The sharing economy and how it can help small businesses

How can the sharing economy benefit small businesses? Often it's more economical financiallyThe sharing economy, or collaborative economy as it is sometimes referred to, is a growing phenomenon brought to the attention of many through big success stories such as virtual taxi company Uber and trusted accommodation marketplace Airbnb. Quoting from a great article on the building blocks of the shared economy, the definition of the sharing economy is  ‘a socio-economic ecosystem, built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources’. But how can it help small businesses?

Finance – where traditional bank lending has become more challenging to obtain, the growth in crowdfunding has been exponential. Small businesses and start-ups looking to either gain funds to get an idea off the ground, or finance to take the business to the next level, can now consider crowdfunding as a viable means of raising finance. It is worth getting professional advice on this and whether it is right for the business.

Outsourcing – this provides a way for small businesses to access services or additional office help they need without the investment or commitment of an employee or expensive service provider. Everything that could help small businesses – from office admin support, technical support, web-design and marketing services are becoming much more accessible through sharing economy platforms such as TaskRabbit. Simply post the task on the platform and choose from those who bid for the work. The great thing about such platforms is that they usually provide a review system so the user can make an informed decision on who they choose based on overall satisfaction of other users of the service provider. This is invaluable for businesses in start-up phase who may not yet have the resources or desire to hire additional staff.

Business travel costs – for those business owners who need to travel around to meet clients or suppliers, and need transport or accommodation, the aforementioned Uber and Airbnb can help save funds on such business outgoings. Uber helps save around 40 per cent on taxi fares – perfect for when travelling overseas and needing to get around by taxi. Finding accommodation or a meeting place through Airbnb can be incredibly cost effective. It’s surprising how quickly these kinds of costs can rack up where travel is a regular occurrence. Furthermore, it is a way to help small businesses potentially boosting their earnings using the same concept – by either renting out spare office space or car parking space, for instance. The sharing economy is a two-way street!

It certainly is a way of consuming good and services that looks to continue to grow – particularly as technology advances and makes such trading accessible. Finding services online or via GPS on smartphones when out and about and looking for something local, using review sites and social media to gain references and using the platform’s payment system to pay for services certainly makes the whole process viable and appealing.