By Christine Barry, Chief Blogger and Social Content Manager, Barracuda Networks
The last decade has seen an explosion of ‘solopreneurs’ in the United States. Business News Daily reports that there were 17.9 million full-time and 12.1 million part-time independent workers in the US as of October of 2014. These numbers demonstrate a 12.5% growth in independent workers over a 3 year period. In contrast, the US labour force grew by only 1.1% during that same time.
A recent study revealed several reasons why people are turning to independent work. Some of the most frequently mentioned reasons:
- Controlling their own work schedules
- Eliminating office commutes
- Earning more income
- Creative control over their work
- Designing their desired lifestyle
- Building a ‘fall-back’ plan in case of an economic downturn
Regardless of the specific reason, most solopreneurs are looking for three things: control, autonomy, and flexibility. For the solopreneur, this is worth the hard work and stress that is part of being an independent worker.
While no one agrees on a specific time or reason for the rise of the solopreneur, there’s no question that technology has played a role. It’s interesting to overlay the growth data on business apps during the same time period. In 2014, appfigures reported that the iOS app store and Google Play showed triple digit growth in business apps and business app developers.
While these business apps can create interesting challenges for the enterprise, it often levels the playing field for the solopreneur. For example,
Collecting signatures: Getting client signatures on paperwork used to be a hassle. Couriers and fax machines made the movement of paper a little easier, but the introduction of eSignatures has dramatically improved this workflow. Apps like CudaSign (formerly SignNow) make it possible to carry work agreements in your pocket and collect signatures at the time of the decision. Capturing an account is much faster with eSignature technology.
File storage: Going paperless used to mean generating the paper document, scanning the document into a digital file, storing the file on a server or other computer, and then shredding the paper. It was a tedious but welcome process, as it allowed companies to cut costs related to searching for information, transferring documents, and maintaining physical storage space.
File storage and document retention became somewhat easier with VPN and remote access technology, but it was cloud storage apps that made paperless easy for everyone. While the eSignature apps can help you secure contracts faster, cloud storage allows you to keep all of your files at hand. PowerPoint presentations, videos, pictures, customer testimonials, operations manuals, etc. are all accessible with an Internet connection and a laptop or mobile device. Apps like CudaDrive and Barracuda Copy make it possible to securely store and share these files, and to keep them in sync between devices. Cloud storage is affordable and accessible enough to even the smallest, independently owned business.
There are a number of other less disruptive technologies that have contributed to the ease of doing business. Apps that facilitate bookkeeping, timekeeping, and billing, have made it easier for independent workers to take on the administrative work that they often do not enjoy. Platforms like Upwork and Guru make specialized work accessible to the independent worker. Resources like 99 Designs make professional branding more affordable than ever before. Email, websites, social marketing, messaging, and online collaboration apps make it easier to quickly respond to customer requests.
The number of independent workers is expected to increase to about 20% of the US workforce by the year 2020. The number of business apps and other technologies that facilitate this growth are likely to increase as well.