In 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote ‘The World is Flat’ which discussed how the convergence of technological and political forces have created a global and web-enabled platform for collaboration. Friedman said that geography and distance were no longer barriers to working remotely with others and that soon, language will also no longer be an issue.
Fast-forward nine years to 2014, Forbes reported that 34 per cent of American workers qualified as freelancers. While this group of people don’t necessarily make their living exclusively from freelancing alone, many of them “moonlight” by taking on technical gigs as supplementary income to their day jobs. Big tech companies such as HP are also looking to outsource some of its projects onto freelancing sites and tap into this new and talent-rich labour pool.
Matt Barrie, the CEO of outsourcing marketplace Freelancer.com (and speaker at the upcoming Echelon Asia Summit), told us that a number of factors contribute to the rise of the freelancer: Workforce evolution, outsourcing trends and increased youth unemployment.
“Work is getting more and more fluid, which is leading rise to the freelance economy. An Intuit report has stated that more than 80 per cent of large corporations will increase their use of a flexible workforce and the International Labor Organisation said that in 2013, 74.5 million young people were unemployed around the globe. The trend is going up.”
An electrical engineer by training, Barrie worked in venture capital before moving into entrepreneurship in the network security space. He then saw a gap in the market for a time and cost-efficient platform for small businesses and startups to connect with the skilled global workforce, which led to the genesis of Freelancer.com.
“Online freelancing was in its early stages around 2009 when I launched Freelancer.com. I needed someone to work on a project I had and hired a freelancer myself. One thing led to another, and I encountered this amazing opportunity to make a change and connected all these aspiring young workers with startups from around the world.”
The now six-year-old platform, whose name is ubiquitous across the globe, has over 15 million users from around the globe and has completed almost 8 million projects to date. Following its debut on the Australian Securities Exchange, Freelancer.com reached a market cap of US$1.03 billion at its peak. Typical projects on Freelancer.com include web and mobile app development, design gigs and SEO marketing.
Barrie said that his company’s mission is to help those in developing countries seeking opportunities to uplift their economic status. As reported by the Washington Post, 4.4 billion people around the world don’t have Internet access — with Myanmar topping the list with 99.5 per cent of their national population still offline. Further notable is that 80 per cent of those people who are not connected to the Internet globally are younger than 55, with 42 per cent below 25-years-old.
Still, the number of Internet users in the past 15 years has grown from 738 million to 3.2 billion. This has brought global Internet penetration up from 7 per cent to 43 per cent, and it shows no signs of slowing down. As more of the developing world gains web access, those who only need $10 a day to live can soon be earning $10 an hour.
As tech infrastructure gets laid out and economic barriers break down, Freelancer.com is perhaps one such established platform that’s equipped to empower the new wave of young and talented remote workers.
Join Matt Barrie in a fireside chat at Echelon Asia Summit (23 – 24 June) that chronicles his company’s journey ‘From Startup to IPO’ and also learn about his perspectives on global freelancing trends. Echelon is a vibrant two-day conference featuring startups from our Top 100 program, the hottest IoT startups in the region, drone exhibitions and dynamic content. Get your tickets here!