In episode nine of the HomeWorkingClub podcast, we were honoured to have the pleasure of interviewing Matt Barrie, the CEO of leading freelance marketplace Freelancer.com.
In this wide-ranging discussion we address how aspiring freelancers can get started in the world of online freelancing, how huge businesses can start from tiny investments, and what the workplace “new normal” might look like in a “post Coronavirus” world.
We tackle many other issues too – listen and enjoy, or make use of the full transcript below if reading is your preference.
Included in this podcast:
- An introduction to Matt Barrie and Freelancer.com (0:32)
- How to get your first freelance job (10:39)
- Why the freelancing world is only just getting started (16:00)
- How one freelancer built a huge business from voiceovers (18:57)
- What’s the first thing a new freelancer should do (21:40)
- What will the “new normal” look like? (27:25)
- Summing up (33:15)
Supplementary Links and Information
- Find Freelancer.com here.
- Our article on freelancing trends for 2020.
- A bumper roundup of tips for freelancers.
- A review of Virtual Vocations.
Some repeated words and unclear parts have been edited to enhance readability.
ALEX: Welcome to the HomeWorkingClub podcast I’m Alex with, as ever, Ben.
ALEX: It’s a very special HomeWorkingClub podcast today because we have a guest, and not just any guest… it’s Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, joining us all the way from Australia. Hi, Matt.
MATT: Thanks for having me.
ALEX: Fantastic. This is a bit of a new one for us, recording, as we did in the last podcast, over Zoom. But actually, having a guest so far away is an exciting one for us as well.
I’m going to do a little intro to Matt for those who aren’t familiar with him. Matt founded Freelancer.com in 2009. He was previously in network security and a venture capitalist, and in 2012 was named one of LinkedIn’s 150 worldwide influencers, alongside the likes of Barack Obama and Richard Branson.
As well as being an incredibly successful businessman, he is currently helping to coordinate supplies during the Coronavirus crisis in Australia and as well in New Zealand and Canada, I understand.
So, on a personal note Matt, how are you doing?
MATT: Very hectic here right now. Obviously, the world’s not in a very good place at this point in time with what’s going on with the Coronavirus. But other than trying to coordinate a bunch of donated masks and so forth going out to frontline workers, trying to deal with my day job.
ALEX: I suspect dealing with your day job and dealing with the other stuff is slightly more intense than it will be for a lot of our listeners. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
MATT: Well, the problem is that every business in the world now is forced to work online, so Freelancer is going gangbusters. At the same time, this other stuff is going gangbusters. So I’ve got two-and-a-half jobs at the moment.
ALEX: We talked about famine or feast in freelancing another time. And actually, it’s really interesting that it seems like you’ve got sort of feast and feast when you could do with a little bit of downtime maybe.
MATT: Yeah, it’s actually quite funny. I’m actually working with a bunch of CEOs. Some of the CEOs I’m working with their businesses, actually, have zeroed because they’ve got franchises, for example…a friend of mine who’s got a franchise with beauty and all her beauty shops around the place have been shut because the shopping centres are closed and we’re in lockdown.
And so she actually has time off. And, you know, I actually have two jobs running at the moment, at the same time.
One of her staff members remarked to her and said… because she’s helping me out with the sourcing effort… she said, “God, Kylie, you’ve got this perfect opportunity for a holiday and if you spend your entire time just sourcing stuff for the government for free, I’m going to wring your neck!”
She said, “This is the first time I’ve had spare time since I’ve had a child to actually not do anything because my business, literally, is closed and what am I doing? I’m doing this pro bono kind of helping sourcing equipment.” So anyway, it’s interesting.
ALEX: Well, I think that’s the nature of a lot of business people, isn’t it? If they can’t find anything to bring the money in then they find ways to get active in other things. Which is useful in a situation like this is.
So, before we actually go back into the global situation, which I’m very euphemistically referring to…We have a tradition on the podcast where Ben pretends I’m an idiot and explains to me the subject of the day.
So Matt, if you would like to be the guest today doing that… pretend I’m an idiot and explain to me Freelancer.com.
MATT: Okay, so I run Freelancer.com, which is the world’s largest online crowdsourcing and freelancing site by number of users and number of projects posted. So you can think of it like eBay for jobs.
This is a site you can go to and if you’ve got something that you want someone to do for you, you can go to the website, sign up for free, post a job and then within 60 seconds, on average, 80% of jobs get bid on. So people around the world put their bids in.
You can talk to people, you can ask them about their portfolio, their experience, ask for samples. Then you can hire them to do any job you can think of.
This is project work or freelance work. It’s in over 1,600 different categories. So things like build me a website, design for me a logo, copywriting, data entry… right through to sophisticated jobs like aerospace engineering, astrophysics, genetic engineering by technology… and right down to local services like paint a wall for me, lay some carpet, walk my dog, whatever it may be. So any job you can possibly think of.
And, on the other side of the equation, if you are looking for work, you can jump on the website for free, you can bid on jobs. If you are offered a job and you decide you want to take it, we charge you a 10% commission for the work being done.
ALEX: Right. Fantastic. That was very effective. I think I now completely understand.
