More people are freelancing than ever before—by some estimates, around 42 million Americans. But entrepreneur Ryan Hooks thinks that eventually almost everyone will be able to leave their office jobs, and he’s built a new website called Avbl to help.
"Essentially it’s kind of like the Airbnb model for skillsearch," Hooks explains. "Whatever city you’re in, wherever you are in the world, you can search for a skill—like editor, designer, illustrator, or seamstress—and the results come up based on proximity and date." If someone needs a video editor today, or a web designer next month, they can search and book the right person.
Hooks, who has worked as a freelance director for the past eight years, says that one of the biggest challenges of freelancing is managing schedules and having a sense of security (and knowing when you’ll have a chance to take a vacation). The new site is designed to fill that gap, in part by borrowing Airbnb's approach to keeping a simple calendar.
It’s also a platform for creative collaboration. If a designer wants to work with a musician on the side—regardless of whether they both have full-time jobs—the site will be a place where people can connect for personal projects along with client-based work.
After Avbl’s recent launch, Hooks is now sorting through invite requests to make sure everyone’s qualified in their field. Eventually, he says, the site will use a social network and algorithm-based quality-checking system to sort through potential members. "We want to have a search engine as good as Google, but for skills," Hooks says. "That will take time."
Ultimately, he sees freelancing as the future. "We’re coming towards an automation kind of economy; most of Amazon will probably be automated within 10 years. As technology is liberating us, we’re becoming less necessary for routine jobs. Like Arthur C. Clarke and Buckminster Fuller said in the 1960s, 90% of people should just stay at home and play in the parks and have fun. If you build automation for the society, then the society can be free—and that’s starting to happen."
The new site may help make that transition a little easier. "Airbnb has liberated apartments, and we can liberate people from their 9 to 5," Hooks says. "We believe that most of us can freelance, most of us can Airbnb our place, most of us can take a day off to hang out with friends. That kind of shared economy is a visionary idea that is happening now."