If you read this title and thought, “I really hope it isn’t, because I’m a freelancer and I haven’t got a clue what blockchain is,” then don’t panic. I can guarantee you’re not alone.
What is blockchain, in simple terms?
The most basic way to describe blockchain is as blocks of information, joined together with a cryptographic key to form a chain.
The immutable, time-stamped data chain is owned and managed by all its users, not one central authority, and it is held on multiple servers (which are also not controlled by any one individual or company).
It is this impartial record-keeping that makes blockchain a secure, multi-user data technology. Originally developed for use with digital or cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, its potential as a democratic and secure way to record data means it has many useful features and applications.
How and why is blockchain used in the freelancing world?
Blockchain’s collaborative, but secure, nature makes it a natural match for freelance marketplaces.
Interactions between client and freelancers
When blockchain is used, all agreements become part of a permanent, tamper-proof, time-stamped record. Forget ‘he said, she said’, it’s all there in black and white.
Smart contracts is a phrase you may have started to hear, not realising it relates to blockchain. Smart Contracts are self-executing agreements based on blockchain technology, meaning they automatically trigger actions or payments once conditions are met. Handy!
Proof of identity
Freelancers can store their proof of identity on the blockchain, making it accessible to other users, but secure.
Blockchain is a great way to store work samples. Again, you can allow access while knowing your work is secure and tamper-proof.
Proof of ownership and copyright
With blockchain, all work can be clearly traced back to the freelancer who created it (making copyright disputes a virtually null issue) and all reviews can likewise be traced back to the person leaving them, making them accountable for their comments and reducing fake reviews.
Ease of distribution
Whilst being stored securely in an immutable format, information can still be distributed as required. For instance, tasks can be posted once and then easily distributed across numerous platforms.
Reducing what you pay to get paid
There are nearly always processing, transferring or currency conversion fees (or all three) involved when freelancers get paid via a platform. Cryptocurrency payments can reduce fees, and potentially remove them altogether.
Speeding up processes
Because of blockchain’s simultaneous security and accessibility, processes are quicker. There’s none of the delay inherent in current systems where everyone has to look at, verify, and process data individually.
Maintaining your privacy
Often, you won’t need to give your bank details to platforms working with blockchain. When you’re paid in digital currency, they don’t need it.
Blockchain is a powerful force for increasing transparency and accountability, and for levelling the playing field, making it an ideal tool for the freelancing world.
Interested in seeing how it works in practice? Here are some freelancing platforms already working with blockchain:
Ethlance: 0% service fees. What the client pays is what you receive, and you’re paid in Ether cryptocurrency (ETH).
Blocklancer: 3% service fees. Payment is in Ether.
FreelancerCoin: an Ethereum-based freelancing platform with some interesting features, such as AI-powered suggestions for clients re. appropriate freelancers for a task and for freelancers re. a suitable price to charge for a project.
Freelance for Coins offers payment in 12 different cryptocurrencies.
Cryptotask has reviewer board selection built into the blockchain.
BountyOx: Slightly different and Wild West themed. Earn your ‘bounty’ (cryptocurrency and tokens) by completing simple marketing, software development, and creative tasks. (Be warned: currently, most tasks seem to be providing Facebook likes etc. You have to drill down to find tasks such as designing infographics and creating YouTube videos). Not the best first choice for dipping your toe in the blockchain waters.