Building an app around the gig economy

There’s been a lot of growth in the app market for creating part time and weekend opportunities.  A lot of these have appeared in the form of ride share apps and delivery services and more recently grocery shopping services (Shipt from Birmingham was acquired by Target at $550 million), but have slowly expanded into odd jobs like charging electric scooters and more traditional side jobs such as being a hired mover or selling clothes you don’t want anymore. There are number of questions to ask when building an app in the gig economy. It can be difficult to determine your audience, what protections workers will have, and how to price your product/service in your app. Here’s what you should consider before you jump in this marketplace.

What features are crucial to your audience?

Every app in the gig economy has a two-fold populace they are trying to appeal to: users and workers. It is up to you what niche you will carve among these groups, but you need to figure out how to market to them. Analytics in your app will help guide your future planning based on how your users engage with your app, but talking to people, especially your heaviest users, can help you in future iterations. What makes you stand out from other apps and services in the gig economy?


For the users you wish to attract, you need an app that can be used quickly and efficiently so they feel accomplished and achieve what they need to. What makes using your app more desirable than using a traditional service model to complete the same task? Features like GPS, payment processing (debit/credit card, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, even bitcoin if you’re into that), and integrated ordering from a third party can all be essential aspects of running an app-based business in the gig economy.  Your users might need a powerful algorithm incorporated to calculate job rates, arrival, payment (we’ll discuss this later), task lists, and many more, or a schedule feature to plan service in advance. How do you decide what to include in the app versus what is done manually? Determine what role you want to play in your customer’s interactions and build from there.


What elements of your business do workers need to interact with in order to be successful? As the business owner, you must take at least some responsibility for the services facilitated through your app, and you’ll want to make sure your record-keeping is neat and tidy. Important features to consider here include GPS tracking for deliveries or services, marking a job as complete, receiving payment, scheduling/canceling jobs, and reporting an issue. Another consideration is tracking the hours workers are active and other related metrics whether that’s miles traveled, items shipped/delivered, tasks accomplished, and more.  

How do you expect people to engage in your app?

Balancing out the number of users to workers will be part of your business model, but it’s also an essential part of your app. What are the hours your service is available? Are there benefits to referring people? The easiest way to keep people engaged is incorporating notifications in your app so it can keep users constantly updated.

Notifications allow you to inform users about discounts or rewards programs to keep their interest or retain them long term. Is there a new feature in your app or a new service available? Let them know strategically and get them back to using your app. Has a user been inactive? Send them a notification with an incentive to get back inside your app.

How are you pricing your service? This will affect what type of app you need and how price should be displayed. A number of pricing models may apply to your business such as a subscription (yearly, monthly, weekly), a flat per-use fee, charging a transactional percentage, and a number of others. How do you pick one that works for your business? Think about what value you offer your customers and workers, and determine what fee structure makes the most sense in relation to the base cost of the gig itself.  

How do workers receive payment?

Depending on the job, workers receive different pay rates: they can be paid for completing a task, given a commission for what they accomplish, or paid over a duration of time. Freelancers may negotiate their payment with their clients, and different jobs may have varying fees. For apps where pay may be based on multiple variables, setting up an algorithm for how much is distributed depending on the job is important. The biggest impact on your app is whether you’re cutting paychecks for your workers or if the app is facilitating that payment on your behalf.

Building for the future

Your app will never stop needing enhancements, but the first version will set the expectations for users and workers. Visually it doesn’t need to be a work of art, but its design and functionality should make people feel confident they can accomplish whatever their task is on the app. To check out how other gig economy apps are designed, refer here for great examples of apps in the gig economy.

If you’re ready to start building an app, reach out to us for a consultation. We’re happy to chat with you and help figure out how you can get started.

By Vaughn Hunt