August 17, 2015 Mahesh & Kartik

Why you should consider a remote workforce for your business

Are you doing business online? Of course you are! You are buying, booking rooms, tickets and flights and hiring cars. In effect, you are already crowdsourcing services. Is it time to treat other, more professional services the same way?

The Freelance Marketplace Impact
To see a quick, real example of the impact of the service marketplace you only need have a quick look at the figures provided by the likes of Elance-Odesk Inc. At the time of writing, Elance boast that they have 3,627,017 registered freelance vendors with a lifetime earning of over $1.5 billion. These are impressive figures, and give an indication of the rise of the freelance economy.

Dig deeper, you will find marketers in the United States happily doing business with proofreaders in Ireland; mobile app developers in Canada outsourcing code snippets to programmers in Bangladesh; PowerPoint presentations being created in Boston for business coaches in Berlin; website developers in Madrid having their graphic design done in India. If you can think of a service, someone is selling, and many are buying. There is an entrepreneur on both sides of the counter.

How is the business mindset changing?
Today, if a friend was to tell you that they live in Chicago and work for a number of customers: some in Toronto, some in London, some in Sydney; that would no longer seem in any way strange. From the Londoner’s point of view, if the best person, with the right reputation and satisfactory rates happens to be based in Chicago, that is a professional way to do business and is ultimately in the best interest of the company. It is the way the world works now. Actually, it is the way the world has always worked; think of Human Resources and other consultancy firms, the only difference today is that the outside contractor might be a continent away.

In their book, Getting Results from Crowds, Ross Dawson and Steve Bynghal show how it is not just small businesses and entrepreneurs who are Crowdsourcing from the service marketplace, they cite Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Pfizer, and Dell as just some of the organizations who have used Crowdsourcing to better their services.

What are the benefits?
Competitive pricing, flexibility, services on demand, highly qualified professionals within the reach and budget of any size of business. Freelancers also bring the added advantage of being suited to any scale of project; if there is just a portion needed quickly, or that is proving bothersome, then only that portion needs to be farmed out. This is particularly beneficial for website and mobile app design and programming, and for startups. Graphic design lends itself very well to freelancing, as do problematic snippets of code, as well as time consuming office tasks like mail merges and data entry.

If you are unlucky enough to find an unsuitable partner, you have massive flexibility in comparison to the more traditional employer/employee models. Also, once your task is completed, you are in a very good position to choose whether or not to work with that freelancer again; but if they work out well, the future is bright.

Capabilities
The remote workforce allows you to add capabilities to your business that may otherwise be out of reach of the smaller outfit or startup.

Thinking of expanding into a new territory? Hire a local expert to guide you. Need marketing advice? Hire a local. There are freelancers who will write your sales copy, create your music or analyse your website. Anything you need!

Productivity: Getting the Best from the Crowd
It is old advice in business, the tasks that you do not like to do, or are not suited to, hire someone to do them for you if possible. And if you can, make it someone smarter than you.

Treat the hiring of a freelancer the same as hiring any employee. There should be verifiable references from their previous customers and samples of their work available. Be diligent about these, and you might find that your company’s next MVP is out there waiting for you.

Always remember that professionalism is a two-way street. If you were assigning tasks to any employee you would be mindful that they have the right information at the right time to avoid problems down the line. Remote workers should be treated no different in this regard.

The same applies to meetings, if there are meetings relating to particular tasks, freelancers should be privy to these meetings too, treat them as the collaborators they are and you will reap the reward you would get from any satisfied employee.

Cost
From a purely financial standpoint, freelancers make a lot of sense. What would be the cost of having a local mobile app programmer write some code for your business vs. the cost of an eminently qualified remote worker? The pool of qualified talent from which to choose your winning quotation is now potentially huge, greatly aided by exchange rates.

Tasks undertaken by remote workforces do not come with the traditional overheads and fixed costs associated with local talent. Also, the use of escrow by sites such as Elance adds hugely to peace of mind. If the work is not proceeding to your satisfaction, you will not be exposed for the whole project amount should you have to pull the plug. Does not this make business sense?

Speaking of good business, as Dawson and Bynghal say,

“An increasing proportion of companies are experiencing global competition. If they do not use the best talent at the lowest cost, they will not be competitive and risk going out of business.”

Very few small businesses or programmers have the financial luxury of hiring the number of people they would like to complete the myriad of time consuming tasks that are involved in most projects, and local contracting often proves cost prohibitive. The simple truth is that cost savings get passed on to customers, making the business more competitive. Are your competitors already thinking in this way?

Going Forward
Treated smartly, remote workforces can and are adding hugely to organisations large and small. The right freelancer is a Godsend, someone whose expertise you can return to again and again, build a small pool of freelancers and your business can move forward with extremely well-qualified professionals that you will call upon time and time again.

Conclusion
A few startup success stories that attribute part of their success to the use of freelancers include mobile messaging service Tango, who have grown to over 300 million members since their foundation in 2009; and CustomMade, an online platform that connects buyers around the world with local makers of custom-made goods. According to CustomMade co-founder Mike Salguero,

“We work with 15 freelancers and consultants, including 10 in India, one in the UK and the rest across the US.”

Have you heard of Vivino? their Founder and CEO says:

“Without freelancers we could not have launched Vivino, nor become the world’s most-downloaded wine app.”

The world is awash with incredibly well-educated people, ready, willing, and very eager to work. Their professionalism and the quality of work they return is second to none in many cases, and the bang for your buck is impressive too. The world is full of people more qualified and skilled, many of them are now at your fingertips.