What’s next for bSolo
February 22, 2019
The last month has been one of tremendous change for bSolo. And really, the entire start of 2019 has been fraught with big ups, big downs, and major change across the US. As we look back on 2018, and look ahead to what’s next for bSolo, we remain inspired and in awe of you, the soloists.
Our perspective on the important problems to solve, and the ways in which we can empower the self-employed continues to evolve as you help us understand what it’s really like to be an independent worker in America, today.
Looking back on 2018
In 2016 the US Treasury released a statistic that suggested that only 8% of independent workers were saving for retirement, as compared to 45% of those traditionally employed. This came out at around the same time that it became clear that freelancing and independent work was on the rise- growing at 3x the rate of traditional employment.
As a startup in the Fidelity Labs incubator, we were both intrigued and concerned. How could a population growing so quickly and so intentionally, be so far behind their peers when it came to saving for the long term?
We dug in, rapidly prototyped and on July 3, 2018, we launched our bSolo tax savings and payments service in a few markets. bSolo helped you save a portion of what you earned towards a quarterly tax savings goal, and sent the payment to the tax authorities on your behalf.
Our idea was that if we could minimize the administrative burden of saving for and paying your quarterly estimated taxes, it would be:
- Easier to build a successful savings habit based on what you earn (hello, retirement plan)
- A way to understand what your take-home pay really looked like
- Possible to reduce the time and stress wasted on figuring out your quarterly taxes.
And it was meant to be just the start of several solutions that would help freelancers achieve more financial stability, and unleash the freedom and the benefits of being independent, without having to compromise. The stories we heard from hundreds of freelancers, and the data from our surveys suggested that taxes were a nagging, stressful, financial and emotional burden.
But as 2018 went on, it became clear that the burden of taxes was a symptom of a deeper, much more pervasive problem. Trying to figure out your quarterly taxes and save for them is difficult, yes, but the real issue is trying to deal with the hard financial deadlines in the face of variable income.
The Freelance Finance Problem
We call this the Freelance Finance Problem: how do I live today and save for tomorrow when I have variable income? The reality for most independent workers is that they live in a financial and economic system based on having a steady, bi-weekly paycheck.
A bi-weekly paycheck from an employer provides automatic disbursement of funds into tax-advantaged savings accounts, group buying power for benefits and protections and taxes set-aside before the money even hits your bank account. And because it comes on a known interval, handling your monthly bills is no sweat.
The reality of self-employment is that there is no equivalent system for independent workers. Bills still come every month, but when you get paid isn’t always so predictable. Invoices could be late or you might have a slow month, but your rent is still due, and you still have your health insurance premiums to pay.
On the flip side, you also have times where you can quickly accumulate a lot of cash and you have more work to do than time to do it.
What makes us curious
We continue to talk to soloists like you to understand your financial habits and your goals. Your stories are astounding, inspiring, and thought-provoking.
We’ve heard from multiple freelancers about times when they couldn’t work because of injury or illness- and the sudden recognition that every day you don’t work is a day you can’t earn income. It was also inspiring to hear the ways you came back from those moments- finding passive income, taking on extra jobs, dipping into emergency funds.
It’s also so clear how much you all love what you do and the life you live. Despite the challenges you face and the financial complexity of your life, you are all so passionate about your work.
There are a few things we want to learn more about in the next couple of months:
- Are freelancers even considering that they will retire?
- What is more important- smoothing out your day-to-day financials or figuring out how to save more?
- What is it really like when you can’t work as a freelancer?
- Are there kinds of insurance and protections do you have to have?
Got an opinion on these ideas you think we should hear? Awesome- send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s next for bSolo
We made a really difficult, but pivotal call for the future of bSolo in the last few weeks. We’ve decided to close our quarterly tax savings and payments product to pave the way forward to solve the Freelance Finance Problem.
We truly believe in our mission: unleashing the benefits of independent life without compromise; we think we can do more, we can do better, and we can get there faster if we focus all of our efforts towards solving this complex, nuanced and pervasive problem.
In the next few months, here’s what to expect from bSolo:
- Content to help make self-employment a little easier- resources, guides, articles, and more built for you
- Requests for stories and feedback on our ideas on how to solve this problem
- Bad jokes
- Our next beta
To our amazing customers and community, thank you for everything! You are the reason that we do what we do and why we exist- and we hope you’ll stick around as we get moving on our next big thing.
 Source: ‘Freelancing in America: 2017’ survey conducted by Edelman Research, co-commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union. Note: Survey conducted 7/17-8/17, n = 2,173 Freelance Employees who have received payment for supplemental temporary, or project-oriented work in the past 12 months.