The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need To Improving Your Life Because Of The Freelance Economy!

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At SkillBridge, we are certainly working at the heart of the freelance economy: For nearly a year, we have provided white-collar workers with freelance business consulting jobs that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to find. We have enabled individual consultants to win, as they no longer need to be associated with a firm to work at jobs that are of high-quality and well-paid.

There are many other amazing companies out there that are using freelancers to help people. Together, we’re all focused on disintermediating old school companies and dysfunctional/bureaucratic organizations so that individuals can directly connect with the people and services they want. Whether you work at a small business or a large one, your life is going to become much more efficient in the coming years.

Without further ado, here’s SkillBridge’s Ultimate Guide To The Modern Freelance Economy, and please let us know in the comments section if you have more examples, as this will be a regularly updated list:

Hire Great Engineers:

TopTal – Founded 2010. Connects start-ups, businesses, and organizations to a growing network of the best developers in the world.

AirPair – Founded 2013. Connects companies to Software Developers they can book and pay 1 hour at a time.

Use Peer to Peer Taxi-Like Services:

Lyft – Founded 2007, as Zimride. A mobile app for friendly, affordable rides at the tap of a button.

Uber - Founded 2009. Connects you with a driver at the tap of a button.

Summon (formerly Instacab) – Founded 2012. Mobile application that matches customers needing transportation with a taxi driver or a community driver who is willing to provide a ride.

Hailo – Founded 2010. Free smartphone app that puts people two taps away from a licensed taxi, and lets cabbies get more passengers when they want them.

Sidecar – Founded 2012. Smartphone app matches everyday people in their own car with people nearby for shared rides.

Accomplish Your Small Tasks:

Mechanical Turk –  Founded 2007. A marketplace for work by Amazon.com.

TaskRabbit – Founded 2008. Matches people who need tasks done with runners — aka “rabbits” — willing to do them, for a price.

Fiverr – Founded 2010. The place for people to share things they’re willing to do for $5.

Freelancer – Founded 2009. Outsourcing & crowdsourcing marketplace for small business.

oDesk – Founded 2005. An online workplace that enables businesses to find, hire, manage, and pay talented independent professionals via the Internet.

Elance – Founded 1998. Connects the world through work

Hire Workers:

WorkMarket – Founded 2010. Where workers and companies come together and manage work.

Get Your House Cleaned And Your Handy Men (and Women):

Zaarly – Founded 2011. Find and hire the best house cleaners, handymen, and lawn-care staff.

HomeJoy – Founded 2012. Get your place professionally cleaned for just $20 per hr.

Design Your Life:

Behance – Founded 2006. Showcase and discover the latest work from top online portfolios by creative professionals across industries.

99 Designs – Founded 2008. The #1 marketplace for graphic design, including logo design, web design and other design contests.

Made – Founded 2013. An invite-only marketplace that matches top freelance creatives with the people who want to hire them.

Hire Journalists and Acquire Content For Your News Org Or Brand:

NewsCred – Founded 2008. Pairing cutting-edge technology with world-class content, we transform brands into storytellers.

Contently – Founded 2010. Empowering journalists and brands to engage audiences with compelling content.

Get an Education:

SkillShare – Founded 2010. Teach as a freelancer. A community marketplace for classes.

Invent Cool Things:

Quirky – Founded 2009. Invent as a freelancer. If you have product ideas, bring them to Quirky.

Hire Your Legal Services:

Rocket Lawyer – Founded 2008. Make legal services accessible.

UpCounsel – Founded 2012. The easiest way to get legal services.

LawDingo – Founded 2012. Talk to lawyers. Find lawyers online.

And yes, in 2013, business consulting also became a freelance economy sub-genre whenSkillBridge was born (originally spelled SkylBridge, ha!). We’re proud to be a part of it, and we look forward to connecting you with the world’s best business consultants.

How to Quit Your Job and Live the Dream

how, to, quit, your, job, and, live, the, dream,

Reinvention is one of America’s most overused terms.

But reinvention defines some of the best things that have come out of America in the past decade. Yes, celebrities have reinvented themselves: Betty White, Jon Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneres, to name a few. But the rest of us, plebeians, also have the ability to reinvent ourselves, and it has never been so easy.

The most inspirational and functional guide for personal reinvention is certainly James Altschuler’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself that he published in Tech Crunch in October. His words are inspiring and the message is clear: A lot of hard work combined with laser focus and you can become one of the best in whatever your chosen field is.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the burden of tech, as it seems like America truly has start-up fever. When even our prisons are hosting start-up accelerators — and this isn’t to say that prisons aren’t strong markets themselves for start-ups — we either are in the midst of a very serious start-up bubble, or are enabling anyone to live the American dream (or some mix of the two.)

But what if you didn’t want to create a tech start-up? What if you wanted to get your hands dirty in something like product manufacturing? What does that really take?

My friend Michael Paratore quit his job at a law firm to become, in his words, a “peddler.” Yes, being a peddler doesn’t sound as lucrative as legal work, but Michael wanted to seize his opportunity that came when he accompanied his wife Michelle on a trip to India.

Paratore once found himself wandering around Bombay’s backstreets. It was there that he met a shoe peddler who would change his life. Michael discovered what he describes as the world’s most comfortable shoes, and he decided that he should manufacture and sell them in America — and around the world.

And now, one year after his journey began, Michael’s dream has come true.

His Mohinder’s Kickstarter launched, and I happily bought a pair for $50, knowing that they’ll probably the first ethically made pair of footwear I’ve ever owned. Mohinder’s will also likely help the Indian village cooperative comprised of second and third generation shoe-making artisans who manufacture his products. (The cooperative was set up by an Indian NGO that uses a micro-credit style model to ensure artisans are paid fairly and can “break the cycle of poverty” while helping the artisans build valuable business and entrepreneurial skills.)

Whether you need a few hundred grand to create the “first open sensor for health and fitness” on IndieGoGo, or $34,000 to create a funky and eco-friendly YogoMat (I’m still waiting for mine because of production problems), the internet democracy has enabled entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves. I don’t know if the guy who invented the open sensor was a garbage man, a science teacher, or had a PhD in physics before he launched his crowdfunding campaign. I don’t know if the guy who invented the YogoMat has ever done yoga in his life! C’est la vie. I, and millions of others, are helping people to reinvent themselves every single day.

We should all feel lucky that we live in a society where reinvention is completely acceptable. A hundred years ago, you wouldn’t find many people — unless they had just committed some sort of heinous crime — attempting to reinvent themselves. Now, it’s as easy as putting in some hard work and putting up your wares on a crowdfunding site.

If there’s an interest, then, BAM! You’re in business.

My food evolution: Atoning for my culinary sins and the 11 Commandments I will now follow

My first proper foray into journalism was, at age 14, writing a restaurant review column titled “Morse’s Morsels” for Oceanside High School’s Sider Press. I have continued to write about food and restaurants, both professionally and for fun. However, I have never publicly discussed my own eating habits, concerns, and woes. And there are many.(I’m not pulling a Frank Bruni here, I promise. Just keep reading!)

When I read Fast Food Nation as a teenager, I was disgusted by the atrocities perpetrated by American fast food companies against their employees (many of them undocumented immigrants) who risked life and limb to bring Chicken McNuggets to the masses. Yet I was not moved to take action. My 17-year-old self went, along with my friends, to McDonalds, Burger King, or Wendy’s five days per week to raid the dollar menus. And at this hormonally and metabolically gifted age, we hardly gained a goddamn pound (despite consuming chicken feces and all the other junk that’s inside any standard fast food sandwich).

I had the knowledge, yet I remained ignorant.

In college, not much changed. Food trucks and ethnic cuisines in West Philadelphia,  replaced the fast food of old, but even reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” didn’t do a thing to majorly shake up my habits. I naively considered the lettuce and tomatoes on top of my Greek Lady chicken salad hoagies to be sufficient vegetable intake. (None of this was helped by the fact that I lived in places with some really nasty kitchens featuring roaches, mice, etc. I was convinced that I’d rather spend the money eating out then dying of some foodborne illness.)

(Sidenote: For the only math class I took at Penn, I wrote a paper explaining why I would  continue to eat at Taco Bell despite an outbreak of salmonella and nationwide produce recalls, because statistically, there were greater odds of many more obscure things happening to me than being effected by diseased lettuce.)

Some of my food consumption habits changed when I lived in England after graduating from college. Someone once said that, food-wise, for every mile outside of London it’s like taking a yea back in time: I was based almost two hours outside of London. Needless to say, I was horrified by the low quality of food at restaurants. But British supermarkets are surprisingly quite cheap and offer a solid selection. Therefore, I started cooking for myself by eating eggs every morning while frequently making myself pastas that were heavily laden with vegetables.

Some of my progress was likely erased when I returned to America and started working. I found it hard to cook find time to cook while spending 12+ hours per day commuting and working.

It was only when I returned to Europe again, this time Denmark, that the obscene, and I mean obscene prices of food when dining out in that socialist paradise forced me to eliminate eating out except for very rare special occasions. However, at this moment, I had the time and the motivation for start eating better. (Snagging a girlfriend with a keen interest in healthy eating didn’t hurt. In fact, daily reinforcement focused on healthy living was lifechanging!)

Fast forward two years.

Despite one friend insisting that I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals since it first came out, because after reading it, she promptly and permanently converted to vegetarianism, it was only after I purchased a Kindle in late 2011 that I got around to reading this piece. By early December, after reading the book on bus rides through London, I was shocked and horrified by what I read about meat production, especially in America.

For me, a sore spot has always been the threat of going bald. Despite my hair starting to thin in high school, it has remained largely in tact. (Knock wood!) Though my dad, bald himself, thinks I’m crazy, I attribute my hair retention to the egg yolks (packed with biotin and silica) that I have eaten regularly since age 21. But the more I read about eating animals who themselves were fed all sorts of chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics, the more that it grossed me out to even consider eating them myself.

So on New Years Eve, at a supermarket in Amsterdam, I ate a sample-size piece of salami, and proclaimed that I would never eat meat again.

Three months later, I’ve done a pretty decent job. There was one transcontinental flight where I was unable to obtain a vegetarian meal, and there were certainly a few instances when, after consuming alcohol, that I snuck a bite or two of meat. (I actually felt physically ill after each of these errors, one time even regurgitating.)

But only today, after walking for 100 blocks did I really screw up. My stomach was growling like a lion when a storefront signboard depicting a juicy, succulent barbecued chicken stood before me. I turned to see that Boston Market was running a promotion for a half chicken, two side dishes, and a corn muffin for $7.99.

I don’t know what made me do it. But I walked into that restaurant. And I ordered that chicken. And I felt like I’d just committed a personal felony. I didn’t enjoy one bite of that chicken. But it inspired me to do better.

I don’t want to be a forty-year-old who looks sixty. I want to be a forty-year-old who looks thirty. And I’m not going to get that, or live a long life without needing medical care, if I eat crap. Plus, I want my hair.

So, for the next three months, I am setting 11 Commandments for myself that I am determined to follow:

1.No fried food.

2.No cheese (unless it’s a rare high-end import).

3.No Chinese takeout (because of the low quality oils that it’s cooked in).

4. Carry small bags of mixed nuts with me or similar snacks at all times.

5. Consume no carbohydrates that are not of the whole wheat/whole grain variety.

6. Eat small dinners that have limited carbohydrates.

7. Never drink more than one beer per night. (Switch to red wine.)

8.Do not eat within four hours of going to bed.

