How does a young college entrepreneur with a great idea make his dream come true with no real computer skills or a big bank account? For Brian Stewart, the answer was turning to Freelancer.com.
Freelancer.com, according to Matt Barrie, CEO, is the largest online outsourcing Web site. “We bring outsourcing down to the consumer level. It’s micro outsourcing,” says Barrie. At last count 2.3 million people – from the Vatican to Antarctica – have hired one of its 2.1 million professionals for jobs that he says cost as much as one-tenth of the cost of a western provider. Some jobs cost as little as $30, he reports, although the average assignment bills at $200.
Stewart, the founder of MoonLava LLC, a Miami, Florida-based travel company, says originally he “never anticipated making any real money with his site, www.bookme.com. It was just fun,” he says.
Living Johnny Paycheck’s dream: how Stewart quit his day job
Stewart, now 29, was an undergraduate at the University of Miami when he came up with the idea for his Web site. He felt the big travel sites made navigation too difficult if you wanted to book more than one item at a time. Bookme.com aggregates bookings for travel, sporting events and concerts. Bookme does the same thing as Google, Stewart explains, “but it’s more concise. Our searches only meet your specific criteria.”
After he got his BA, he went on to law school. Freelancer.com engineers wrote the basic code for the initial Web site, which went live in 2008. It generated $100 a day. “That was great money for a law student,” he says.
He landed a job as a commercial litigator at a well-known Florida law firm that year. It took him just 12 months to realize the law wasn’t for him.
In September 2009 he went back to Freelancer.com and hired a person to create an iPhone app for his Web site. He paid $1,000.That was after he did a Google search and couldn’t find anyone stateside who would write his app for less than $15,000.
He submitted his app to Apple. The first day it appeared in the app store he made $150. The second day he made $200. Then he used Freelancer.com to develop an Android app. Its revenue matched the iPhone monies. An iPad app was next. “I spent a total of $5,000 on my apps. If I had hired an American engineer, it would have cost me at least $75,000,” he says. “I didn’t have that kind of money.”
In October 2010 Stewart could afford to quit the legal job and become an online entrepreneur. “I would still have a boring day job if it weren’t for Freelancer.com!” he says.
How Freelancer.com works
Barrie says there are over 360 different job categories on Freelancer.com, ranging from content to mechanical engineering. The CEO says sometimes as many as 80 people bid on one job. “We want to become the eBay of outsourcing,” he explains.
Half of the job bookings from the U.S. and the U.K. go to India or Bangladesh. In 2010 Freelancer.com paid $1 million to an Indian Web designer; the average cost of his Web sites was $65.
A majority of the site’s users are like Stewart, ranging from the very small to medium-sized businesses. However, the CEO says large corporations also use the site to fill niche requirements that their large outsourcing service providers can’t or won’t. Or, “they outsource the grunt work to us,” he reports.
Freelancer.com holds outsourcing buyers’ pay in escrow until they are completely satisfied with the final product, reports Barrie. There are few if any disputes because the service provider doesn’t release the funds without the buyer’s approval.
Freelancer.com, which started in Sydney, Australia, works because the global labor market is “disruptive,” according to Barrie. He says, today, 70 percent of the world’s population has Internet access. “Outside the western world, the average daily wage is $10 or less.” The virtual world is just reflecting the real world, he continues.
Barrie believes this new world of labor makes the current economy “a great time to start a business.” Using freelancers lowers the start-up costs because there are few if any full-time employees. Labor rates are low, “you just have to have a crazy idea, then outsource the rest,” he concludes.