Online staffing platforms are a way of organizing distributed teams to work jointly or independently on projects. Currently there are approximately 17 million independent workers, in the United States, doing online freelance services for either an hourly fee or a contract fee. Most projections only expect that number to grow larger, and, of course, there are freelance workers offering their skills all over the globe. From my home in New Jersey I’ve hired people in the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and Russia. I’ve also hired Americans all over the country. The cost varies greatly depending upon the services required and the level of skill needed.
The questions that regularly crop up for online freelancers aren’t so different from the questions that crop up for offline freelancers. How good are you at this type of work? Are you available now? How much do you charge? Do you have references? All these questions are easily answered by the online freelance sites that keep data. For example, Odesk, which is the largest online freelance site, keeps a running journal of each freelancers work portfolio. When you go to hire a freelancer you have access to comments made by those who have previously hired the individual you are considering.
Odesk was founded in 2005 by two Greek friends, Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis as an entrepreneurial answer to how the internet could be used to connect job skills all over the world. Based in Redwood City, California, Odesk has continually experimented with digital tools which allow freelancers and their hiring clients to communicate easily. There are also tools that allow the hiring person or company to track the working hours of the freelancer by following screenshots of the freelancer’s desktop every fifteen minutes. The screenshot photos are kept in a time recorded file for review whenever the hiring agent wants to look what is going on with their project.
At the end of every project both the freelancer and the hiring agent are asked to file out a review of each other. The questions are the same for every job and the answers are numerical ratings from one to five. Payments are easily made with PayPal and can be modified if additional work comes up during the course of the original project, or if there are changes. There is also a way to add a bonus for exceptional work or for work delivered in a short time frame. The Odesk platform allows a hiring agent to keep track of numerous workers and keep notes on each and there is a search system that allows a hiring agent to seek new freelancers for review and hire.
Two Other Approaches
Work Market is a New York City based online platform and marketplace for businesses that use freelance workers, contract workers and consultants. Founded in 2010, Work Market is fairly new to the online freelance platform niche, but has carved out a special area by targeting businesses and offering them their software platform as a system for finding, hiring and managing freelance workers. The founders are Jeffrey Leventhal and Jeffrey Wald who launched their company in a beta version to 20 companies while they raised capital to build and market a larger platform. Until 2013 Work Market was an invitation only platform which worked well as an exclusivity based marketing program. The founding partners used this method to build a base of corporate clients.
Most of the work assignments passed through the Work Market platform are for assignments are for on-site work. The software allows “buyers” to research freelance workers and consultants, verify their credentials, hire and bring the worker onboard at the company, manage the assignment and pay the worker. It’s a sort of in house outsourcing system that is has a centralized marketplace of workers that all subscribing companies have access to. Work Market raised over $16 million of venture capital by 2012 and is now poised to grow considerably and in 2013 discontinued the invitation only marketing policy.
Another approach to freelance hiring is offered by John Jonas. John specializes in outsourcing to the Philippines. One of Jonas’ programs “Replace Yourself” is a freelance hiring marketplace of Filipino workers. As a member of the program an American and European hiring agent has access to work history, education credentials, language skills and employable skills. There is an opportunity to interview potential candidates, many of whom are looking for ongoing employment.
Once hired there is a software platform for managing hired freelance employees and for paying them. With the use of Skype it is fairly easy to develop a positive and productive working relationship with each Filipino employee. There are also work education modules supplied to help a hiring agent to educate their employee about particular job skills. The hiring agent can arrange a series of these education units over a week or more allowing the employee to learn part-time and work for the rest of the work day. There are also education units for the hiring agent to learn about Filipino work culture and how to interact in the most efficient ways to cross the cultural differences between Philippines and Western work culture. For example in the Philippines it is customary to pay a bonus of one month’s pay at the end of the work year. These types of details are explained along with tips about how to implement them.
The online work marketplace is now well established and integrates software, internet and freelance work skills in a variety of ways. What started out as a loss approach to bridging geographic boundaries to tap into inexpensive, high quality workers has now expanded into many structures that service both international hiring and domestic hiring very effectively.