9. Consume eggs, yogurt, or something Larabaresque for breakfast.

10. No sweets, except for the occasional dark chocolate bar.

11. Consume no less than six vegetables per day.

A follow-up post with additional details about my self-imposed (and crowdsourced) punishments for violating any of these tenets is coming soon! Also, I downloaded Lose It! — a free diet and weight monitoring iPhone app — to help me keep track of my food intake. I will report back on how this app, which has great reviews, has helped (or hurt) my efforts.

Startups that are trying to create marketplaces that monetize video content. (But what does it take to bring people to the market?)

I have been researching startups that offer opportunities for original video content creators to monetize their work, oftentimes by creating marketplaces and platforms. Here are some of the more interesting companies that I have discovered. (Please feel free to add others in the comments section.)

Note: I am staying away from companies that only work in the music monetization and companies that are essentially video advertising solutions.

1. PlaceVine (Acquired by social video syndicator Alphabird in 2011)

About: “PlaceVine is a service that bring passionate content producers together with marketers and their agencies to create socially engaging branded video experiences. Today, the basic Placevine service enables producers to showcase their concepts and content for brands, and enables marketers to provide talented producers with brand integration opportunities.”

2. Koldcast.tv

About: “KoldCast TV, a division of KoldCast Entertainment Media, LLC, is an international television network which distributes programming to entertainment consumers around the world via the KoldCast TV Network site, found at www.koldcast.tv, via set-top boxes, connected/smart TV’s and mobile devices, and via unique relationships with broadcast and cable TV networks and other television distribution venues around the world. Our programming is largely created by independent television producers and filmmakers from the United States and countries across the globe. The phenomenal growth of independent programming allows KoldCast to be highly-selective in its programming choices. Unlike online video distribution sites like YouTube and those that have followed them, KoldCast specializes exclusively in professionally-produced programming. Our programming slate does not combine user-created videos of cats and dogs playing the piano or riding a lawn mower.”

3. Blur Group

About: “Blur Group has built and operates the world’s largest Creative Services Exchange™. With 14,075 creatives and exchange staff, a unique business model and advanced technology, it radically alters the marketing services space. CMOs, marketing directors, VPs, creative heads and innovation leaders buy the best, most cost-effective creative services from expert providers around the world. The biggest global brands, the coolest startups and all points in between choose this transparent approach for the most cost-effective, real time and relevant design services, marketing campaigns, content programs, original artwork and innovation partnerships.”

4. Talenthouse

About: “Talenthouse provides life-changing opportunities for the creative community. It’s a place to participate in projects with leading artists and brands, gain recognition and virally grow your audience. Talenthouse embraces artists at every level of their career, as well as all supporters of the arts. Attracted by the potential for discovering, collaborating with and mentoring emerging talent, many global brands and acclaimed industry icons are involved with Talenthouse by hosting Creative Invites. Brands choose Talenthouse to engage in a dialogue with their audience in a targeted, relevant and credible context. Talenthouse currently focuses on film, fashion, music, art / design, and photography.”

5. Videolla.com

About: “You simply upload your video to Videolla and set price for it or insert ads into the video. Its simple and free. You will not need any coding skills. Just register, upload your videos and pick if you want to sell them or place ads.”

6. Bozza (South African)

About: “Most individuals in Africa engage with digital communication, information and entertainment through their mobile phones. Content drives the uptake of technology; yet despite the global increase and focus on the value of content, there continues to be a lack of locally generated, contextually relevant content for the African market. Focused on local made-for-mobile content, the Bozza application offers artists, filmmakers and entrepreneurs a mobile platform through which to distribute their content. By doing so these SMMEs earn revenue and users get free access to relevant, premium content (music, written word and videos) that entertains, educates, informs or all of the above.”

