What is freelancing platform and how you as a startup founder or a professional freelancer can benefit from it?
I’m not sure if you are aware of just how popular freelancing platforms have become in recent years but it seems that everybody is trying to build the next best freelancing platform. Unfortunately, many do so without much if any consideration of quality or differentiation from those freelancing platforms that have been around for years.
This freelancing platform frenzy is driven primarily by fast proliferating gig economy which is in my humble opinion completely owned and driven by millennials and generation z. Chances are that you too belong to the aforementioned group of creative, imaginative, rebellious and tech/social media savvy young people, who are on a mission to forever change the way we live and work.
To put things into perspective of just how powerful these millennials really are and what they have been able to do over the past decade, pundits tell us that gig economy has contributed $715 billion to US economy alone in 2016 and they are saying that by 2025 gig economy will be worth in the neighborhood of $2.7 trillion….yes, that’s trillion with a ‘T’!
Keep in mind that gig economy was coined in the early 2009 during one of the worst world economic recessions of all time which has seen stupendous growth in unemployment rate.
I totally understand if you need to take a few moments to let this settle in before proceeding further, for I too was completely baffled by this discovery the first time I came across it.
For better or worse, gig economy is here to stay and millennials are most certainly going to continue to defy the old norms of formal employment and ‘modern slavery‘ – they much rather do their own thing, be it as a professional freelancer, entrepreneur or solopreneur.
If you’re still reading this, I assume that you’re either a professional freelancer or an entrepreneur – either way, stick around for what follows will be of great value to you.
Freelancing platform is a medium built with intent to facilitate effortless, efficient and secured business collaboration between professional freelancers and business owners. Clearly, this doesn’t mean that individuals like you and I can’t use it to outsource professional services e.g. blogging, graphic design, web development etc. for personal use, like I do in case of my blog for example.
Freelancing platforms come in different flavors, functionalities, rules, pros and cons. Choosing the right freelancing platform can be rather challenging which is why it’s always a good idea to do some research beforehand. This can save you a great deal of time and possibly money.
While I am not going to discuss any one of the freelancing platforms in details as that’s been done hundreds of times, although in my view with lots of biases, I am going to mention only the most notable ones and touch on their main traits. This way you’ll have an idea as to what to expect from each one of the leading freelancing platforms.
This doesn’t mean you should skip freelancing platform research and evaluation exercise before you decide to invest your time and in the case of an entrepreneurs money. Know what you’re getting yourself into.
Upwork – made up of two older freelancing platforms oDesk which was in business since 2003 and Elance founded back in 1999. As a result, Upwork is one of the largest freelancing platform today which boast millions of registered freelancers from across the globe. Upwork freelancing platform welcomes everyone to join and provides all sorts of services you can think of i.e., blogging, content marketing, graphic design, web development etc.
Having tried Upwork on two different occasions I can say with certainty that they focus on quantity rather than quality. This doesn’t mean that you as a startup founder won’t be able to find a quality freelancers to help you with graphic design or web development, you might but with lots of effort. However, if you’re a professional freelancer who values her time and work than Upwork might not be the best suited freelancing platform for you.
Parttimerz – new breed of freelancing platform founded in Q4 of 2015 and formally launched in January of 2017. One of the youngest freelancing platforms which is truly worth mentioning and looking at if you’re an entrepreneur or a professional freelancer. Parttimerz, unlike its competitors, focus on quality over quantity and feature PREMIUM GRADE European freelancers of the highest quality.
Parttimerz is built with entrepreneurs and startup founders in mind with focus on helping them start and grow their startups without breaking the bank by extending them various professional services e.g. admin, blogging, content management, graphic design, inbound marketing, web development etc. at affordable rates. Parttimerz freelancing platform is in essence a viable extension to entrepreneurs and startup founders who aren’t Silicon Valley’s sweetheart endowed with millions of dollars of seed round.
Freelancer – one of the oldest freelancing platforms which is probably the best known for its large member base. Freelancer claim to have north of 20 million registered members who hail from all walks of life and bring varying levels of skills and knowledge. Similar to Parttimerz and Upwork, Freelancer freelancing platform offers all sorts of freelancing services under the sun – the most notable are blogging, content management, graphic design, inbound marketing and web development.
While Freelancer might be the quickest of all freelancing platforms in terms of freelancers responses to jobs posts, the quality of service provided by their freelancers is inconsistent and often times dismal. I’ve experienced it on several occasions and was particularly disappointed with their communication and attention to detail. That’s just my personal take which sure as hell doesn’t take away from the fact that Freelancer is one of the most dominant freelancing platform till date.
Toptal – certainly the most competitive freelancing platform to get into – if you’re a professional freelancer – due to its rigorous screening process which accepts only the best (top 3%) of applicants. However, it’s worth noting that unlike other freelancing platforms, Toptal caters explicitly to software developers, designers and financial experts.
