This piece by Ken Cook originally appeared in the Hartford Business Journal September 25, 2017.
There is a great deal of focus lately on the gig economy and gig entrepreneurs. Uber and Airbnb are two obvious examples of the popularity of independence as a gig entrepreneur. I was speaking with a friend recently and her son is a prime example of a niche gig entrepreneur.
He is a specialized pipe fitter. His skills place him in high demand with defense contractors, energy companies, pipeline companies, and the like. In essence, he travels in an RV to his next job. Not a bad gig for someone who is single and enjoys the independence.
The downside to being a gig entrepreneur is that many of them fail or barely get by. The reasons for failure are as varied as the number of failures. If you are an Uber driver or Airbnb host, you better excel at service, cleanliness, responsiveness and a total focus on the customer. Otherwise, poor ratings will doom you early in the game. The pipe fitter needs to continually be at the top of his game; without that his value diminishes over time.
Successful gig entrepreneurs usually have three things in common—clarity of concept and execution, a value people pay for, and a focus on relationships.
Clarity of concept and execution—it requires a clear value proposition that is easily understood and experienced. The pipe fitter has a clearly defined skill that is easily understood by those who need that skill. The Airbnb host whose accommodations are first class meets a primary need customers have, and earns rave reviews. The Uber driver who makes the trip memorable, even if it's memorable because it is smooth and anxiety free, builds a fan base.
If you want to be a successful gig entrepreneur, you need to address the overarching question any customer would have. Why you? That requires clarity of concept and execution.
A value people pay for—you must find someone who will pay for what you offer. After all, this is what business is all about. Develop a product or service to the point that it is sellable at a profit, and then go make some money.
Underlying this principle is an understanding of the market you want to serve. Any gig entrepreneur can start in one of two places—with a unique product or service, or by identifying a market need not being met. In either case, a marriage needs to occur. The gig entrepreneur needs to marry a need with a solution, hopefully a solution that would be unique to them.
The pipe fitter is in a select group. The Airbnb host might be, depending on the accommodations they offer. The Uber driver, not so much a select group. In each instance, the value offered is a direct result of the uniqueness of the marriage of offering and need.
Customers recognize value and are willing to pay for it, especially when it satisfies a unique need. More importantly, customers know when something is a commodity. Commodity offerings are evaluated mostly on price.
Bottom line: Up the value of the offering in the context of the needs being met.
Focus on relationships. No one gets there alone. The pipe fitter needs relationships and champions in the industries he serves. The Airbnb host and Uber driver form relationships with every guest or passenger they serve. They also form relationships with the Airbnb and Uber platform personnel.
All of these relationships are critical to the ongoing success for any gig entrepreneur. Satisfied customers are one thing. Satisfied customers who become fans and tell others is an entirely different category of relationship. Someone becomes a fan when the relationship evolves beyond just the transaction. Take the time to build a stronger relationship with every satisfied customer.
The cumulative strength of one's relationships dictates how smooth the path is to new business and growth. A gig entrepreneur should market themselves first through their relationships. Build strong relationships and leverage those fan relationships for growth.
About the Author
Ken Cook is the Co-Founder of How to Who, a program about how to build strong relationships and how to build business through those relationships. Learn more at www.howtowho.com or follow on Twitter @How2Who.