The Startup App Economy
Freelance apps are a piece of the trillion-dollar Startup app economy that anyone can take advantage of.
When smartphones were first introduced to our daily routines millions of years ago (2007), the world as we knew it vanished. This new technology allowed us to take super grainy photos and watch YouTube videos of cats from anywhere in the world, provided there was wifi or (insanely laggy) 3G internet. At this time, a few pioneers began to “blog,” becoming rich while sitting in internet cafes. Today, all you need is a weird hook and a YouTube channel, or a startup app, and you, too, can quit your day job. Further, you can work from anywhere, schedule anything, and talk to anyone.
Tech enthusiasts have long prophesied the rise of the machines as an event that would revolutionize our work lives, allowing us to log 15 hours a week (h/t Keynes) while robots do the dirty work. Clearly, we aren’t there yet, but the smartphone revolution has allowed more and more people the ability to work for themselves, either through the gig economy, as social media influencers, or as titans of their own startup.
While we’re not yet able to sit about in our silver jumpsuits eating GMO grapes all day, the mobile app economy, which will be worth as much as $6.3 trillion by 2021, provides a real opportunity for independent-minded workers. Let’s look at how you can make it work for you.
Make Money Off an App
If you have an idea for a startup app that no one has done before, or if you can conceive of a better version of an existing app, it may be in your best interest to build it. There can be a lot of money in building your own app. Further, the best startups aren’t always the first into a market — think Airbnb versus Couchsurfer, and Facebook versus MySpace.
Free apps with in-app purchases can be incredibly lucrative and have a greater chance of making money than apps that cost to download. They get people hooked and then make it difficult to move on in the app without making purchases. Game apps are a great example of this. Candy Crush generates $1.6 million daily. Clash of Clans Royale makes $2.3 billion annually.
Another great way for startup apps to make money is through subscription-based services. Headspace, the meditation app founded by Richard Pierson and Andy Puddicombe, has become one of the most beloved subscription apps in the App Store. Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lebron James have all been avid supporters since it first hit app stores in 2010. With over 6 million users paying between $8-13 monthly, the app has inspired a suite of knockoffs hoping to replicate its success.
The Instagram Economy
Instagram was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger with the hopes of being a small-scale app with check-in and photo-sharing, and and now has almost 700 million users. The company was sold to Facebook in 2012 for a billion dollars. Systrom was able to make $400 million off of the deal, based on his stake in the business. Since being sold to Facebook, Forbes estimates that Instagram has grown to be worth somewhere between $25 billion and $50 billion. And Instagram’s net worth doesn’t begin to account for the influencers who make a crust off endorsements and sponsorships (#sponcon) through their profiles on the platform.
Among homegrown Instagram success stories is the makeup and skincare company Glossier, which grew mostly through word of mouth and Instagram presence. The founder and CEO Emily Weiss discovered early on that the best way to market is through social media. “We spent an enormous amount of time with an illustrator designing a really ornate, colorful illustration and sticker for the top of the product," she told Forbes. "You're so excited to see that and take it out and take a picture of it." Marketing the brand is cost effective, as the majority of the work is done through users posting about and linking to the product.
Using Apps to Cultivate Your Personal Brand
Instagram has made it possible for people to gain fame and generate income based on their personalities and interests. Fitness trainer Kayla Itsines rose up through Instagram with her now-famous workouts. She has since been able to create her own subscription-based app called Sweat! With Kayla, worth over $46 million. An "army" of over 25 million users pay $20 a month to train “with” Itsines.
Makeup gurus, artists, and influencers have also been able to make careers from their short Instagram tutorials and YouTube videos. Among the most popular are Patrick Starr, Jackie Aina, Jamie Genevieve, Bret Manrock, Manny MUA, and James Charles.
There are countless people who rose to fame on Instagram, Youtube, Vine (R.I.P), and Twitter. These people were able to create their own content, create their own fan-base, and parlay their following into subscriptions, endorsements, and merchandise.
Freelance App Jobs
There is another way to make money with just your phone by your side. The freelance app job market contributes to the 1099 economy. Freelance app jobs are perfect for students, part-time workers, retired people and anyone looking to make an extra buck. Some of these jobs can be a little inconsistent so I wouldn't recommend relying on them as your sole income, however, they are a great way to get you off your butt and into the world making some serious spending cash.
(Some of these may sound familiar, but the goal of this list is to compile the best apps for making money and getting consistent work. Many other gig-based app offerings do not yet have the traction or clientele to guarantee you enough earnings to make it worth your while.)
