DIY Economy

The way that we do business is rapidly evolving due to the do it yourself economy. DIY culture has made it into the mainstream, empowering individuals to be self-sufficient instead of relying on the gatekeepers of the traditional economy. The term “do it yourself” came into common usage in the 1950s. It mainly referred to home improvement, but now it covers everything from indie rock to arts and crafts.

The cultural shift can be seen in the rise of freelancing and telecommuting. Many workers now value flexibility and independence, both traits of the DIY ethos. According to the American Community Survey, an estimated 79 percent rise in telecommuting occurred between 2005 and 2012. That’s a whopping 3.2 million working from home. The research firm Edelman Berland estimated that more than 53 million Americans are now freelance workers. Many in the new economy are escaping the office, and in many cases getting away from traditional employment altogether.A number of online platforms have allowed this trend to flourish. Companies like Elance have allowed freelancers to easily find and work with clients. Services like Basecamp and Slack have made it easy for remote teams to work together. No longer are workers hindered by location, giving them the opportunity to have a more flexible schedule.

The DIY approach can also be seen in how individuals are engaging in self-service instead of paying experts.  Instead of dealing with a receptionist, patients can use sites like Doctible to shop around for a medical checkup or procedure. Zipcar is another example of the customer controlling the experience. They have a mobile app that allows customers to price, book and unlock their rental car.

With DIY old is new again, and some approaches are a throwback to the mid-century period when the term first entered the mainstream. Back then, vehicle and mortorcycle buyers often did their own mechanic work. Now, the Vancouver, BC, mortorcycle repair shop MotoMethod provides the tools and service bays for customers to repair and customize their own machines.

Still, it’s innovation that’s pushing many current start-ups to adopt the DIY model. 3D printing is one cutting edge technology finding its way into the entrepreneur’s toolbox. Amsterdam start-up Zazzy uses 3D printing to allow users to design their own jewelry. There’s also Other Machine Company in San Francisco, which builds the hardware and writes the software that allows buyers to 3D print their own high-quality products. A friend of mine John Bokla recently launched i3D Creatives to help educate kids on beginning their own adventure in the space.

The start-up world is seeing a new wave of companies that directly target DIY culture, and they feature everything from artisanal goods to cocktail bar sets. MakersKit in Los Angeles pairs DIY kits with entertaining instructional videos. Darby Smart in San Francisco is an online community and marketplace for creators to launch and purchase DIY projects and supplies. These companies encourage user engagement and creativity to set them apart.

Just as many services have allowed people to work remotely, platforms like Etsy have set the standard for those who want to sell their own handmade goods. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify also let sellers control the design and branding of the online shopping experience. Thanks to these many innovations, the DIY philosophy has now moved from the margins to the center of the economy.

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