It’s hard to criticize Uber and Lyft on this account, because the relationship between a conventional taxi driver and a passenger was always ad hoc and short-lived. The same might be said about ZTailors, launched this week by George Zimmer (who used to tell you that “You’re going to like the way you look—I guarantee it”), which hooks up tailors with customers. But each week brings another Tinder-like app that matches up employers and workers, and some of these are meant to arrange work that used to be done by full-time payroll employees.
For example, Universal Avenue, a Swedish startup, helps businesses recruit salesworkers who work as freelancers. UpWork, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com are matchmakers for workers of many kinds, including designers, writers, engineers, and programmers. TaskRabbit lets you find workers for tasks that may not even fit comfortably into any occupation title, such as assembling IKEA furniture.
In favor of this trend, one might argue that the freelancers who work this way get paid for their time and (where relevant) skills, and they can have a flexible work schedule.
On the other hand, there are legal protections that one expects in an employer-employee relationship that are missing in these hookup work situations. Compared to a payroll employee, a hookup worker has much less legal protection from sexual harassment, racial or age discrimination, or a hazardous work environment (when the work is done on-site).
Listed on one’s resume, this kind of work also does not make much of an impression. This is less of a liability for designers, writers, and other workers who tend to display their output in a portfolio. But for most workers, a spell of doing hookup projects can look like unemployment on a resume.
Of course, doing this kind of work is better than having no income. And in today’s economy, this may be the only kind of work that some people can find. People who are downsized in their 50s or early 60s often have a particularly hard time finding an employer willing to take them on for a payroll job. So I think that hookup work is here to stay.