Subscribe to LaunchableMag, the magazine by LaunchableMedia
Our exclusive Q&A with the Director of Freelancer.com
Not familiar with Freelancer.com? You should be! Freelancer.com is the world's largest outsourcing and crowdsourcing marketplace, with more than 10.7 million members and over $1.4 billion worth of work posted on the site.
It has been connecting entrepreneurs and small businesses to this gigantic community of talented freelancers from 247 countries and regions, as well as providing them with a cost-effective, time-efficient system to kick-start their businesses.
Servicing small businesses as well as individuals, Freelancer.com has been crucial to the growth and maintenance of gig-economists on a municipal and international level.
LaunchableMag was afforded the opportunity to connect with Nikki Parker, Freelancer’s Regional Director for North America.
Here’s what she had to say about her industry:
LaunchableMag: Ms. Parker, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us! We are excited to have the opportunity to engage in conversation with Freelancer.com and to continue the discussion about how the industry is being shaped by technology. To start, we would love to know what you think about the economy—specifically, how is it changing as more and more people begin freelancing, gigging, and working online?
Nikki Parker: Here at freelancer.com we obviously believe that being a freelancer is an admirable career choice and can provide unbridled opportunities for people around the world. Particularly in the developing world.
With the spread of broadband technology around the world and the rise of software as a service the way we do business is changing. What these changes mean is that work can be done anywhere, anytime, on any device and by anyone.
Coupled with this is the rise of online education. With sites like Udacity, Coursera and Khan Academy people from all around the world, regardless of the education resources available to them, can self-educate, self-skill and use those services to find work.
There approximately 7.1 billion people in the world and only 2.7 billion people are on the internet. That means that almost 4.5 billion people (mainly from the developing world) are coming online rapidly, looking to use the internet to earn an income and they are able to skill up - all online!
The internet has literally opened up a world of opportunities for people around the work to connect, collaborate and get work done with global clients.
LM: That addresses our next question, which is: how do you think technology is not only changing the economy but how is it shaping generational ideas of job security or life goals?
NP: Technology is definitely shaping ideas of job security/life goals but not necessarily in the way that you might think. One interesting trend I have noticed is that a lot of retirees are now turning to technology to get back into the workforce. A lot of people who retired realized that it was either too early for them to retire or needed to supplement their pension plans but felt they were too old to re-enter the workforce.
By working online their skills and years of experience are incredibly valuable but they can work from home and "ageism" is less of an issue. The young are early adopters of technology and being able to work online is a no-brainer but fascinatingly the older generations are the ones who are jumping on the online bandwagon.
LM: That is fascinating, and not something we had thought of before. We really loved what you said about the generational influx we have seen coming in from older generations--those who are retired/looking for supplemental income. We imagine this is also the case for stay at home parents, caretakers, or folks living and working with disabilities.
It's really opening up the workforce in a lot of ways, particularly after the last few years which has been economically difficult for many. Would you be willing to say what you think about the internet/gig economy being accessible by multiple demographics of people?
NP: I would definitely say that the internet/gig economy is being accessed by multiple demographics. If we look across the spectrum of who is working online we can see that every generation is affected:
Firstly, University students. We have a lot of students working on the site who are able to work with international clients and build up a solid portfolio of work before they have even graduated making them exceptionally valuable once they enter the workforce.
Secondly, skilled professionals. There are a lot of small business owners who are flipping the gig economy on its head. Rather than panicking about jobs being taken offshore the are seeing it as a huge opportunity to grow their business without the expense of hiring full time.
Thirdly, stay at home moms and dads. A great way for this generation to continue to work or start new projects while they are raising a family.
And of course our baby boomers/retirees!
LM: How do you feel that this new method of freelancing/gigging/online work is changing the expectations of quality of life? That is to say, how do you believe that these new ways of making careers are shaping and changing our expectations of job security/the traditional work week?
NP: I think that for a while now people have been working much longer hours and having less regular work weeks. As a result, the changes or challenges that people might perceive a freelancing economy will bring are not causing such an impact.
I believe that as freelancing becomes more common place businesses will understand how to work with freelancers, what structures need to be put in place and there will also be a global averaging out of pay for specific tasks focused on skill sets rather than the location of the worker.
Freelancers will point to the flexibility and freedom they gain by working online which is a key motivator for people to leave the 9-5 grind. Of course with this increase in flexibility comes a lack of income security and there is a possibility of having periods where jobs and ultimately income are slow, however, freelancers just need to change their budgeting and thinking to account for these lulls in business.
LM: Oh, we absolutely agree with that! We think that freelancing teaches workers to live with low overhead, and to finance their lives in a way that demands an attention to budget and lifestyle choices—sure, you made loads of money in December, but how are you going to provide for yourself should March dry up?
We’re wondering, too, about staples of traditional job security—namely, health care. How do you feel that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made it more or less possible for people to reconfigure the ways they think about careers?
"The burden of needing to find a job that offers great benefits and great health care just to protect yourself and your families health will be lifted giving more people freedom in their career choices."
LM: Beautifully put. What do you see as the projected arc of gig economy and freelancing over the next several years?
NP: I believe it will continue to grow and globally we will see an equalizing effect on wages, work done and job types. The gig economy will really level the global playing field, which will come with some challenges but open up a new world of opportunities.
For more information about Nikki Parker and Freelancer.com, check them out here.