Earlier this month, accounting software vendor Xero introduced a mobile solution designed for self-employed workers in the U.S. The solution was specifically targeted at those working in the "gig economy" -- all those ridesharing drivers, food deliverers and pet-walkers. As I mentioned at the time, Xero's archrival, Intuit, had an existing solution for self-employed workers as well.
Not wanting to hang around, Intuit is upping the ante in this game and announcing some updates for the QuickBooks Self-Employed (QBSE) version. New partnerships and new features all aimed at making life easier for self-employed workers and staying one step ahead of Xero. So, what is the news?
Automatic mileage tracking
Many of those on-demand economy workers live on their mobile devices and use their phone as the primary interface between them and their gigging work. Obviously, QBSE has both a Web and mobile application, but it now has automatic mileage tracking included within the mobile app as a matter of course.
Historically, workers needed to manually enter information about their mileage (for example, what mileage was work-related and what was personal). Using the new function, every trip is automatically tracked, and users simply need to swipe to see the deductions they've earned. Every 1,000 miles driven can produce up to $500 in deductions, but the IRS needs documentation of all trips, both business and personal. According to the company, QBSE has already helped users track more than 40 million miles, delivering more than $23 million in savings.
The all-important partnerships
While both Xero's and Intuit's self-employed solutions are strong offerings in and of themselves, the reality is that it is going to be primarily through partnerships that they achieve growth. To this end, Intuit is moving quickly to sew up as many partnerships with different umbrella organizations for self-employed workers as possible -- the theory being that these partnerships will provide a strong barrier to Xero gaining more traction.
Intuit already has a number of partnerships with both on-demand service providers and talent marketplaces. It is adding to those partnerships today by announcing that it's secured another six: eBay, FlexJobs, Incorporate.com, Kelly Services, Moonlighting and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP). While some of those might sound inconsequential compared to juggernauts like Uber, this is a grass-roots war and, as such, it will be won by overcoming territory, one partner at a time.
While partners like this are always expected to provide a great sound bite for the vendor to use in a press release, the tone of what these partners are saying is consistent and points to the opportunities around making life easier for freelance workers:
"With over 75,000 freelancers moonlighting on our platform each month, it is imperative that we bring them a best-in-class financial solution," said Jeff Tennery, founder and CEO of Moonlighting, a nationwide mobile marketplace for people seeking short-term work. "Moonlighting is excited to promote QuickBooks' Self-Employed solution and help our users better organize their freelance income."
"As a global workforce solutions provider, our talent supply chain management strategy includes leveraging key talent across all labor categories, including the self-employed," said Leslie Stoner, independent contractor solutions global consultant at Kelly Services. "We are pleased to offer this critical component of our workforce access to Intuit's QuickBooks Self-Employed software to assist them in managing their business practices more efficiently."
"As we've seen at FlexJobs, professionals are working in freelance or self-employed job models now more than ever, in large part because there has been such growth in the variety and depth of jobs in these areas," said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs. "However, it's not generally easy to navigate the tax and accounting details required of freelance work and self-employment, and so we're thrilled to partner with QuickBooks Self-Employed to educate job seekers, freelancers, the self-employed and all professionals about their options and responsibilities in this new economy."
Of course, all of the benefits that these partners refer to could be gained by using a solution from either vendor, but the reality is that momentum is the only metric that matters in this market. I'd expect to see Xero invest heavily and do whatever it takes to score its own list of high-profile partners. Watch this space.
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