International Director of Freelancer.com, Sebastián Siseles: Photo courtesy of Freelancer.com official website
CAIRO – 28 August 2018: With rising numbers of freelancers in Egypt, freelancing websites have become even more popular due to their ability to connect freelancers with companies and their ability to guarantee that the client will pay the freelancer the agreed amount after the completion of the task or project. To understand more about freelancing, its future and how it can help the youths and develop businesses with less cost, Egypt Today sits down in an exclusive interview with Freelancer.com International Director Sebastián Siseles.
Freelancer.com is the world's largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace, with 28+ million members and 13+ million projects 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- and time-efficient system to kickstart their businesses.
“Sebastián Siseles is responsible for creating, communicating, maintaining, and aligning the company's international expansion strategy for long-term, profitable growth, leading the team of regional directors and country managers worldwide. Sebastián is also directly involved and responsible for international launches, establishing and consolidating Freelancer's presence and growth in both developed and emerging markets, with special focus in managing company's operations across Latin America and Southern Europe,” according to the Freelancer.com website.
Tell us about the process of Freelancer.com. How does it work?
Freelancer.com is the world's leading freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace that puts businesses and employers in contact with a global network of freelancers. Through the platform, employers can hire freelancers to do work in areas ranging from software development, writing, data entry and design to engineering, the sciences, sales and marketing, accounting and legal services. Any member can post a project—a short- or long-term—and choose from skilled freelancers who offer rate quotes and time estimates for completing the work.
Twenty-nine million registered users have posted 14 million projects and contests to date in over 1,000 areas of work.
Freelancer.com works on three main pillars: engineering, customer experience and growth, why does the company not have marketers or sales people?
We do having a marketing team, but it is a bit different to what a regular company does. We focus on growth, which combines marketing, programing, math and advanced statistics; we have a Marcomms team, which is a combination of marketing and communications, plus some public affair matters. At our heart, we are a customer-focused and data-driven engineering company. We run the platform using smart algorithms and machine-learning to make the product itself part of our overall process of continual improvement.
On the sales side, we have a special Recruiter Project upgrade, for anyone struggling to find the right freelancer for their project—a Freelancer.com Recruiter agent will contact you to get a project started, take care of the initial stages of the project—from inviting freelancers, vetting them and negotiating prices to finally recommending them to the employer. The Recruiter team works closely with Preferred Freelancers, an elite list of freelancers who pride themselves on their craftsmanship and deliver excellent service and quality results. We have a great liquidity on the site; most projects receive bids/offers within the first 60 seconds of posting the brief. We also have a team named the Market Makers, they are a mix of account executives, sales representatives and customer support that focus on finding the appropriate freelancer for a local job.
What level of support is provided to both freelancers and employers?
It is essential for us to allow our users to be able to reach out to us directly whenever and wherever they are. We have therefore created 53 regional websites supported by 28 currencies and we are also available in 34 languages in 247 countries, regions and territories. We have also launched several products and services to make our user experience even better, among them: contests, mobile and desktop apps, Market Makers, Recruiter project assistance, and many more.
Also, our customer experience team responds to questions or queries from freelancers or employers. By ensuring online chat support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with multilingual agents, we are providing a better experience to our users. Additionally, we offer a high quality customer support and the recruiting team, which assists users find the most suitable freelancers for the job, which also works 24 hours a day seven days a week.
How do you think freelancing will affect businesses in the future?
When talking about the future of freelancing it is important to take into consideration that the new generations entering the labor market are the “Millennials” and in a few years “Generation Z”, will be the ones setting the rules. Millennials were born when the technology revolution was at its peak, that's why they are considered the ‘digital natives’, Millennials eat, sleep, breathe technology. Freelancing offers everyone, but particularly Millenials, an opportunity to start their own business while at the same time freelancing. These young adults are looking for a better work-life balance; they grew up in an era where technological developments dissolved the boundaries of time and place.
As far as how it will affect businesses, we see that freelancers will continue to have work on a whole wider range of projects a traditional way of working may not permit—from design, development, translation, marketing, to writing, and data entry services. Freelancing will continue to provide businesses and people with the flexibility and freedom for them to choose what they would like to work on, for whom [they would like to work] (in the case of freelancers), where [they would like to work] and how [they would like to work]. They will be the architects of their own futures.