7. Poptent

About: “Poptent is a vibrant community of filmmakers (and actors, comedians, grips, animators and more!) who are connecting to each other and to companies that want to pay them for their talents. Through our passions for advertising and commercials, we are exploring a new way of creating branded messages for the Internet age. Poptent members can show off their work, build a portfolio, collaborate with other creators, leverage our deep set of features, and best of all make money doing what they love. Poptent brands are seeking new ways to reach their consumers and create new audiences. They are finding exciting possibilities that save them both money and time while staying just ahead of the curve of competition. They are, in a word, trendsetters.”

Now that the US Senate passed the JOBS Act, I discuss how this new piece of legislation can improve the quality of American journalism

I recently blogged about the many benefits that I hope will come to America with the passage of the JOBS Act. Now that the US Senate has passed the JOBS Act (with an amendment that I support), the bill has gone back to the House of Representatives for final approval before President Obama signs it into law. Despite my skepticism about the ability of Congress to pass any legislation in this toxic and partisan political climate, I am pleasantly surprised that it looks like the JOBS Act should go through with bipartisan support.

My general thesis is that if the “people” can now invest in new ventures, then they will be more apt to use products and services that cater to small groups/communities, and more likely to shun products, services, and information that comes from large corporations that are geared for the masses. (Of course, it may take a couple of years to see these effects, but I am hopeful that fragmentation can create diversity in spheres of life where Americans now have too few choices.)

While other commentators have focused on the overall benefits and drawbacks for investors, businesses, regulators, and consumers, I will list potential ways that the new crowdfunding legislation can influence and disrupt journalism. My theories on winners and losers from the JOBS Act:

1. Communities can rally around creating publications that they control, rather than leaving sub-par newspapers in the hands of publishers motivated by the bottom line rather than creating high quality community content. (Look out Patch and legacy publishers!) The potential to revive local journalism in places that are currently without local news sources is the most promising development that I see. But legacy media organizations should be on guard, because disruption born out of frustration may be just around the corner.

2. Niche publications will be able to get off the ground more easily. If a fragmented community of  1,000 people (I’m thinking an online community for this example), spread throughout America, wanted to hire one person to work to create content, they could hypothetically each donate $30 to a venture that could create a niche publication with a professional or semi-professional journalist/curator at the helm.

3. Television networks and cable channels should be scared because YouTube is already slicing up the market, but enthusiasts of various types of content that don’t achieve the critical masses needed for channels that cater to advertisers may now have their opportunity to band together to create more desirable programming…and make it profitable.

4. Television news should be a prime target for entrepreneurs at the local and national levels, as it has remained virtually unchanged for such a long time. I foresee new formats developing, and I believe the crowd will control how they develop.

5. Crowdfunded radio stations may destroy the traditional for-profit ones. Watch out ClearChannel. Look out for an indy radio explosion…(most likely based on the Internet).

6. Lone bloggers and journalists with strong personal brands (or with the ability to build strong personal brands) will now be able to have investors rally behind them. This could create a major revolution for sole proprietors, ending the struggles that freelancers face in terms of tax burdens. Another advantage is that talented people may now be more willing to go off on their own rather than remain with corporations that under-utilize talented journalists’ skills and abilities.

Part 1: The law that could save sustainable journalism will be destroyed unless the US Senate acts now!

I recently argued that upstarts like Matter that have made successful pitches on Kickstarter are not the solution to solving journalism’s long-term problems. Why? Because crowdfunding, in its current form, does not permit people to make investments. Rather, crowdfunders make donations, or in some cases loans. The outcomes are variable and generally unsustainable

When David Cohn started the crowdsourced journalism non-profit Spot.us four years ago, it worked on a similar premise to Kiva, whereby donors received part or all of their money back if and when a crowd-funded story sold to a legacy media outlet. Cohn prevented  any one person from influencing which stories were funded by limiting each donor to funding 20% of the total amount raised for each pitch. (Of course this system is potentially flawed in that one donor can spread his/her money out to friends etc, but at least Cohn tried to implement a system of checks and balances.) But Spot.us was designed to assist existing organizations, not create entirely new media outlets.

