Recently, the staffing industry has been encountering the increasing importance of “non-temp” independent work arrangements and workers (often referred to as independent contractors, ICs, 1099s). This fairly recent phenomenon, partly driven by new technologies that help to support independent work arrangements outside of the standard “temp agency, employer of record” model, has often been met with skepticism about whether these new models of work can meet legal compliance requirements. But the reality is technology is being employed in new ways to support the achievement of compliance and make independent work arrangements viable.
One technology solution company called Zen99 — (sounds like 1099) is a case in point. The San Francisco-based startup was launched out of the accelerator Y-Combinator in August 2014, has raised $2.5 million in funding, and is led by cofounder and CEO Tristan Zier (formerly of the online house-cleaning service Exec — sold to Handy — and prior to that a CPA at Deloitte).
According to Zier, Zen99’s goal is to be the “outsourced HR” for independent contractors who lack the administrative support and guidance that employees find in their employers’ HR departments. Over time, the Zen99 platform will support ICs with a broader range of services, but at this early stage the initial focus of the platform is on three critical areas of 1099 worker needs: helping with tax compliance, providing easy access to health insurance options (through a multi-state partnership with GetInsured), and becoming educated on what contractors need to think about and do to successfully act as businesses-of-one (Zen99 University).
The Zen99 tax compliance support, for example, consists of capabilities that connect with a worker’s bank account(s), enable keeping track of ‑ income and deductible expenses, anticipate quarterly estimated tax payments and make sure they are made correctly/on time.
Zier reports Zen99 is getting very good traction across a wide range of independent contractors, especially those who are working through online “on-demand” and “gig” platforms in transportation, home cleaning, et al. As Zen99 continues to expand as a national platform in the US at this time, it is continuing to deepen its support/services for contractors in the two areas mentioned above and planning the expansion of the scope of services for the future. Zen99’s future platform services roadmap is confidential, but one could imagine a whole range of services that could enable the growing freelancer workforce as well as help businesses and even governments to engage this new workforce with less friction and risk than may seem inevitable today (but really is not).
The Buzz New freelancing work arrangements are not some “flash in the pan” that don’t pass compliance muster. Technology is making such work arrangements both possible and legally viable.