21st Century Cottage Industry - A cross-case synthesis of freelancer intermediary platforms

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
100 + 3
The purpose of this study was to identify possible archetypes of freelancer intermediary platforms. Though there is growing interest towards platforms, classification of platforms stops when it is classified as a transaction, innovation, integrated or some other platform. However, this approach doesn’t account for the variation within these categories. Given the young population's interest towards freelancing and the estimated size of the platform economy as a whole ($4300 Bn.) and the number of freelancer intermediaries (250-300), attempting to identify the subtypes of freelancer intermediary platforms was deemed a worthy endeavor. Finding these subtypes of intermediary platforms or archetypes of freelancer intermediaries has both academic and practical implications. For academics, these archetypes will contribute to the growing body of platform literature by giving it new units of analysis and by creating reasonable categorization. For people interested in utilizing a freelancer intermediary platform either as a seller or a buyer, this thesis offers solid knowledge of the intermediary platforms functions and features as well as what to expect when joining one. The research design is built on principles of embedded and flexible multiple-case study and cross-case synthesis. When describing a contemporary phenomenon, a multiple-case study produces more robust results when the weight of one case decreases. The cross-case synthesis was one of the few viable options given the study’s lack of dependent and independent variables. These variables were unavailable because no beforehand information on what the archetypes could be was available. For this reason, this study adapted analytical methods of grounded theory. The study identified four archetypes of freelancer intermediary platforms: the locals, two for the price of one, the middle child and the global juggernauts. Locals focus on physical services that are dependent on freelancers’ location. Two for the price of one are small platforms that charge only one side be it, seller or buyer. The middle child is very similar to global juggernauts in other aspects but the size and is a necessary phase in the platform’s maturation. Global juggernauts are the biggest platforms and the industry leaders that have significant network and trust management systems in place. Archetypes form a solid foundation on which future research on freelancer intermediaries can be based on.
Thesis advisor
Tuunainen, Virpi
on-demand economy, freelancer, intermediary, platform, platform economy, gig, archetype, 1099
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