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Over the past few years, online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Kijiji, Etsy and eBay have offered consumers and businesses places to purchase goods via the Internet.

While these traditional online marketplaces are not new, targeted, service-based marketplaces are on the rise, and a great alternative for businesses of all sizes.

Online service-based marketplaces offer businesses a way to source services in vetted communities. Whether your business is looking to recruit a new team member, outsource a task or find a new  supplier, online marketplaces offer vetted resources that can match varying budgets. For a small business owner that may not have a large budget, access to quality services across many specialities is now within reach.

Here's why:

They are cost-effective

These marketplaces offer businesses access to top-tier talent, goods and/or services for a fraction of the cost normally involved for niche skills, such as Web design, search engine marketing, video production or even classes to learn piano.

These marketplaces offer value for your dollar by either starting at a flat fee or through a subscription service to gain access to the service marketplace. The marketplaces allow businesses to save on spending by providing access to a variety of services and options that are typically challenging or time-consuming to otherwise find.

They are efficient

In addition to saving money, service-based marketplaces also save your business time. Not only are services vetted for you, but most online marketplaces also offer customized searches. By focusing on a core community, online marketplaces are able to aggregate, filter and define specific business needs. This means your business no longer has to sort through hundreds of search results, many of which don't align with your needs. All results are relevant to your specific search.

Tailored results mean businesses can access reliable and trustworthy services with ease.

They offer a variety of services

Because these are online resources, the variety of available services can be limitless. Where the need for a service exists, if there isn't already an online marketplace, there likely will be soon. Your business can use these service-based communities for almost anything, from finding your next employee to your next business card printer to a virtual private assistant.

Here are some examples of great service-based marketplaces:


Dabble is an example of a cool service-based marketplace that offers users access to find, teach or host a one-time affordable class in a wide variety of subjects. Its website features a clear and concise video demonstrating how it works and users can further narrow their search by city and category.

The only fee associated with the service is $20 per class taken, taught or hosted. Dabble offers a large database that appeals to a wide audience. It has also leveraged social media, allowing users to share and recommend their favourite classes directly on Pinterest through its website.


AdHub is a Canadian print advertising marketplace that offers businesses a way to buy and sell media from one location. Free sign-up on the website lets users customize searches based on audience, reach and target market, and facilitates transactions between advertisers and publications.

This service-based marketplace enables users to make purchases any time, day or night, and set their pricing terms to search within their budget. It also helps to build long-term relationships by providing filtering, and alerts the system to let buyers and sellers stay in touch. This is a valuable tool for small and medium-sized businesses working with smaller budgets and limited resources. As any business owner knows, building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships is key to success.


This platform helps connect businesses with people who can help, with services ranging from market research to finding a list of candidates for an employment opportunity to proofreading a document. Calling itself "a unique marketplace for talent and competence," Workio also summarizes its services simply in a 90-second video on its website.

Users can create an assignment and Workio will find the right person for the task, eliminating all overhead fees, which is ideal for anyone working on a smaller budget. Alternatively, users can add their skills and receive notifications for opportunities that fit best.

Online service-based marketplaces empower businesses to maximize resources and efficiency. These marketplaces specialize in helping companies excel in areas outside of their core competencies. They fill the needs of businesses in a practical way. I expect many more to appear throughout 2013.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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