4 benefits the ‘sharing economy’ could bring to Canadian businesses

You don’t have to become the next Uber or AirBNB to capitalize on the way network-based services foster collaboration. Consider these ideas

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While the sharing economy (also known as the peer economy, or collaborative consumption) remains a foreign concept to many, iterations of it, including AirBnB and Uber, have become impossible to ignore. The sharing economy is built on excess capacity and the sharing of resources, providing individuals and businesses the ability to earn or save money for sharing things that are otherwise not being used to capacity.

For example, car-sharing programs like RelayRides and Getaround provide a platform for car owners rent out their ride while it’s not in use. The rise of the sharing economy has allowed the Uber and AirBnB’s of the world to become multi-billion dollar household names, while allowing individuals the opportunity to earn a little extra money on the side, but there are a variety of opportunities provided by the sharing economy for those who fall somewhere in between. Membership is as simple as having a strong, reliable Internet connection.

Share Office Space

With the rise of freelance work — which is expected to comprise 40 per cent of the overall workforce by the year 2020, according to Intuit — there is a widespread need for an affordable place to work with a reliable internet connection. Businesses with excess office space can earn a little extra capital by renting it out to freelancers looking for a comfortable place to be productive. They can even set up a barter-system where freelancers provide otherwise costly services in exchange for unused space.

Keep Your Friends Close 

The sharing economy has also brought along with it the trend of co-location, where a number of related businesses operate out of a single location and share basic resources like internet access, office supplies, kitchens and bathrooms. Colocation also allows businesses in related fields the opportunity to collaborate with office-mates with similar interests and expertise, while significantly reducing their overhead costs.

Save on Minor Tasks 

The sharing economy has provided the opportunity for individuals to become ‘micro-entrepreneurs,’ allowing them to earn revenue from completing minor tasks ranging from local delivery to cleaning services, often at a much lower rate than traditional services. Websites like Ask For Task provide a platform for Canadians to post ads for minor tasks they need completed, along with what they can afford to offer in exchange, and companies like Hurrier provide expedited courier services at a lower cost than most traditional short-range courier companies.

Access Cheap Capital

Businesses and individuals in need of a quick lone are now able to access capital at a much lower rate than credit cards, through peer-to-peer lending companies like Grouplend, which advertises “3-year personal loans for responsible Canadians for up to $30,000 from 6.3 per cent APR.” Those flush with cash can also earn higher returns than savings accounts typically provide by injecting it into the program.

Many traditional businesses that remain unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the sharing economy are missing out on a wide variety of opportunities to earn and save money. What prevents many from joining the sharing economy is a lack of trust in the system, but as collaborative consumption grows in popularity their reliability grows with. The businesses that take advantage of this new economy will be the ones that win in the long run.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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