What are some of the expense? How do you plan your expenses and income? Do you look at it from a yearly basis or a month-to-month basis? Do you feel you are on top of your finances now? Why/Why not? Could you describe a situation when you felt you were not earning enough? How did you feel about your last year in terms of finances? Did it match your expectations? Why/Why not? Or that whether you’ve earned less than expected?


How do you make sure that your finances are in order and that you are not behind bill payments? What do you do when you do not have enough funds to support your expenses? Has it ever occured that your payment arrives late than expected? Where you prepared for it? When your income comes late than expected, how do you manage your expenses/ finances? Do you save any part of the income/invest it anywhere? Why/Why not? How much (approx. what %) of your income do you save? Where do you invest (if any)? Are you saving for the long term/short term? Why/Why not? Could you give us a rough breakdown of your expenses? What is the biggest expense? Do you have a credit card? How often do you use it? What do use your credit card for? Are you able to make your payments on time? Why or why not? Have you ever felt a need for extra credit? What was it for and how did you manage to get that? Accessing Healthcare and benefits Do you have health insurance? When did you get your health insurance? What is your health insurance provider and what does your health insurance cover? How did you choose your health insurance? What do you feel about your current health insurance? Are you satisfied? Why or why not? How much do you spend on healthcare? When was the last time you went to the hospital? What happened? Did your insurance cover the expenses? Do you take any medication? If yes, what is it for? Is it covered by insurance? Do you plan to continue as a gig economy worker in the future? If yes, why? What do you feel about the current economic system and conditions for gig economy workers like you? If not, why do you want to shift to a more permanent job?



21 | Freelance Marketer and Brand Strategist

How did gig work start? “It started when i was 17. I just wanted to do earn some money online jobs and was interested in social media marketing and creative writing.” “I poked around and got one (gig). My first job was 7 dollars and 50 cents (laughs) but I took it since you need to build a reputation to get more clients. “I was actually a music education major but after all these projects I found that marketing kind of ‘stuck’ more with me” “I started doing more online courses so that I could have more flexibility to work with the clients and take on more internships related to marketing.” Why Marketing? “I have always been interested in Tech even when I was little, I was on YouTube before it started ‘popping’ with youtube celebrities.” “It was all trial and error and figuring out for myself by seeing how those things all mix together” Other hobbies “I am a bit into health and fitness, I was in baseball, have a brown belt in karate, I was a certified CPR professional rescuer, baseball is huge in my family. I hangout with my family, I like eating, broadway.” Last book that I read- “I started this thing where I read one book every week but last week was the one week that I missed. The last one I remember is called the 22 immutable laws of marketing. One of my clients suggested it.” Motivation to keep doing freelance work


“Freelance work pays for college . It gives me the best look into the space that I want to get into like app marketing. It gives me a first hand view into what goes on behind a startup” “I take on a bunch of projects, so I get to see what goes behind every little startup, like 10 to 15 startups and you can’t have that much exposure if you are working with like one startup.” “I get to work on my real world skills in marketing because you can’t get that in college. College is basically high level theory with marketing, like definitions and things like that. You can’t see facebook ads, content, app store optimizations etc.” “It is also good to build connections with a lot of people and you never know who is going to open the door for you.” Who are some of your clients right now “People who think they have the next billion dollar app idea but they do not (chuckles) because there is no market need for it and the branding is just horrible sometimes.” “I also work with indie developers who take up app making as a hobby in their spare time and want to see what sticks and what doesn’t.” How do you find clients “Right now at this point i’m lucky enough for most of the clients to come to me, I ve been doing this long enough, and I’ve built up a top rated freelancer reputation on upwork.” “But when i was starting out I really had to take anything and everything.”

Top 5 challenges “Trying to find clients on platforms other than upwork is something I am really struggling with right now cuz I really don’t like upwork (hate it).” “They don’t give much support to freelancers, they are more about the client facing side.” “I have had issues with customer support such as the time tracking tool crashing unexpect-


edly and just going back and forth with customer support more times than I have to.” “Last year they implemented a twenty percent service fee that takes 20% out of every project that I make.” “I try to be smart about that and funnel clients out of upwork into working with me on the side.” “That 20% cut is a lot of money and they don’t really take out anything from the client side (This is probably the biggest problem)” “A lot of people face this problem of expecting the best work for free. When you are starting out you have to do that work.” “But right now I don’t do that anymore. I’m just trying to find good clients to work with and not ‘cheapskates’ (who are basically 75% of upwork).” How do you manage finances “I recently started a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I live with my family so I don’t have to worry about rent and other major expenses. I just need money to pay phone bill.” “Payment - it’s really unpredictable.” “I get bombarded with projects at one time and sometimes I work on only one project a week.” “I don’t know how much exactly I spend or save but i do know that i save more than i spend.” “Going to debt scares the living daylights out of me, I never want to go into debt.” “I think I’m planning to do freelancing after i graduate.” “I probably will keep doing this on the side but it will be like passive income , and it will save a ton of money” Full time freelancer vs work & part time “I do want to work at a tech company, I think and then try to build my freelancing stuff on the side and get it to like a marketing agency level. I want to work at bumble.”