Toptal was founded in 2010 and its business model differs from other freelancing platforms. In essence, if you’re a client looking to hire professional freelancers through Toptal, be prepared to pay top dollar for their service and also to wait a bit longer until Toptal team pair you off with the most adequate professional freelancers. The quality of service is very good so you’d be in good hands with Toptal freelancing platform.
Leverage freelancing platforms the right way
So, now that you have a good understanding of what freelancing platforms are and which ones to target first, let’s look at how YOU (whether as a startup founder or professional freelancer) can leverage and make freelancing platforms work for you.
Let’s assume you’re a startup founder who isn’t very cash rich and wasn’t able or didn’t bother to seek outside investment but decided to bootstrap instead.
Bootstrapping is tough. I know this firsthand because I’ve done it every time I’ve started a new business. Starting a business on a tight budget, scares resources and limited timeline e.g. 12-18 months worth of runway is extremely challenging.
No matter how exceptional entrepreneur you may be, there’s only so much you can do in any 24 hours. Rest assured, you’ll need all the help that you can get if you are to build and let alone grow your startup.
Having more than one capable co-founder of which each specializes in a specific area e.g. business, technology, finance etc. could be very beneficial for you as a startup founder. This way you could ideally share the workload across multiple co-founders which would leave less ‘open’ areas to cover or worry about.
Alternatively, you will need to hire professional employees e.g. accountant, techie, marketer, salesman, web developer etc. all of which cost money, especially because of the fact that you’re a startup.
You see, most people associate startups with high risk and uncertainty. Given that risk is on the opposite side fo reward, salary expectations are much higher in startups than in well established organization. This is the reason most of the cash rich startups that have managed to raise external funds e.g. seed, series A, B, C etc. offer exceptional – way above the average – packages to attract the right candidates.
Clearly, if you’re starting a business on a shoestring budget aka bootstrapping, you won’t have this luxury early on and will need yet another alternative….but is there any other viable alternative?
Absolutely! Up until few years ago this may have not been the case per se but today you sure have a viable alternative called freelancing platform.
For example, Parttimerz freelancing platform was built with entrepreneurs and startup founders in mind for this very reason. Parttimerz have recruited top professionals mostly from Easter and South Central Europe who specialize in various disciplines e.g. accounting, blogging, content management, inbound marketing, graphic design, web development and much more.
This way, you as a bootstrapping startup founder can hire top notch professionals on a part-time basis to help you build your GTM, inbound marketing strategy, design corporate identity or a web site and much more, without breaking the bank.
All you need to do is simply post and articulate your requirement in detail and engage Parttimerz highly skilled and experienced freelance professionals who get the job done. You can also, hire or outsource entire team of professionals on monthly basis to help you with any aspect of your business, no strings attached or benefits needed.
If you’re a professional freelancer who is fully committed to growing your freelancing career and being a self-sufficient solopreneur, freelancing platforms are the way to go. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your very own portfolio website or a web presence of sorts but rather that your main focus should be there where your prospects are, freelancing platforms.
Depending on your target audience e.g. startup founders, random folks who need stuff done, you’ll simply have to select the most relevant platforms e.g. Upwork, Freelancer, Parttimerz etc., register as a freelancer and complete your profile. Often times, you’ll be better off registering on more than one freelancing platform to cast your net wide.
Make sure your freelancer profile speaks volumes as that’s the very first thing your prospects see when they search for freelancers. If your profile is incomplete or poorly written, you won’t stand a chance in attracting any prospect, let alone winning business, so make sure you do this right.
Another thing to help you build your freelancing career is your digital footprint e.g. blog, social media profiles etc. Build a compelling blog and create freelancer profiles on the most relevant social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Create and share valuable and relevant content across your social media and blog in hope to draw attention and attract your prospects. (I talk about this in my other blog post also worth a read)
Again, the key to attracting your prospects is actually knowing who they really are and what their pains, needs, wants and desires are. This can be achieved by conducting a thorough users personas exercise.
Wrapping in up
Gig economy is in full swing while millennials and generation z are on the rise and they are taking no prisoners. The world as we know it is changing before our eyes without us even realizing it. We live in the most prosperous of times and thanks to all the technological advancements, it’s never been easier to start a business or a freelancing career.
If you’re like most millennials and generation z who don’t believe in conventional employment aka ‘modern slavery’, start a business or a freelancing career with the help of professional freelancing platforms mentioned herein which you literally have at your fingertips.
Focus on your core business or freelancing services and let the freelancing platforms service providers do the rest. After all, with so many new freelancing platforms out there, it’s in the interest of the leading ones to make the user experience ever so pleasant and seamless if they are to keep their users engaged and loyal.
Author: Dzenan Skulj, a Co-Founder and CEO at Parttimerz. He’s a serial entrepreneur and student of life. Utterly passionate about and strong proponent of entrepreneurship, startups, freelancing and self-development, which he regularly blogs about on his personal blog dzenanskulj.com. Dzenan also actively mentors entrepreneurs on their entrepreneurial journey.