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If there’s any doubt about the health of the freelance revolution, the 32 million gigsters and freelancers on Freelance.com is a powerful reminder. And according to Matt Barrie, founder and CEO of Freelancer.com, the plan is to keep growing the largest online talent marketplace. And, why not? Freelancer.com has the best ringside seat in the on demand economy – the hundreds of thousands of annual “gigs” performed by its freelancers that collectively describe the work and workers of large and small organizations in every corner of the globe.
In the same way Amazon uses the data from its Prime customers to better plan the products and services of Whole Foods, Freelancer.com has a powerful fact base that gives them a huge advantage in anticipating customer choices and preferences, and what technologies are sending off green shoots or accelerating in demand.
In our conversation last month, Barrie recently shared a current example of the power of the data base and Freelancer.com’s ability to capitalize on the vast expertise of its community of freelancers, and its expertise in marketplace technology management.
Arrow Electronics, a technology and engineering services giant (#113 in the Fortune 500) and Freelancer have joined forces in creating a new talent marketplace named ArrowPlus, which is powered by Freelancer.com. The announcement describes the plan this way:
“The new platform allows Fortune 500 companies and innovative technology creators to design and build hardware products through access to over half a million skilled electronic and electrical engineers. ArrowPlus powered by Freelancer will transform the way products will be designed, manufactured and delivered to market. On-demand engineering from ArrowPlus and Freelancer will catalyze a step change in research and development, cutting times from years to months through access to a global network of highly diverse technical skills and reduce cost to market.”
Why bring these two together? In our call, Barrie pointed out three drivers: Arrow is a major player in several high growth technical areas, brings a large volume of high-quality, high-value projects, from established companies with a real demand for innovation and talent, and has built a proprietary Certified Engineering network designed to solve sophisticated technology problems. Freelancer.com brings the platform, expertise in running a global online talent and services marketplace, and offers tremendous freelance talent through its own talent marketplace of 32 million. The combination enables Arrow to transform its services business into a dynamic, connected talent cloud. Together, they plan to transform how hardware products are designed and engineering services are delivered.
ArrowPlus nicely leverages the strength of Freelancer.com’s platform – its breadth, depth and technical reach. ArrowPlus is new, and it will take time to see whether it meets Freelancer.com’s expectations, but Matt Barrie sees more tie-ups and combinations as a synergy based strategy that can turbocharge the business overall. For example, Barrie and his team acquired Escrow.com as a provider of secure online payments and online transaction management for consumers and businesses on the Internet. And, Freelancer has also created Freightlancer, a global enterprise freight marketplace that, while quite new, is generating meaningful growth.
Reflecting on my conversation with Barrie, I started wondering: Has he pioneered a kind of next generation strategy for the online talent marketplace sector? I also wondered whether Freelancer.com’s competitors are taking advantage of similar or equivalent synergies?
The answer seems to be a strong yes. Here are a few logical areas:
First, we see other talent marketplaces also working hard to capture and convert its data – on projects, industries and people – into usable and leveragable strategic insight. Many of the large online talent marketplaces are mining their transactional experience for help in how to drive sales growth, improve talent selection speed and accuracy, market efficiently and effectively, and increase internal productivity? For example, under CEO Chandrika Pasricha, Flexing It, an India and Singapore talent marketplace, is doing just that.
Second, some marketplaces are turning these insights into new services and profitable extensions to their business. Take project management, a new and growing area of expertise. Several of the more innovative online talent marketplaces recently added a new vertical in project management after recognizing that both startup and enterprise client companies were complaining about a lack of sufficient expertise in project management. Some are going further, offering training or training expense support in areas in high demand like AI and data science, or collaborating with educational institutions to build the skills of its freelancers. Beyond creating good will with their technical community, critical expertise positions them to raise rates. Blockchain and robotics are additional areas of keen interest.
Third, marketplaces are using their data based insight to exploit new markets. For example, providing well-credentialed consultants, and often alumni, to global firms like McKinsey, Bain and BCG and the “Big 5” (PwC, EY, KPMG, Deloitte, Accenture), was recognized early by firms like Expert360, Flexing It and Catalant, and has proven both profitable and scalable. Catalant, for example, has made the sourcing of consultants to consulting firms an attractive side business generating 16% of its marketplace business.
Fourth, data based insight has been helpful as marketplaces have turned to enterprise relationships for growth. Enterprise relationships can be quite large and highly profitable, with long contract periods that can protect profitability. Online talent marketplaces like Toptal have built large and attractive enterprise businesses using the knowledge they’ve gained. Upwork, for example, has lined up with Microsoft to offer freelance management and support tools to both large and small companies.
Freelancer.com offers a great example of how the freelance revolution is evolving. From an originally “neutral” marketplace, this young industry – less than 20 years old – is taking a number of interesting and different strategic steps to build for the future. It’s exciting to see this develop in real time. And, without doubt, the strategies of today will be inevitably supplanted by other growth venues in the coming years.
And one thing is for sure: Freelancer.com, the largest of the marketplaces, isn’t done growing and changing. It is exploring more tie ups like ArrowPlus that leverage its community. It is pursuing more vertical extensions like Escrow and Freightlancer. It is growing its enterprise work with larger corporates. And, recognizing that Freelancer.com’s success depends on its ability to attract and retain successful freelancer, it is providing more support to Freelancer’s 32 million freelancers on its platform with tools to help them win business.
May 9, 2019 at 07:56AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs