How blockchains offer real freedom to freelancers
How blockchains offer real freedom to freelancers
One of the fields that I am looking forward to seeing how the blockchain technology can transform is the freelancing marketplace. Imagine the freelancers can setup smart contracts with the employers to get rewarded either in cryptocurrencies or tokens that can be vested over time.
This will be a fundamental change in how people work together since it cut through the middleman and be more flexible for the working relationships.
This post discusses how the blockchain technologies can be used in the freelancing marketplaces, followed by a simple Dapp to demonstrate a payment smart contract that can be independently managed by a freelancer and employer.
The trend of freelancing
More and more people choose to escape the 9to5 jobs and work as a freelancer, be able to flexibly choose the work content they prefer, expand their business networks and grow their personal brands.
They have the freedom to work with preferable partners and be more flexible in making decisions in which career direction they want to go pursuit.
One of the core principles of the free market is that central planning committees can never be as efficient or effective as the people doing the work.
The most important feature of free market economies is that each person within them is able to make independent decisions in their own best interest
In the era of blockchain technologies, the core value of which is decentralization, it is very likely the trend of freelancing will be accelerated.
Most of the freelance works are landed via outsourcing platforms like upwork.com and freelancer.com. These platforms provide the facilities for the employer to post the jobs or the employee to apply for the jobs, serving as a job information center.
The key reason of why these platforms are popular is they serve as the middleman for the working contracts and the funds. They have a set of rules to collect and calculate the ratings for both the employer and employee after completed the contracts.
The main duty of these platforms is maintaining and securing the contract made between the employer and employee.
Having a middleman to execute this duty comes at prices:
1. It is inefficient especially in the payment process. It could be taking days or even weeks to withdraw the money to an oversea bank account. They charge fees for the payments and introduce a cost to both the employer and employee. The fees could be as high as 20% to work for a new client.
2. The middleman could be biased when dealing with the conflicts of the contracts.
3. They are in charge of the rules in how the rating calculated and how they are displayed. The rating is the key element for the freelancers as this is what the employer does the evaluation when making the employment, and that needs years of time to cultivate upon the platform. These rating data is owned by the platform and can’t be shared among other platforms.
The bad news is that it became much harder for startups, creators, and other groups to grow their internet presence without worrying about centralized platforms changing the rules on them, taking away their audiences and profits.
What is a contract?
Let’s get back to the question of why we need an employment contract that these centralized platforms facilitate to create.
Contract in the nutshell:
Agreement about the facts and when they change — that is, a consensus about what is in the ledger, and a trust that the ledger is accurate — is one of the fundamental bases of market capitalism.
Platforms like upwork or freelancer is basically a centralized database that records and maintains the contracts. These contracts are relying on the trusted central authorities to maintain and validate.
There are generally two types of contracts:
A complete contract specifies what is to occur under every possible contingency.
An incomplete contract allows the terms of the contract to be renegotiated in the case of unexpected events.
It is nearly impossible to create a complete contract, particularly for small business activities such as freelancing, as it is too expensive to consider all the possible conditions within a contract period.
So how do we create incomplete contracts that are both secure and efficient?
The blockchain, though smart contracts, lower the information costs and transactions costs associated with many incomplete contracts and so expands the scale and scope of economic activity that can be undertaken.
The decentralized consensus and immutability features of blockchain enable the contracts to be created with embedded rules that automatically govern the ledger data within the contract.
With blockchain technologies, it is now possible to create secure contracts without 3rd party institutions.
A simple payment contract
To demonstrate the concept, let’s try to implement a simple payroll contract that executes itself without any 3rd party institutions, using Ethereum solidity contract for the backend and React.js for the front end.
The model of the contract is normally for one to one relationship, that is the rules between an employer and an employee. Also there are other contract models in the software outsourcing fields. The crowdsourcing platforms, such as TopCoder and Kaggle, have a model of one to many relationship. They hold competitions to reward the top performers who participate in the projects.
Suppose we want to create a very basic payment contract, which works on time based, one to one model, with the following key requirements:
1. The employee needs to know if the employer has enough capital to fund the contract agreements.
2. The employer needs to know if the employee is capable of delivering the vision of the project.
3. Both the roles should have chances to evaluate if they are in a good fit within a trial period.
If something doesn’t work well, a contract makes they eligible choose to terminate the contract, so as to avoid potential losses in either monetary or time.
Flows of contract rules
The employer can create a smart contract with configs in contract full period and trial period in a minute.
2. Once employer deposited funds into the smart contract, it will proceed to the handshake stage where there is a URL, containing the address of this contract, to share to the employee to review this contract.
3. With the shared URL, employee can review the periods of the contracts and the available funds deposited. Once confirmed(signed) the contract, the contract starts with the trial period, in which payment requests are disabled. From now on, the deposited fund can only be transferred to the employee’s account address or be refunded by canceling the contract.
4. The employer can choose to cancel the contract. The contract is cancelable during stages of handshake and trial period. If cancelled, the deposited funds will be withdrew from the contract back into the employer’s wallet account.
5. Once trial period passed, the employee can request payment whenever needed and get paid immediately based on the current time and the length of the contract period.
6. The contract will mark ended when all the fund deposits were paid to the employee.