A workforce of micro-entrepreneurs: online labor platforms in the sharing economy

The rapid growth of online labor platforms such as Uber and TaskRabbit has been accompanied by substantial controversy. These firms view themselves as technology companies that provide opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs to have their own small service businesses, but many of those who find work via these platforms are portrayed, and characterize themselves, as workers lacking both the benefits of entrepreneurship and of traditional employment. This paper explores the liminal state of these service providers, demonstrating how third-party institutional trust based on IT-enabled features and other factors distinguish them from traditional conceptualizations of independent contractors. Based on an integration of relevant theories across business disciplines, we develop a framework for assessing service providers’ perceived status under this novel business model. This status and their dependency on a particular platform are argued to shape their psychological contract and corresponding expectations of the platform firm. Implications for effective decision-making about providers’ recruitment, selection, and evaluation are discussed.

Kuhn, K. and Maleki, A. (2015), 'A workforce of micro-entrepreneurs: online labor platforms in the sharing economy', Academy of Management Proceedings, 1.


  • Research publication
  • Other
  • Yes
  • household tasks, transport
  • On-location client-determined moderately skilled work, On-location platform-determined routine work
  • Uber, TaskRabbit
  • platform characteristics and business model
  • English
  • Academy of Management Proceedings (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2015
  • Subscription
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