In an age of instant connectivity and on-demand services, the gig economy has revolutionized how we hire people to help with our needs.
Online marketplace platforms like Yelp, Care.com, and Thumbtack, among others, have paved the way for an evolution, shifting our perspective from building long-term service relationships to targeting specific tasks you may not have the time, skill or desire to accomplish.
For example, Teresa Rhyne’s last column discussed tips for hiring a licensed realtor and reputable moving company. At the end of her article, exhausted from a successful move, she wished for help unpack her moving boxes. Teresa could use one of these platforms to find someone to put away her belongings quickly. She could also hire a skilled person to hang her big screen TV or to set up her home office.
It seems like you can hire “taskers,” as they are called, to do almost anything.
One customer hired someone to go in their place to a party they did not want to attend. Another customer hired a tasker to deliver soup and medicine to a sick friend far away. A family who fought over who had to chop the vegetables hired someone to perform the task weekly. There are more than 200,000 “taskers” on Task Rabbit, so you should be able to find someone to complete your task.
This week, through Thumbtack, I hired a closet organizer to help change my clothes from summer to winter. If I am unhappy with her work, my only loss is the three hours I paid her to try out her services. Also, there is no awkwardness if you do not want someone to continue. You are free to move on to the next freelancer.
The first step to hiring help is clearly defining the task(s) you need to complete. Most platforms, including Yelp, will allow you to post your job and have task specialists contact you, and many platforms will allow you to search for freelancers in your area.
I would try the search feature first. You can get used to reading the reviews and profiles and see the overall quality of the talent pool in your area.
For instance, on one app, there were not many candidates for deep cleaning in our area, and not very many of the candidates had reviews posted, so I moved on to another platform.
It is important to note that some platforms will not allow you to search for particular individuals and will assign someone to the task instead. They do this for expediency if you want someone fast or if the task is simple, like running an errand. I would rather know something about a person before they enter my home.
The right freelancer
When searching for the right person, I look for freelancers with many positive reviews over an extended period, even if their hourly rates are slightly higher. Look at the quality of their profile. Some freelancers post pictures of the jobs they have accomplished. This exhibits pride in their work.
It is important to note that when you read reviews and see “no feedback given” many times on a profile, avoiding those freelancers is generally a good idea. Many people do not want to cause trouble by giving a poor review, and no feedback could be negative.
Some apps introduce the customer and service provider, but scheduling and payment are up to the parties to handle themselves. I prefer the platforms that handle scheduling, payment, and tax reporting.
Scheduling tasks on the platform makes the tasker more accountable, and the funds to pay the freelancer are usually held in an escrow account until the job is complete and the customer is satisfied with the work. The customer then receives a receipt for the tasker’s pay. No cash is exchanged. I think it is safer and more convenient for the parties.
If you hire and pay a tasker directly, you may be responsible for issuing a 1099 if you pay them more than $600 a year, or you could be responsible for household employee payroll taxes if you pay them more than $1,000 in a calendar year.
However, if you pay them through a platform, they will handle the tax reporting, and you do not have to.
Regarding safety, many platforms perform a basic background check on freelancers; some offer additional criminal, DMV, and identity checks for an additional fee. I paid for the extra background check fees in the past but now rely on the experience and references in the profile. You can also research a freelancer on social media if it makes you feel more comfortable.
Some taskers, especially housekeepers, will ask you to hire them outside the app via text messaging. I would not suggest you go along with this. They may ask you to text your address and never show up, leaving you to wonder if you should be worried about what happened to them or if they wanted your personal information for other reasons. They also may post an hourly rate online and then request a higher rate when they arrive.
It is important to note that many gig workers do not carry business insurance. Ask your insurance broker about your coverage under your homeowners, auto and business policies for gig workers. Also, check if the platform provides insurance. Make sure the tasker has a valid driver’s license and adequate auto insurance if they run errands.
Short to long term
Sometimes, a series of completed tasks can bring you closer to the ideal long-term collaborator. For example, the temporary home health person I hired on Care.com in 2017 when I was recovering from surgery is still with us. I liked working with her; she now helps me at the office.
As a follow-up, Teresa ended up unpacking the boxes herself, but she hired a wallpaper hanger on Thumbtack and is also looking for a dog walker for her dad.
The closet organizer I hired did a fantastic job. So, if you are just someone who can assemble that tricky IKEA furniture or paint that chipping mailbox, think about using a freelance search platform.
Michelle C. Herting is a CPA, an Accredited Business Valuator, and an Accredited Estate Planner. She specializes in succession planning, business valuations, and settling trusts.
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.