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Interview: Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie

  • 10 September 2011
  • Written by 
  • Published in Market
Freelancer.com On 30th August, Australian site Freelancer.com announced that it'd passed the $1million mark in user revenue.


The site provides a virtual jobs market, linking job requests big or small to a worldwide audience of freelancers in locations including the United States, UK, India, Canada, and Australia.

Darryl Adams was given the opportunity to interview Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie about the Australian segment of the website, and how it works with Australian laws and conditions.

1. How long has Freelancer.com been in Australia and how important is Australia in the worldwide scheme of things?

Freelancer.com was launched in 2009.  It is a rollup of a number of outsourcing websites, the first of which was getafreelancer.com.  There was already a large number of Australian users on getafreelancer.comback when the site was acquired in 2009 and since then there have been a number of additional acquisitions.

Now Australia is the third largest employer country on the platform behind the US and the UK! Australia is extremely important to us for a number of reasons and not just because we're the 3rd largest employer country.

It is a great example of a country that has embraced this new way of doing business and for those businesses that are, they are reaping the rewards.  We have around 2 million small businesses and they are the silent powerhouse of our economy - constituting 97% of all businesses.Australia is leading the way in showing how online outsourcing can boost the economy.

We provide the digital workforce to turn the dreams and aspirations of SMEs into reality with our low cost digital workforce. I have ideas all the time about how to improve my business or ideas for starting new ones, as all small business owners do.

How many times have people running small businesses been frustrated when they've realised that they need a web designer or graphic designer to implement their ideas? Getting quoted $20,000 for a website is ridiculous. Previously there was so much hassle time and cost to get anything done. Now you can likely have the same website built for about 10% of the cost through Freelancer.com.

We have hundreds of case studies from Australian small businesses who all acknowledge that without us, they may not have been able to survive.  These businesses are now employing locals for all of their on the ground needs and we couldn't feel more proud.

By Australians setting the pace and embracing this new trend, they are not only helping to kick start our economy but also leading the way for the global community.

2. How do employers and freelancers compare the Freelancer.com model over traditional skill labour services and contracting?

The model offers levels of protection that you simply don't have with traditional contracting.  For example, when you hire someone on our site, you are able to sift through past user ratings and reviews about that individual. This allows you to have a very good idea about the quality of the candidate before they are hired. This level of transparency simply does not exist with traditional freelancing or contracting methods.

What is even more important than is our Milestone Payment System. This allows you to put the money into an escrow-like service before the freelancer commences work. As they complete the work at pre-determined milestones, and only after you're happy, do you release the funds. In the very unlikely case that you are not happy, you have access to a Dispute Resolution System where you can provide all of the evidence you need to support your case - because you communicate with your freelancer online through our platform, you have access to all of your information in the one spot if required.

You can break the milestone payments up into agreed on tasks (for larger projects) and simply release them as the freelancer meets those requirements.

It's not often in the real word that you get access to your money back if you're not happy with the guy that mowed your lawn!

3. Does the Australian Tax and labor laws have an impact on the business model? Do you require freelancers to comply with having an ABN number and complying with workplace safety laws?

All freelancers are subject to the laws of their country. In Australia, it is the same as hiring someone through the classifieds section of your local paper. You are responsible for your own tax and compliance.  We charge Australian employers GST on their transactions and other countries are charged similar taxes as well.

4. Is there any trans-national relationships created via Freelancer.com? Would you see this a win for both the freelancer and hiring entity, or does it create a new set of issues?

Just about every relationship on Freelancer.com is transnational!  We are empowering employers in the west by allowing them to take advantage of the incredible 50:1 arbitrage that is occurring at the moment.  No longer do small businesses have to shut their doors due to excessive costs such as staffing in the initial growth phase and getting online. Similarly we are empowering people in the developing world by allowing them to create service economies. You only need to take a look at our 'Quotes' page to see that we are changing people's lives all over the world.  It is very moving to see that you are the single source of income for people that otherwise would have no access to a job.

As you can see below from this user on the front of our quotes page, we really are changing the way people see each other:

'The most important thing here is the multinational community of freelancers and employers. The money is not so important if you ask me, but the value of cultural exchange is priceless. A lot of cultures involved, multiple ways of applying the same 'know-how' and a lot of friendship. This is what matters to me. Regards.' - sht0, freelancer

5. How strong is the local market? Many companies have discovered skill shortages in some of the fields Freelancer.com cover - does this affect the ability to satisfy the demands from vendors/companies?

The demand from local employers is primarily centred around requests such as 'I need a website', 'Drive traffic to my website', 'Help me set up an online store' and 'Design me a logo.' Austalian businesses are rapidly moving online and need help getting there.

We have over 400 categories and can service the needs of just about anything you can think of! I posted a job for a lion tamer as a joke one time and managed to find a guy who worked in a circus and someone that worked in a zoo bidding on it! There really is no limit to what you can get done.

Australia is facing huge skills shortages in a number of areas, only recently we have heard about the need to bring in workers from overseas to accommodate for the demand in the mining sector.

We are absolutely able to fill any skills shortage whereby the job can be done online. With close to 3 million users on our site, there is always someone willing and able to fulfil your needs.


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