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How To Tap 7 Million People to Solve Your Problem

How To Tap 7 Million People to Solve Your Problem

In this blog, I'm speaking with Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, a remarkable site that allows people from all over the world to connect, as employers and as providers of services. Here, Barrie explains the company, its background, and why it's such an important new paradigm for employment around the world.

Freelancer.com is the largest crowdsourcing community on the Internet, so when I found out that its CEO Matt Barrie was participating in the executive program at Singularity University, I grabbed him for an interview. I've been blown away by what Matt has done in creating the largest crowdsourcing network on the planet, and asked him to give us the background on his rollup to this powerful community, what motivated him and how he went about it.

"The whole reason I started this business was that I was actually looking to get some work done and I couldn't find anyone to get it done for me," Barrie explained. "I was looking to get some basic data entry to do a website. I was going to pay $2 per line item in a spreadsheet and I was trying to get a little brother or a little sister or a friend of mine to do the job and it took months since they had soccer practice and exams. It was just impossible."

"In frustration I went to the Internet and I posted a job on, ironically, Get a Freelancer, and I walked away," Barrie continued. "Three hours later I came back to my computer and had 74 emails from people saying they would do the job for anywhere from $1,000 to $100. I was astonished. So I hired a team in Vietnam that did the job in three days. It was perfect. I didn't have to pay them until the job was done. I thought this was absolutely mind-blowing."

Freelancer.com just reached 7 million members, and is now the world's largest freelancing marketplace globally. "We connect two types of entrepreneurs," Barrie said. "On one side we've got the small-business entrepreneur in the developed world who might be under-resourced. They don't have a lot of money, don't have a lot of time, but they have all these ideas. On the other side is the developing world, where we empower a whole new class of entrepreneur who's rising up to help get things done as a service provider."

More than 4 million jobs have been completed through Freelancer.com, and the site ranks among the top 200 or 300 sites on the web, depending on the day. There are members in 234 countries and regions around the world; about 75% to 80% of them are from countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and China. One-fourth of them are individuals or small business who are essentially employers. Some 50% of the jobs come from the United States, 10% from the United Kingdom and 7% from India."

Barrie outlined what he's identified as the macro reasons behind the viability of crowdsourced freelancing.

1. The rise of Internet usage, and the cost disparity between two parts of the world in terms of needing services and providing services. "The Internet is probably in the middle of one of the biggest tectonic shifts yet," said Barrie. "Seventy percent of the world's population is about join the Internet. Only about a third of the world's population is connected, but the other two-thirds are connecting now at double-digit and triple-digit rates."

This explosion in Internet-connected minds means that entrepreneurs will have a nearly limitless pool of virtual professionals to help execute their projects at affordable rates. "In the past it's been very hard, and expensive, for entrepreneurs to find someone to get the job done," Barrie explained. "They'd find a web designer after a few months and get quoted thousands of dollars and simply give up. We provide them with an affordable digital workforce from people all around the world, in any skill set that you can now imagine, to get things done," he said.

The cost savings is significant for the entrepreneur, but what about the global workers? Here too, as Barrie points out, there are benefits. "5 billion people on this planet live on somewhere around $8 a day or less. So the first thing they want to do when they go online is raise their economic status by getting a job, and the disparity in terms of wages globally is huge -- I mean, the average wage in the United States is about $123 a day. The average wage in India is $2.25. That's a 55-to-1 gap. We can provide jobs to someone in India on an order of magnitude higher than what they get paid locally and still deliver services at an extremely cost-effective price for a whole class of entrepreneur. We think it's a kind of magical win-win on both sides of the equation."

For small business owners, a site like Freelancer unlocks the capability to contract professionals for essential items. "If you're a café owner, you might not be able to afford $5,000 website, but for $100, $200, you get it in done in a snap," Barrie said. And it's not just websites – logos, business plans, presentations and even tax returns can all be done through one of Freelancer's millions of users.

2. Every industry is becoming a software business. "Everyone interacts and communicates through software. Every industry is waking up to be a software business but the corollary of that is the way we interact when we do work today in each of these industries is through software. So chances are that someone on the other side of the world can be doing a job for you again for a fraction of the cost, at any time of the day. All these trends are coming together, which I think is really magical, because freelancing is really the vanguard of an economic revolution that's sweeping through the developing world. People suddenly can wake up and go, 'Hey, I want to work in this very niche area in technology. Maybe it's in mechanical engineering. Maybe there's no jobs locally but now I can work for a global client base and earn fantastic income.'"

In my next blog, I'm going to continue my talk with Matt Barrie of Freelancer.com, and about how he was able to get a vibrant network of experts in virtually every field.

NOTE: Over the next year, I'm embarking on a BOLD mission -- to speak to top CEOs and entrepreneurs to find out their secrets to success. My last book Abundance, which hit No. 1 on Amazon, No. 2 on the New York Times and was at the top of Bill Gates' personal reading list, shows us the technologies that empower us to create a world of Abundance over the next 20 to 30 years. BOLD, my next book, will provide you with tools you can use to make your dreams come true and help you solve the world's grand challenges to create a world of Abundance. I'm going to write this book and share it with you every week through a series of blog posts. Each step of the way, I'll ask for your input and feedback. Top contributors will be credited within the book as a special "thank you," and all contributors will be recognized on the forthcoming BOLD book website. To ensure you never miss a message, sign up for my newsletter here.

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