The Three Business Card Life: How to Join the Sharing Economy

A new way to work is emerging. In three-business card life, it’s possible to pursue multiple interests — and incomes — by mixing and matching your work with a job, a freelance gig, or by leveraging idling assets with the...

A new way to work is emerging. In three-business card life, it’s possible to pursue multiple interests — and incomes — by mixing and matching your work with a job, a freelance gig, or by leveraging idling assets with the sharing economy.

As the name suggests, the sharing economy helps others “share” the extra capacity in goods and services. It’s a big business, and it can help you create a life you love.

Take the story of the Uber driver who took me to the airport last week. He started driving on the side to supplement his trucking income. Now, he’s left behind the trucking job for semi-retirement. With Uber, he can make money and be home for his family every night. Meanwhile, the five year old startup Uber is predicted to hit an annual revenue run rate of $10 billion by the end of 2015.

The Business of Sharing

The sharing economy is booming. Over 200 startups have been funded with more than 11 billion dollars. At least 13 industries are represented, including transportation, space, money, and services. Let’s look at some of the businesses leading the market:

Transportation: Catch a ride with a driver sharing his or her car with Uber or Lyft. Rent a car for an hour or two, or even a day with Zipcar. Find a rental car, or offer your own car for others with Relay Rides. Transportation is the largest sector in the Sharing Economy. Car sharing is also taking off internationally with Ola in India, Grab Taxi in Southeast Asia, and Kuaidi in China.

Space: Put up your apartment, a spare room, or even your floor for rent. The largest players are Airbnb and HomeAway for vacation rentals. Space goes beyond residental, too, and there’s a sharing economy for professionals. Companies like WeWork offer co-working space.

Money: Prosper and Lending Tree offer peer-to-peer lending marketplaces. Users lend money to others and are repaid with interest.

Services: Get your groceries delivered with Instacart. Hire the services of other freelancers with sites like TaskRabbit, Elance-oDesk, or Fiverr.

A Win for Consumers

By monetizing the idling assets that used to sit empty and unused every day, the sharing economy is driving down the cost of goods for consumers. Researchers at Boston University estimated that every 10% rise in Airbnb supply in Texas causes a 0.35% drop in monthly traditional hotel revenue.

People participate in the sharing economy for more reasons than lower cost alone. Consumers also participate in sharing programs for environmental and personal reasons. For some consumers, it’s much more rewarding to crash on a couch with Couchsurfers or to rent from an Airbnb owner than to stay at a traditional hotel.

Good for the Three-Business Card Professional

Being part of the sharing economy allows you to save money when you’re a consumer — and it’s also a great way to make flexible income. You can participate on and off as you wish so you can work when you want, and you can stop working on your time.

It’s easy to start leveraging your idling assets like your spare bedroom or your parked car by listing them on the relevant service. By taking advantage of your extra resources, whether your car, space, or spare time, you can develop another source of income that can help you reach your financial goals.  

Join the Sharing Economy by Leveraging Your Idling Assets

To join the sharing economy, consider what idling assets you currently own. Do you have skills you can share on Fiverr or TaskRabbit? Do you have a spare bedroom you can rent, or a parked car to share with Relay Rides?

Don’t forget to think beyond the new start-ups in the sharing economy if you want to earn income from this type of work. You can share your skills and resources in a more traditional way, too. Baby-sitting, dog boarding, or even bartering the extra produce from your garden can be a way to be a part of the sharing economy.
The name of the game is flexibility. Leverage what you have to help others get what they need, and you can develop new income streams in the process.