The pandemic resulted in digital adoption accelerating rapidly. For entrepreneurs running professional services businesses, this presented new ways of generating revenue for those who are willing to embrace these changes.
This democratization of professional services is a huge win for self-employed individuals and small business owners, who can be more agile than their corporate counterparts. It’s also beneficial to those seeking professional services, as technology means they can find and access people whose skills are best suited to the task, no matter where in the world they are based.
The end of the gig economy?
Technology has enabled people to access more flexible ways of working. In the past five years, the gig economy has exploded, and it has no doubt benefited many people who would have otherwise been unable to find employment, especially in these difficult times.
For others, while one off and short-term contracts have generated income, they are being underpaid for their skills due to the very nature of the free market environment the gig economy has created.
Online freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour are hugely popular, and many entrepreneurs successfully use these platforms to supplement their salary, or as their sole form of income. But competition is high, particularly with some freelancers providing their services for very little money, making it more difficult to win gigs and maintain ongoing relationships with clients.
The beginning of the passion economy
Unlike the gig economy, where securing work means a race to the bottom, the passion economy puts the power back into the hands of experts, ensuring that they are paid what they are worth. It comprises two main features – freedom from 9-5 office-based constraints and the ability to showcase skills in a way that demonstrates expertise. For someone with experience and knowledge within a specific field of professional services, these factors present a great opportunity.
This means that rather than relying on one-off payments, with fewer opportunities for repeat business, it’s possible to generate ongoing revenue by building audiences and developing relationships.
Taking advantage of the shift
Creators, like popular YouTubers, were among the first to begin monetizing their content via platforms that work on subscription models like Patreon. Fans who regularly support creators by making direct, ongoing payments are rewarded with perks and rewards for their loyalty. Everybody wins.
Another way of generating income is via platforms which pay a percentage based on how engaged an audience is with a creator's content. Both of these models are unlike the gig economy, which takes a cut of each job completed.
This is allowing those working in professional services to offer their content at a premium via downloadable guides, ebooks, videos, and podcasts. Those doing well on these platforms include copywriters, consultants, marketers, and teachers.
The key to monetizing these audiences is through building an engaged community. When many people think of community, they often focus their efforts exclusively on social media, but these platforms generally are not suitable for monetization if you don’t have a big audience already. And growing a professional community is not the same as building a fanbase.
Fortunately, there are solutions emerging that focus on connecting with experts, peers, and prospects without the noise, distraction, and ads that come with social media. By sharing insights within a community, giving away some advice and guidance for free, it is then possible to generate ongoing revenue via a subscription model, and charge a premium when someone is then ready to seek their expertise after building trust and reassurance with them over time.
Power to the people
When it comes to winning work, it’s true that to an extent, it’s who you know rather than what you know. But the tide is turning.
The dawn of the passion economy, with the technology that supports it, and a wider acceptance of working differently, means that it’s no longer about how many years of experience you have on paper, who you rub shoulders with on the golf course, or how much you spend to wine and dine prospects. It’s about being able to demonstrate your skills and ideas – nothing more, nothing less.
Ashley Friedlein is the CEO & Founder of Guild, an app designed for businesses, professional groups, networks and communities who want the advantages of messaging – ease of use, immediacy, intimacy, engagement – but who also care about proper privacy, quality, legal compliance, and professional standards of support and service. As easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.