Upwork, UberX, Airtasker, Carparkit trendsetters in the hunt for extra income
Date: Dec 6, 2015
When Colin sold his photography business last year, he expected to retire.
Instead, the 63-year-old Sydneysider has become a driver with ride-sharing service UberX to earn extra income to help his 27-year-old daughter buy her first home.
With mounting speculation that UberX is set to be legalised, and Uber now offering finance arrangements to help prospective UberX drivers buy a new car, Colin could be pioneering a path that thousands of Australians will follow.
Engineering associate John Hanna is using online marketplace Upwork. Photo: Supplied
Colin earns about $50,000 a year, using his car as an UberX taxi fewer than 10 days a month and never on consecutive days, giving him the flexibility he needs to attend doctors' appointments or have lunch with his 89-year-old mother.
"I do not need to work to support myself," he says. "I ride motorbikes for relaxation, particularly in the outback, and it is rigorous riding, so I cannot do it all of the time.
"Rather than sit around I thought I could actually get a job that would suit my lifestyle and really benefit my kids." Colin also has a son who is studying in the United States.
He does not want to give his surname because he is worried he might be targeted by elements of the taxi industry. It's also the case that, for now, what he is doing is against the law in his home state of NSW and in most states and territories around Australia.
However, there has been just one successful prosecution in Australia so far - Victorian man Nathan Brenner was fined $900 last Friday. An Uber spokeswoman said the company would support Brenner in an appeal and continue to lobby for the law to change.
The Australian Capital Territory has already legalised UberX and NSW is expected to follow soon, though the Baird government insists it is yet to make a decision. The Victorian Government is still weighing up options on ride-sharing after it received a report on the industry earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Uber has announced the launch of Uber Marketplace to help the 10-15 per cent of new UberX applications from people who don't currently own a car or who own a car that is more than nine years old, and the one in ten existing drivers whose cars will be deemed too old in January 2016.
Uber Marketplace includes car loan financing from peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne, short and long-term leasing options from Splend and easifleet, and rent-to-buy financing from Rideshare and Autoflex.
Other online marketplaces
UberX is just part of a wider phenomenon of Australians using online marketplaces to earn extra income.
There are many websites, with more emerging all the time, that connect our skills with those that need them. There are also platforms that pay us for lending our possessions – like our house or a spare car space – to other people.
Take John Hanna, 69, a Brisbane-based engineering associate who started freelancing three years ago.
Before that, John worked as a contractor for a number of different companies, including in the mining industry.
Now most of his income is derived from freelance work through online marketplace Upwork.
John is not ready to stop work and freelancing provides opportunities he did not encounter in his corporate career, including the ability to select his own schedule and work on projects of his choice. He bids against others from around the world for jobs.
"I am selective about the sort of work that I choose," John says. "But I have been able to build a fairly comprehensive client base with clients in New Zealand, the UK, Canada and the USA. This provides me with supplementary income that helps me pay the bills."
He plans to continue freelancing so he and his wife can live comfortably in their retirement years.
Competitors to Upwork include Airtasker and Freelancer. The marketplaces allow users to outsource everything from designing a website to mowing lawns and assembling flat-pack furniture.
Their business models are similar. The customer sets the maximum amount they are willing to pay for the task and people bid for the work. The customer decides who gets the work taking into account price, experience, user ratings and location. The marketplace takes a percentage from the fee received by the person doing the work.
Meanwhile, Airbnb lets people rent out their home or part of their home for a short period of time, Carparkit matches unused car spaces with people who need them, and SpaceOut lets you rent out storage space.
This sector of the economy is likely to grow. A recent survey of consumers suggests more than one in two trust a so-called "sharing economy" service more than traditional alternatives.
The RateSetter Sharing Economy Trust Index suggests 61 per cent of Australians have used a sharing economy service such as ride-sharing services like Uber, accommodation-sharing services like Airbnb and auction site eBay in the previous six months.
RateSetter is part of the sharing economy itself. It is a "peer-to-peer" lender where RateSetter connects lenders who want a better rate on their money with creditworthy borrowers who want a simple, competitive personal loan.
It also finds that services like Airbnb and Uber have been used by about one in 10 people in the past six months.
However, there are ongoing concerns over the insurance aspects of some of these services.
For example, those using their cars for ride-sharing services such as Uber are not always covered by their motor vehicle insurance policies. Similarly for house-sharing services such as Airbnb, those letting out their houses may not be covered by their home and contents insurance.
Airbnb has a "host guarantee" with up to $1 million of cover, but does not include "personal liability" cover. Some insurers will cover occasional short-term lettings while others require the owner to take out landlords' insurance.
The insurance situation is even less clear with Uber, although it says it provides "robust" insurance coverage.
Those considering using their car for ride sharing or renting out their house should check with their insurer first to see if they are covered. Costs such as insurance and running costs of an UberX car may be tax deductible.
The story originally stated that there had never been a successful prosecution against an UberX driver. However, on Friday, December 4, UberX driver Nathan Brenner was fined $900 for driving without a commercial passenger licence in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. An Uber spokeswoman said the company was "disappointed" by the decision and would support Brenner in an appeal.