How has Freelancer.com improved the lives of freelancers? How many freelancers are currently on the site?
As of today, we are working on changing over 29 million lives of our registered users for the better, by providing a platform that can help them build their businesses, increase their income or gain work experience in a particular field. It’s a huge number, but we aim to provide at least one job to one billion people in the long run.
An average of 8,000 jobs are posted on the site daily, which means that there are 8,000 new opportunities every day for freelancers around the world to find work that matches their skills set.
We have many success stories of how we have helped freelancers [and employers] around the world; most recently we had a cancer survivor from Australia, who after leaving the hospital set out to improve the life of other patients still in hospitals and design a ‘bed’ that would prevent them from falling. With the help of a freelancer from the site, he was able to create an animation to show potential investors how his project would work.
How much money can a freelancer make via Freelancer.com in a regular month?
There is no “set amount” money a freelancer is able to earn in a month. It all depends on the person and the time and dedication they put into the work, how active they are on their biddings and the interaction they have with other users. People choose Freelancer.com because there are no limits to how much you can earn.
We have a case of someone from India who started at zero and through the site was able to establish his own company and now earns more than a million dollars annually. There is another case of a Harvard graduate that instead of going to a Hedge Fund to work on capital markets began working as a freelancer in our platform and now is earning thousands of dollars weekly.
Earnings depend on the category of work, with the average project being around $200. We have cases of someone making a month’s salary in just a few days, other cases of people making twice as much. It is up to the freelancer and how much dedication they put into the work. The key for a freelancer to be successful is to be organized with their time.
In Egypt, there are plenty of small and medium-sized enterprises and many of them struggle with technology and penetrating the online market, something you have excelled in. It would be interesting to hear the marketing and business strategies Freelancer.com used to become one of the world’s top sites?
We have worked hard to offer our users the best service possible. We offer flexibility of budget, space and time, rates that people can afford, times they would like them to work in, with lower overhead expenses. We are also continuously working on reaching our uses regardless of where they are, that's why we are present in 247 different countries, regions and territories and our website is also available in 44 different regional websites, 19 currencies and 33 different languages. We take pride knowing that we provide a unique local experience for our users regardless of where they are from, and are working on constant improvements and innovations related to both our product, customer service and support.
The work can also be done fast, hiring a freelancer or two may get a job done in half time. Our average users are start-ups, SMEs and sole business providers who can really benefit from those services. We help people start, or supplement their hiring requirements depending on their needs, or the nature of their business. Any job that can be executed online can potentially be done on our platform - from something complex like aerospace engineering or cryptography to basic data entry or transcription projects. You can even hire a photographer to come and take pictures at your wedding. People work with writers on the site to write jokes for them, or designers to illustrate a cover design for their books.
Your aim is to “connect employers from developed countries such as the US, UK, and Australia with professionals from emerging markets such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” as you once said. Why do you feel this is the best strategy?
Because there are millions of jobs that need to be done and millions of people around the world that have the potential and the skills to do the job as well. Freelancer.com has broken down geographical barriers that used to prevent people and businesses from reaching their potential.
Being part of our global network and having the chance to collaborate with people from other parts of the world has opened countless possibilities for both employers and freelancers on our site. The classic path that we are used to see is big companies, usually established in developed countries, attracting employees from all around the world, where many people need to leave behind their families, friends, their country, for a chance to work in one of those companies. We provide just that, the opportunity to work in companies from developed countries, but without having to leave your home. Everything is done online.
We are providing people with the chance to showcase their skills and have job opportunities that otherwise would be denied to them because of where they live. Freelancer.com also assists professionals from emerging markets, such as Malaysia, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, by providing education to workers who cannot access better jobs in their areas.
What would be the best practice when choosing a freelancer? I think everybody knows that picking up the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best choice but what should we look out for?
Employers should assess three main things: Reputation, time to delivery and price, in that order or a balance of those three.
