Country towns are stereotypically known for their close communities and friendliness, with neighbours always ready to give each other a helping hand.
Launched late last year, The Rural Network is a platform looking to translate that community spirit online by bringing the task economy to the bush, starting with over 60 regional and rural communities across South Australia.
The platform allows those in need of a hand, whether it be creating a website or fixing a fence on a farm, to post a task that someone in the community can do.
A taskmaster who signed up in the site’s earliest days was Ben, who first came across an ad for the site on Gumtree.
“It was a short little ad, just asking if anyone was interested in helping out rural communities with any odd jobs, and that sounded like something I’d be into,” he explained.
With the platform then in the very early startup stage, Ben answered the ad and started talking to cofounder Bryce Eldredge, who talked him through the process.
“At first I thought it might be a bit shifty, with the ad being on Gumtree, but once I got speaking to Bryce and we got discussing what it was all about, it just sounded like a good way to connect with other people who need your help,” Ben explained.
“There’s obviously repeat business; if people need you to mow their lawns or clean their gutters, those are things that need to be done on an ongoing basis, so I thought, eventually it’s something you can keep on doing. Plus it’s a good way to meet new people and improve on your own skills.”
Living in a town both on the edge of metropolitan Adelaide and on the doorstep of farming country, Ben said tasks are almost evenly split between people on farms needing an extra set of hands with tasks like cutting hay bales or repairing fences, and elderly people in small towns that need help with odd jobs around the house.
“The majority of people I’ve helped have been elderly, doing a couple of painting jobs and some general gardening and landscaping. They’re always so lovely,” he said.
In fact, that’s where the idea for The Rural Network first came from; when Bryce Eldredge’s grandfather died, Bryce wanted to make sure his grandmother had some help to maintain her property.
Serving away in the Defence Force at the time, Bryce asked his friends and colleagues at home to help out but, not wanting to overdo it, he eventually decided to source casual labour, and the idea for The Rural Network was soon born.
With Ben working two other jobs, he picks up a task from The Rural Network when he has spare time; with a dozen or so jobs posted in his area each week, there is enough to keep taskmasters busy.
“A lot of them are bigger jobs, because a lot of the people on big farms have some big tasks to do, so you need the extra time to do them,” Ben explained.
As well as the extra cash, completing tasks through The Rural Network has allowed Ben to see more of the country and meet the kinds of people he wouldn’t have been able to if he hadn’t signed up.
“I met a lovely mother and daughter farming team who were really lovely; they took me back to their property because the roads were so rough I couldn’t even get my car in, and they were telling me all their stories and what they get up to on the farm,” Ben said.
“They had sensational view from their homestead…there are these spots that you can just never get to unless you know the person, so this is a unique way to get a little taste of what rural life really is, by helping people out. I didn’t think it was going to be as beautiful as it was.”
Despite the fact it’s an online platform, Ben believes The Rural Network has grown in large part thanks to word of mouth – one of the most important tools in a business’s arsenal in country towns and communities.
The idea of community was also what convinced Ben to give the platform a go despite never having worked for a complete stranger he had met through the internet before.
“I wasn’t overly apprehensive…I’m not really the kind of guy who worries, even though when I signed up it was back before the website was really properly well done,” he laughed.
“I think I typed ‘The Rural Network’ into Google and it wouldn’t even come up with the website. It’s great now, it’s come a long way in just a few months.”
As The Rural Network looks to grow its community beyond South Australia, it’s important for taskmasters working through the platform to be aware of their tax obligations.
Freelancers, sole traders, and taskmasters working through task economy platforms such as The Rural Network or Airtasker are self-employed and generally require an Australian Business Number (ABN).
If they are earning over $75,000 annually from these activities, a taskmaster also needs to be registered for and pay Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is reported and paid through the lodging of regular Business Activity Statements (BAS).
Designed with the task economy in mind, Airtax is an online tax tool for taskmasters, sole traders, and freelancers.
Through Airtax you can register for an ABN and GST for free, complete your BAS and submit your income tax return in minutes. All submissions are lodged by a PwC tax agent and with notifications, the app helps those working in the task economy by offering an easy and accessible way to remain tax compliant.
Airtax will also help users through the claiming of deductions for expenses incurred in the course of their work, outlining common claimable expenses to reduce the GST owed. For a taskmaster such as Ben, possible deductions could include vehicle usage and the cost of tools required to carry out tasks.
As The Rural Network grows to help more communities, Ben said he’s keen to get to know more people and hear their stories.
“There’s a lot of interesting people out there.”