“I want to graduate, I really don’t like school it is such a pain. Try to put more money into the side business (i’m not spending anything on it). I go through upwork and I am not paying for ads. I want to put more time and resources into the side business. Go work somewhere at a company.” Payments “Once I had to literally track down a guy for payments and bombarded him with emails for a solid 3 months and it was a pretty big project too. He didn’t pay it upfront.So I had to track him down and had to constantly keep. I kept sending him email week after week after week. Until the last email, I said if I don’t hear back from you within a week I am going to write a medium article and throw your name in it and talk about the importance of being upfront with your client. This was a pain but he eventually got back to me.” “Most of my projects are on upwork and they mostly get it done on time. Upwork has an escrow account where it gets transferred before. I give them a week to make payments. I ask them to pay me half through invoice.” Stereotyping/Gender Bias “I get a few jabs about how young i look, that I look like i am in high school and that they are glad to be working with me or whatever that means, and that is about the extent of that.”


Rob Whiting

31 | Freelance Business Consultant Came to US in oct 2016 Did freelancer for 3 organizations in Business Consulting Left full time in full time job in 2017 Been unemployed for 4 months Been freelancing for companies that he used to work at before (such as BCG) Looking at starting something in a few areas that he is interested in Was working at the yard but felt that there was too much overhead costs. Started working at spacious after that. Reason to leave the job - Did not like reporting to people who are less intelligent and working his way through corporate politics. Wanted to control his destiny Looking in the following spaces to start something - pets, cannabis, gig economy One idea he has is in helping baby boomers with small businesses Also interested in recycling and sustainability Paying tax as a freelancer was a major hassle “I had to put money aside - was confused due to complexity - did his own calculations but don’t know if they were true (9 months work + 4 months freelance)” His current health insurance does not have dental coverage and he has faced problems with it. Feels that health insurance is one of his biggest challenges as a freelancer. Has not been able to see a dentist for four months even though he has been suffering from dental pain. He also expressed a need for group buying of software, feels they are too expensive for an individual If he could cut down on expenses, he would cut down on drinks and dining if possible doesn’t spend money buying things. Laptop and moving expenses are his biggest expenses - bought gym and citibike membership for a whole year because it was cheaper. Got his phone for free



30 | Uber Driver 30 - moved to US 10 years back Doing undergraduate in Bio Med - at Salem State University in Boston How he started freelance : “have been working but used to work more when i didn’t have workload in school” “just doing part time- 20 hours - mostly to pay bills” He works at a restaurant “During weekdays I’m busy with school so I only work during the weekends” “I start work in the daytime - restaurant i work at only open for dinner and my time is flexible since I have been working for a while” He works 20-25 hours on weekdays as part-time, and works on his assignments at night “Whenever I’m free i go out and drive - its TIME MANAGEABLE” “I can work flexibly at restaurant but only time you can get off is when you have someone to cover. The schedule comes out like 2 weeks in advance so I have to tell them in advance” Pain point late night picks get difficult, when picking up drunk people who behave malevolent. “Sometimes there are drunk ppl throwing up in your car” “Also on other occasions there are too many ppl in car. If there are more than a certain number I would be held liable in case there is an accident” “I don’t have a fix target for income.. I tend to work for the days I have given for myself” “I don’t use credit card for personal shopping (I Use debit card).. only use it for grocery and gas” On health insurance- “Every health insurance should cover dental as well” “Three years ago i had to insurance for my eyes (contact) .Ii had a little scratch on my cornea and I had to use my insurance” “If i had a day job i would not do gig work” You can’t really tell when it is busy or when its slow - there is nothing really to ask “I go with the flow . Have a fixed time for school and have due dates for submissions”



Graphic Designer and Copywriter She is 6 months into freelancing Had a full-time job for 12 years Worked in asia for a consultant-based work - which prompted her to start freelancing Health Educator / Communications but not technically graphic design Pain point - not a trained graphic designer but self-taught (teaching herself the skills was tough) New at freelancing + not much background = challenging She has done 2 gigs with her previous employer in the same industry She is actively searching for jobs - wants to work at a restaurant part-time to pay the bills She started building her skills in her previous job She takes on pro-bono projects to practice her skills Pain point - “The things i took for granted at my full-time job - dont have them at the moment, especially benefits such as healthcare” “You have always had somebody else to take care of these benefits for your job” She feels that freelancers are an additional charge to the employer - so she keep her costs low and bills less than what she wants, afraid that she’s not worth the additional expense She tried finding work on Upwork - but did not work Benefits Issue - Health insurance, retirement plans. “I think to have access to those things when you’re not employed would be phenomenal. I think a lot of people would go into freelancing if that is the case.”







APPENDIX F - FLY ON THE WALL Refer the presentation here :