Crypto-currencies and the gig economy

As a virtual agency we have the luxury of being able to pick the best people to work on our projects – wherever they are in the world.

That’s great for us, great for our clients and great for Leaners (that’s what we call our team members) working around the world from South Africa to Argentina.

What’s not so great is when it comes to paying them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is about international money transfers. Not ducking our responsibilities.

We know from experience that when you’re self-employed, getting paid on time is really important. That invoice you’re waiting on puts a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on their kids’ backs.

So, we do everything we can to pay our talent on time. But the problems arise when you discover just how complicated, time consuming and expensive money transfers can be when they’re crossing borders.

We’ve been charged up to £50 for a simple transaction and had payments returned and refused with annoying regularity and little rhyme or reason, despite having funds in place. I mean seriously, we’re supposed to be living in a global economy.

And that got me thinking about crypto-currencies and whether in future they’ll prove the perfect way to pay Leaners in the future. Instant. Low cost. Secure. Accessible anywhere.

The benefits of the blockchain 

Mostly we just hear about the feverish speculation and the vast sums people are making by investing in Bitcoin and Ethereum to name but a few. But the more I read, the more I realised that the blockchain – the technology behind a crypto-currency – wasn’t simply invented by to facilitate international trade in nefarious substances and ensure anonymous payment of ransomware demands – as in the recent NHS case.

It was to act as a safe and secure way to record any number of digital transactions using data split up between a multitude of server hosts all over the world.  It’s a resilient, flexible, snooper-proof and has superior redundancy. Which means the blockchain has the potential to be more than a global medium of exchange. And many new crypto-currencies are already capitalizing on its strengths.

For instance, Ardor is empowering organisations to set up their own child chains – self contained, secure and private blockchain microsystems which benefit from all the features of the parent platform.

Sia meanwhile is offering a real blockchain based alternative to Dropbox, Amazon, Google and Microsoft for enterprise cloud management of documents and data.

And Ripple is right up the freelancer’s street. It provides cheaper, instant cross-border transactions via a single currency, XRP, which is part of the same project. Over 100 banks worldwide, including Santander and Standard Charter are currently working with Ripple to trial the system.

Crypto-currencies could have big advantages for suppliers of all types of good and services from print to animation – and for agencies like ourselves. We can use them to pay people quickly, easily and without having to give the banks vastly over inflated fees for the pleasure. And we may eventually use them to manage our data storage and file sharing cheaply and efficiently too.

So, despite the fact that crypto mean concealed or hidden, their secret will soon be out and more and more businesses will start using them as an essential business tool in the global gig economy.