The Best Apps for Dog Walkers
The Wag! app has quickly picked up traction since its launch in 2015 and it has become one of the best dog walking apps since then. The first dog walk is free for clients who sign up and there are contests and opportunities to make extra money on holidays. If you wear the official green shirt on your walks you can receive bonus cash. The app comes equipped with pee/poop alerts and tracks your walks so there is no question that you did an incredible job.
Rover is better known for its house-sitting and doggy daycare features. Tasks on this app are traditionally more of a commitment than Wag!, though Wag! Does give you the option to dog sit. This app is great and I found the application process easier than the Wag! application process, which requires an interview (over does require a background check).
Known better for its babysitters and nannies, Care.com is also a great way to find dogs to walk and dogsit. The vetting process for Care.com is also pretty thorough, on top of which user testimonials play a big role in setting you apart from other carers.
The Best On-Demand Work Apps
TaskRabbit is a great way to make a buck. If you have any skills whatsoever, you can make money off of them. Even if all you can do is lift heavy things, that's great and there is someone out there who needs you. Jobs on TaskRabbit range from grabbing something at a store to painting a wall, to handing out flyers. All you have to do is let the app know what your skills are and how much you would like to get paid for using those skills to assist others, and voila, the requests come pouring in.
Handy is ideal for cleaners, movers, and people who like building Ikea furniture. This app connects people to their local handyman or woman. You supply your own cleaning tools or building equipment, but the app is great for finding work nearby and making customers who will hire you again and again.
Fiverr is a great way to use your creativity to make money and gain experience. If you have any writing, tech, photography, editing, or translating skills, Fiverr is your go-to. The services offered on the site/app cover anything you could possibly want to create or do. Prices for services start at 5 dollars but some services charge more. This is a great way to gain portfolio materials.
The Best Apps for Chauffeurs
Via is the new kid on the block. Only available in Washington D.C., Chicago, and New York City (not Brooklyn… yet), this ridesharing app is a carpool app with fixed rates and no option to ride alone, but that's what makes it so inexpensive. The app is still young so there are still lots of promotions available.
The Best Food Delivery Apps
Most food delivery apps are pretty similar to work for, you may find that some pay better than others or some are busier than others, but on the whole, your experience working for them will probably be pretty similar throughout. One key difference is that not all of the apps allow you to work if you do not have a car. However, most are workable via bike or car.
- Door dash
- Uber Eats
"Get paid to shop!" their slogan is pretty self-explanatory. Working for Instacart you can pick up and deliver food for customers who are unable to do their own shopping for whatever reason. Instacart offers deliveries from a number of shops like Whole Foods, Costco, CVS, Fairway, etc. It is worth noting that Instacart has faced serious backlash from their workers in regards to how much of the "service fee" on customer's bill actually goes to employees. Many customers saw the service fee and thought that they did not need to tip as generously as they would have because they believed workers were receiving money the money from the fee.
Rent Out Your Stuff
The power to rent anything out online. Zilok allows you to make a little money off of your speakers, camera, blender, car, or anything else that might be useful to someone. This is a great way to make money using things you already have, which another person might not want to invest in.
Lifetime membership is free and cars are available on an hourly and daily basis. One caveat is that Maven is only available in a few cities.
Listing your car through this car sharing app could earn you up to $6,500 a year. The plus side is that Turo is available in more cities than Maven.
This peer to peer car sharing service has a wide range of cars which can be rented on an hourly or daily basis. Getaraound boasts that people can make up to $10,000 a year renting out their car.
The 1099 Economy
There are loads of apps on the App Store and Google Play Store that promise to make you extra money, but not all of them deliver. The problem might be that the user base is still too small to make it worth your while to work with the company. Another problem is that the jobs are inconsistent, so relying on them to earn enough money for rent is unwise. It is usually better to consider them supplementary jobs, intended only to make some extra money, not support you completely. Many workers have also noted that a negative side to these jobs is that they are not unionized and it is difficult for workers to ensure that they are taken care of by the company. There is not always insurance paid to those who are injured, no one to regulate wages, and inflexible hours.
It Is What You Make It
On-demand jobs do still have their merits. They allow for a more flexible work week, and are a great way to get active and make some money. If you are living somewhere temporarily and it is not possible for you to hold down a full-time job at a brick and mortar company, it is a great idea to work on-demand. There is also a lot of independence to be enjoyed without a boss to report to.
There are endless possibilities for those hungry enough to look to make a career out of the app economy. The five-day work week is changing as we know it — you can ride the wave!