The feedback and rating system, most important thing when selecting a freelancer, allows both employers and freelancers the opportunity to build their reputations through performance. It also provides the entire Freelancer.com community with added protection against potential unsatisfactory business transactions. We also recommend employers to check out a freelancer’s own profile page; this is the best place for the Freelancer community to know who the users really are and what they're looking for professionally.
Freelancers can also use the ‘summary section’ to give more detail about themselves and stand out from the crowd. They can talk about their company mission or their work history, highlight their skills, showcase their full portfolio of work with example references, and let people in the Freelancer.com community know why they're the best freelancers for the job.
You may also work with a recruiter team, which works closely with the Preferred Freelancers, an elite list of freelancers who have a proven track record of work. They get assigned each project with the Recruiter upgrade, and vet freelancers on the platform to find the right person for their project.
What kind of security do you give employers that the quality will be up to their standards?
Freelancer.com encourages employers to provide accurate and complete descriptions when posting projects. As much information as possible really helps, so freelancers can provide for an accurate cost and time estimate. A public Project Clarification Board is provided for each project and freelancers are encouraged to use it to ask any detail-related questions for the benefit of all bidders and the employer. Our posting and bidding systems are designed to maximize the potential for satisfactory results for both the service buyer and service provider.
Reviews are visible in users’ profile pages to help employers pick the best freelancer to award the project to. The more feedback freelancers have, the higher they appear in the organic lists and so the more jobs they can get. When an employer picks a freelancer with high feedback, he or she is assured of a quality job.
Working on a platform like Freelancer.com gives employers the opportunity to work with a recruiting team available 24/7 that can guide employers to choose the most reliable freelancers we have in the platform –trusted, proved and at a competitive price. The recruiters’ main job is to assists users find the most suitable freelancers for the job based on the freelancer’s reputation and skills.
Turning the question on its head, what security do you give freelancers on their money?
Our unique Milestone Payment System is a special feature that allows controlled payments to be made for the awarded freelancer on a project. It works when a freelancer requests for a Milestone Payment, the employer can create one by depositing funds for it. We will then hold such funds until the employer and the freelancer agree that the funds should be released to the freelancer. This system sets us apart from our competitors because it offers protection if something goes wrong with the project.
We recommend that the employer create different Milestones for each stage of the project. This way the employer can assign tasks for the freelancer to complete and it establishes goals. It also provides more security for both the employer and the freelancer as it assures them that the project is being completed without releasing the entire payment.
For freelancers, a Milestone Payment can be requested before they work on projects. For them it is reassuring to have the funds ready for when they complete the project. Also, freelancers can actually request employers to release it once they think they’ve fulfilled their commitment.
What are some of the disadvantages of outsourcing that you have come across?
There are definitely more advantages than disadvantages for companies to hire freelancers. One disadvantage we have seen is that some companies feel they lose control of how the tasks are being done which can make them anxious. That's why we encourage employers to have as much communication as possible with the freelancer. It is important that both parties trust each other.
Also, companies should be careful with the information they share with freelancers, especially if it is related to customer’s data. Start-ups may hire freelancers for every single task, but when it comes to large companies, it would be wise to keep in-house employees for those tasks that concern the core business of the company
Talking now about global trends, I believe India was the typical outsource country. Are there new players on the field?
India remains the number one country for freelancing. However, as the gig economy grows so does the number of countries that are coming on board. Here is the list of top 10 countries with the most users in Freelancer.com: India, United States, Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Bangladesh, Australia and Canada.
As you can see from this list, freelancers don't necessarily come from developing countries. The United States is the second country with the most freelancers; the UK and Australia are also on the list. We take this as prove that more people choosing to take advantage of the gig economy.
Do you think that outsourcing makes people lose their jobs?
No, not at all. Companies are able to get the talent they are looking for a competitive price. This doesn’t mean they are paying less to an online talent, just that they are eliminating unnecessary intermediaries in the working relation. By hiring freelancers businesses can achieve their goals at a reasonable price and more importantly, they can employ independent workers on a demand-driven basis.
Today, there is a global crisis in the labor market. In the case of Millennials they are looking for a better work-life balance, they want to be able to choose what companies they want to work for and for how long. On top of this, they prefer flexible work schedules that will allow them to work from alternative places (such as home, co-working spaces and coffee places) or to even travel while they work.