Flytographer is a global vacation photography company that connects freelance photographers with travelers for fun, one-hour photo shoots to capture travel memories. As the fastest growing consumer services startup in Canada, its business is built on the gig economy. Here, Nicole Smith, Founder and CEO of Flytographer shares some best practice tips on how to get the most from this model.
The gig economy model brings freelancers of all kinds, from dog walkers to photographers, flexible working opportunities and a more extensive network of customers, without the commitments of a full time job. As this approach becomes more common, freelancers are predicted to be the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027.
For businesses that rely on gig economy workers, the ability to scale up or down depending on demand enables great agility and responsiveness. But running a business in the gig economy is not without its challenges. Companies need to keep their freelance workforce happy or risk losing the volume of workers they need to keep growing.
“Companies need to keep their freelance workforce happy or risk losing the volume of workers they need to keep growing.”
Like other gig-based companies, Flytographer’s reputation depends on its relationship with freelancers. Our contract photographers need to delight our clients and the quality of their work defines our offering. So, based on our experience of working together harmoniously, here are 6 tips on how to run a successful gig economy business.
1. Make it easy for freelancers. Freelancers are a busy bunch, who often do everything for themselves including marketing, customer relations, financial administration and more. They certainly don’t have time to read lengthy terms and conditions or filter through corporate jargon. And so to attract freelance service providers, you have to make it simple for them to do business with you. This is a golden rule in our business. Our booking platform, for example, is intuitive, making it easy for photographers to share availability, interact with customers, manage their accounts, and upload photos anywhere in the world.
2. Think mobile first. For freelancers, the world is their office. This is particularly true for photographers, who are rarely behind a desk (unless they’re editing), but it applies to many other freelancers too. They can work from any café, house, park or communal space. And for freelancers in other countries, they may not even have a desktop space.
And so it’s vital to ensure all your platforms are mobile-friendly. This doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on mobile web development. These days, there are plenty of out-of-the-box solutions designed with mobile in mind. We launched our website using Squarespace, for instance, which is fully responsive. As your business grows, you can look at more scalable solutions, but out of the gate, it’s never been easier to deliver elegant mobile solutions for your freelancers, thanks to the technology now available.
3. Thinking globally. Speaking of growing the business, one of the biggest decisions gig economy companies can make revolves around whether to work with international freelancers. While it certainly depends on the offering, I can’t think of a way to scale that has higher potential for the longevity of the business. It adds immediate differentiation, adds diversity to the digital inventory, and opens up the market. But being global is a difficult transition because of the complexities of dealing with global partners and service providers. There must be strong operational processes for onboarding, communicating and paying those partners.
4. Pay quickly and reliably. For many of our photographers, working with Flytographer is a way to earn extra money on days they aren’t at capacity. It’s great side income and most importantly, they are doing something they love. So the last thing you want to do is to leave them worrying about when the money will come in from their last gig or, worse still, have them chasing you up for late payments. Flytographer uses a global payables automation provider called Tipalti to manage payments. With their automated system, we know that all our suppliers, the majority of which are international, will be paid quickly and reliably. As a lean operation, that frees us to focus on vetting new photographers or increasing our marketing efforts.
5. Create a community. The downside of freelancing is that it can be quite isolating, lacking the camaraderie and creative energy that working within a team in an office can bring. Running a gig economy business puts you in a unique position to address this by becoming the lynch pin that connects a disparate community of freelancers.
At Flytographer we now work with over 400 professional photographers worldwide. We’ve set up a private Facebook community for them and funded several in-person Global Meetups to strengthen this community. As a result, many friendships and artistic collaborations have formed. The halo effect on our brand is powerful, encouraging more photographers to recommend us to their peers and supporting us in growing our name within the industry and beyond.
6. Keep customer experience front of mind. Being successful in the gig economy is about more than commercial transactions. It’s about bringing together people with shared values and passions to offer a meaningful and unique experience or product that will genuinely delight customers.
From day one with Flytographer, we’ve sought out photographers who share our values. It’s their personality, local knowledge and ability to connect with the customer that makes the Flytographer experience truly memorable for the client.
For any business in the gig economy, nurturing the connection between your freelancers and your customers is vital to long-term success. If the customers enjoy the experience of connecting with the contractors, the business will grow organically from word of mouth recommendations and repeat customers.
The leaders of the gig economy will be those companies that understand the needs of freelance suppliers and look to cultivate long-term relationships with them. Using technology such as simple payment systems and off-the-shelf digital services will provide the structure needed for a smooth-running relationship with contractors. Remembering that those contractors are ambassadors for your brand and even though they may be continents away, nurturing a supportive community for them will ensure your customers receive great service from a motivated and brand-loyal workforce.