How freelancer.com became the biggest marketplace for freelancers in 6 years – Startup Story #19
Founded in 2009, Freelancer.com is now one of the biggest peer-to-peer platforms to connect with freelancers with varied skills across the world. Freelancer.com, a global online freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace is now the first place to go to in case of hiring a freelancer or to be a freelancer. The marketplace allows freelancers to get work, interact with the project owners in the most convenient way possible. The marketplace now boasts of more than 16.5 million freelancers having completed over 8.5 million projects.
In a discussion with Matt where he shares his experience with creating one of the most popular and successful Freelancing marketplace in the world.
Q1.Tell us a little about Freelancer and your personal motivation for starting this business?
Freelancer.com is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing platform in number of users and projects. We currently have over 16 million registered users globally from beyond 247 countries, regions and territories. More than 8 million projects have been posted on the site in over 850 project categories like software development, graphic design, sales and marketing, and even astrophysics. Freelancer.com allows small business and entrepreneurs to hire a global talent pool of freelancers to get work done.
I started Freelancer when I had a first hand experience at how fast and convenient it was to hire a freelancer online. I needed to get some data entry done and I’d been asking around for help but couldn’t find anyone to do the job. I thought it would be the perfect job for a university student and was paying $2000, but nobody I knew wanted to do it. In desperation, I checked online and found GetAFreelancer where I could post a project and hire a freelancer. In a couple of days, I received numerous bids. The data entry that I’d been trying to get done for months was completed by a freelancer in just a few days.
I saw the huge potential behind this experience. I realized that the next big thing is to build an eBay for jobs and services, and that’s exactly what Freelancer is. What motivated me to get started and keep going with Freelancer are the opportunities behind connecting millions of entrepreneurs and professionals from across the world.
Q2.Can you give us a rundown of how Freelancer works?
Using Freelancer is very easy for both employers and freelancers.
For an employer, its as simple as posting a project – most projects get their first bid in under 60 seconds. You then review the profile, reputation, portfolio etc of each bidder and award the job to the best freelancer. You can also chat with the freelancers in real-time through the Freelancer.com instant messaging system. Once the project has been awarded, the next step is to create Milestone Payments. These payments are held by Freelancer.com until the project is completed. When the project has been completed and you’re fully satisfied with the outcome, you can “release” the Milestone to the freelancer and they will get paid. On the other hand, if you are not satisfied, you simply file a dispute and the money will be returned to you. This completely removes any risk of hiring online.
For a freelancer, as soon as you’ve registered on the site and completed your profile, you can start browsing through jobs – and there are thousands of jobs to choose from. Once you see a job you like, the next step is to place a bid. If the employer likes your bid, they will hire you, and you will be prompted to accept the project. Once you have accepted, you should start working on the project. Its very important that you do the job to the absolute best of your abilities – this will not only ensure you get paid, but it will also entice the employer to leave you valuable feedback. This feedback will help you get more jobs in the future.
Q3.Who are your key stakeholders and how are you offering them value?
Freelancer is a two-sided marketplace, and the main way we offer them value is by providing a platform on which they can meet and do business – even though the other party may live halfway around the world. We also provide value by building products that assist with seamless communication, that enhance trust, and that make hiring and working through the platform easier and safer.
Q4.What is Freelancer’s biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?
To date, Freelancer has grown to over 16 million users from around the world. For us, this means that we have provided an opportunity for over 16 million people to change their lives for the better by providing a platform that can help them build their businesses, augment their income or gain work experience in a particular field. These opportunities are often difficult to obtain or unavailable in the area in which they live. Freelancer.com breaks down geographical barriers that prevent people and businesses from reaching their potenital. Being part of our global network and having the chance to collaborate with people from other parts of the world opens countless possibilities for both employers and freelancers on our site.
Because of our growing community, we’re driven to keep improving and expanding our products and services to continuously provide better value for our users. Recently, we launched local jobs where employers can find freelancers for location-based jobs like photography or wedding planning. Freelancer is also the first freelancing platform to have a video chat tool which allows a more efficient means of communication and collaboration between employer and freelancer.
Q5.What has been your biggest setback? How did you deal with it?
This isn’t exactly a setback, but taking Freelancer to a global market comes with its own set of challenges. In every stage of growth, when we develop a product or communicate with our users, we put different languages, currencies, cultures, and local customs and practices into consideration. We want our users from around the world to be equally at ease when using Freelancer. To accomplish this, we have 40 regional portals, all translated to a native language like Polish, Japanese or Spanish. Members can use 19 different currencies on the site including US dollars, Euros, British Pounds and Indian Rupee, all the way through to Chilean Pesos and Malaysian Ringgits. We will continue to expand our multilingual and multicurrency offerings in the future. Our 24x7x365 support team speaks over 10 different languages.
Freelancer primarily uses open source technologies — PHP, Python, MySQL, Redis, Memcached, Nginx, and Elastic Search are some of the main technologies used to run the site.
Q7.What was technically the most challenging part of developing Freelancer ?
Q8.What are some of the hurdles and roadblocks you still face?
Tens of thousands of new users register on the site on a daily basis and we want them to be integrated into the community right away so they can find the solutions or opportunities they’re looking for. That’s why we always try to improve our navigation to make it as simple and convenient as possible for our users.
Aside from this, another key challenge is ensuring that new freelancers have a good chance at winning bids. To help with this, we continually tweak our reputation algorithms and encourage new freelancers to improve their profile by doing things like uploading portfolio items to showcase their skills.
Q9.What are some the current trends you see in the industry?
Businesses and entrepreneurs are hiring freelancers most commonly to build their websites and mobile apps. We’ve been seeing a rapid increase in Android and iPhone related jobs in the past 3 years.
However, what really continues to amaze us is the huge breadth and depth of jobs that can be done online. We see jobs in Astrophysics, Aerospace engineering, architecture, 3D printing, genomics, virtual reality – the talent pool on the site is truly breathtaking.
Nearly every service today can be done and delivered online, which is really fuelling the growth of our marketplace.
Q10. There are definitely a lot of companies similar to Freelancer floating around right now. What are you doing that differentiates you?
We’ve done a lot to set us apart from other freelancing platforms out there. A striking difference we have with the others is our global community. Others’ userbases are usually concentrated in a particular country or region. Having users from around the world offers more opportunities for our members. Also, as mentioned earlier, we have localized portals translated into native languages. We offer support in different languages too, and we accept multiple currencies from around the world.
Fundamentally, Freelancer.com is true technology business, which means we are always the first to support new and emerging technologies, such as instant messaging and recently video chat. These products greatly enhance the ability of our users to work and communicate and make a huge difference in their day-to-day lives.
Q11.Where do you see Freelancer in five years?
Freelancer’s mission is to give 1 billion people from around the world a (small) job. To date, we’re at over 16 million users. In five years, we’ll be much closer to reaching our goal – if we haven’t already hit it!
Q12.If you had a chance to go back, what would you want to do differently?
No regrets. I just wish I’d done it all faster.
Q13.Any advice for startups trying to make it big or join the On-Demand space?
My advice for startups is for them to use tools and resources available to them free (or nearly free) online. Just about everything has an open-source equivalent these days, which means that businesses can be built on the back of a credit card. There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.
Also, it’s very tempting for entrepreneurs to do everything themselves – from product development, handling finances to marketing. Instead of spreading themselves too thin, they should integrate skilled and passionate freelancers into their teams. I did this when building freelancer and I’m still doing it now. With capable people taking care of the different auxiliary aspects of the business, entrepreneurs can focus on building the core product of the company.