We’re on the brink of a revolution that could lead to saving sustainable journalism and create many jobs

But we may be on the brink of a journalism revolution. Currently, only accredited investors are able to invest in newly formed companies, which prevents Kickstarter, Spot.us, and any other crowdfunding site from raising capital for startup companies and entrepreneurial journalism ventures.

Forbes reports:

Under current federal and state securities laws, startups are prohibited from selling stock or other securities via crowdfunding sites or social networking sites.  Such laws include:

  • A prohibition against “general solicitation” – which means that a company may not offer or sell securities unless there is a substantive, pre-existing relationship between the company (or a person acting on its behalf) and the prospective investor (see “Can I Raise Money For My Startup Via Twitter?” );
  • Disclosure and state law compliance requirements if the investors are not “accredited investors” — which usually makes the offering of securities too costly and onerous for a startup (see “Ask the Attorney – Securities Laws”);
  • A requirement that any intermediaries (including websites) must be registered with the SEC and applicable state securities commissions as a “broker-dealer” in order to legally accept any transaction-based compensation in connection with the sale of securities (see “Ask the Attorney – Beware of Finders”); and
  • A requirement that any company that has 500 or more shareholders and total assets exceeding $10 million must register with the SEC and file periodic reports.

These laws were designed with good intentions: Nobody wants to see Mom and Pop lose their hard-earned money to a snake oil salesman! But in today’s crowdfunded world, they no longer make sense. And when tech-savvy Americans realized this, they sought action.

In the United States Congress, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) (who made some excellent contributions to 2010 Census oversight, which I know from my time spent running MyTwoCensus.com), introduced crowdfunding legislation that was one of the most popular bipartisan initiatives in recent history, garnering support from Democrats all the way up to President Obama himself. McHenry’s bill, the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act,  H.R. 2930 (full version here), passed 407 to 17.

This makes total sense. Republicans generally don’t believe that the government should be able to tell people how to spend their money (anyone can gamble or booze away all of their savings, can’t they?), and Democrats don’t see why accredited investors who are members of the “top 1%” should be the only folks permitted to invest in startups, thus preventing the upward mobility of the masses.

Specifically, the highlights of H.R. 2930 are as follows:

- Create a crowdfunding exemption from SEC regulations for firms raising up to $2 million, with individual investments limited to $10,000 or 10 percent of an investor’s annual income.

- Excludes crowdfunding investors from counting as shareholders for purposes of calculating the 499-shareholder cap under 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act

- Preempt state law and exempts the ban on general solicitation for the new crowdfunding exemption.

But now, as always seems to be the case as of late with the American government,  just when we’re on the brink of something great, the millionaire’s club also known as the United States Senate has failed to move forward with this legislation, thus preventing it from making its way to President Obama’s desk to become a law.

Despite Senate Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts championing similar legislation to the resolution that the House of Representatives passed, lobbying groups like the NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association, “the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection”) have wielded their influence over the 100 people who control the fates of the other 300+ million.

What needs to happen now is simple: An online campaign of the magnitude of the SOPA/PIPA variety must be enacted to create swift and effective action to boost America’s economy by causing the US Senate to pass comprehensive crowdfunding legislation.  Sites like crowdfundinglaw.com and startupexemption.com have already been set up to explain this law and advocate its passage. And using a Wefunder.com petition, more than $6 million has already been pledged to support investment in new ventures if this legislation is passed.

But will Google, Craigslist, Wikipedia, and all of the other organizations that led the charge against SOPA and PIPA step in to assist with this one?

As someone who is not interested in the “rewards” that Kickstarter campaigns promise their donors, but rather direct return on investment in monetary form, I and other like-minded people would be happy to invest in startups despite our lack of accredited investor status. I don’t gamble in casinos, but I’d be happy to gamble on good ideas and innovation.

Coming soon: Direct effects of crowdfunding legislation on new journalism business models…