Is there anything… a lot of our listeners will be on the freelancer end of it, rather than people with jobs to put on there, in most cases….Is there anything, since we’ve got you here, any particular tips or anything that you would advise people, perhaps if they’re going on for the first time, to do?
MATT: Well, if you’re a freelancer, it is the opportunity of a lifetime now because every single company in the world is forced to work online. Like forced to! I mean this is the great freelancing experiment, right?
Whether you like it or not, everyone has to work from home and you have to work online. So it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Organisations will change permanently after this. If this lasts six months or twelve months or even three months, if you’re really optimistic about this situation…which I don’t think is going to be the case. Organisations will not go back to how they were before.
People will have experience working from home, they’ll have the tools and systems to work from home, whether it’s a small business or a large enterprise. So, in the future, you’re not going to have, “Okay everyone, back to the office for you.” You’re going to have some part of the workforce having a more flexible arrangement.
So, as a result of this, the opportunity for a freelancer is better than ever. In fact, freelancing actually thrives in situations where there’s a crisis. The thing that set the whole industry alight was the global financial crisis.
Basically, you had a lot of companies looking at alternative ways for hiring people. You had a lot of people out of work who were not just looking for jobs but that also had side projects.
In America, in particular, the big thing was a lot of people going, “You know, I’ve got some time off now between my job that I had before… maybe in finance. I’ll get a job again, but I’m not in a rush to do it. So let’s work on those side projects.
I need to build a website for my kid’s soccer team, or I want to build an e-commerce store for my wife’s shoe shop, or whatever it may be.” So this is where all the activity, you know, really, really blossomed online. And this is going to be that times 10 with what’s happening with Corona.
So, really, this is a chance to try it and get on there. There is a huge number of companies now going to the internet, sourcing all types of skill sets.
The great thing about freelancing is you get to kind of create your own architecture and career.
So, you know, if you think about my grandfather, my grandfather would start a career and he would stay in that career his entire life until he retired. And that was it. And then my father, you know, he would have a career, maybe for 20 years. That’s exactly what my dad did. He had a career for 20 years working for someone, and these last 20 years, really, of his career was working for himself in his own business.
You know, I’m Gen X so I think you have got to stay maybe 5 or 10 years in a job. Yeah, Gen Y maybe one or two years. Millennials, I don’t know… six months?!
ALEX: They don’t want a job at all, do they?!
MATT: No. They don’t want a job at all, actually.
ALEX: And who can blame them?
MATT: Exactly. Is there a generation after millennial? Now, I’m not sure. I’m showing my age here, actually.
ALEX: Funny enough. They’re talking that they might… they’re starting to call it Generation C. Which actually the effect of the Coronavirus is those coming into the world of work around now.
And actually, we’ll get onto that in a bit, as you were already saying… the new normal is going to change the way that people look at work and the way that people do things. Which I think, you’re quite right, will have a massive effect on the freelancing world.
MATT: I guess, if this Corona goes on for a few years, Gen C will find it weird to actually work in an office. Because all they’ve known is working online.
My point is… the average job on Freelancer is about two weeks or so. So the great thing about this is it gives you a lot of flexibility.
Rather than doing the same thing day in, day out, you can say, “You know what? I’m going to do some copywriting for two weeks and then I’ll maybe do some musical composition for a couple of weeks because I’ve got some talent there. Then, you know what? I went to university and during university I did accounting, so maybe I’ll do some accounting work for a little bit to keep my skills a bit current et cetera.”
You could kind of create your own job rather than take a job. Which is super interesting!
I mean, it is the ultimate flexibility. I mean, on Freelancer.com you set your own rates, you work whenever you want to work, you work with whatever the tools are that you want to work, wherever you want to work.
People send in photos all the time of working all around the world being sort of digital nomads… Although that’s a lot harder nowadays to do unless you’ve gone to the farm or a friend’s farm or something rather than the big cities. But it’s the ultimate flexibility. I mean, you decide what you want to work on, your pay rates and so forth.
It’s great for a lot of people who… maybe they’ve retired and they still want to earn a bit of income or work one or two days a week to keep everything from getting a bit rusty. So that’s really flexible. It’s great for people who have kids and want to basically look after the kids at home. It’s great for people who want to tiptoe into a new job.
So let’s say by day you’re an accountant and you find it quite boring, but you want to become something else, you want to maybe be a designer. But you’re learning, right?
So rather than just quitting your job and taking the big plunge and the risk and maybe your skills aren’t so developed, you can work on a small job to start off with. Tiptoe into it and see if you like it, see if you’ve got any talent for it, and see if you can build a client base. So it’s the ultimate in flexibility.
ALEX: Fantastic. Ben, have you got anything to add? Have you found the situation famine or feast at the moment? To use one of our favourite phrases.
BEN: Well, I have to say, funnily enough, it’s the first of the month as we’re recording this, and my wife and I both did our monthly numbers because, as well as running the site, I also work as a freelancer myself, as does my wife.
My wife’s had her best March ever… which seems very strange, we were very surprised. I think, obviously, it depends a lot on what industry you’re in, but I think certain people are managing to thrive despite this dreadful situation we find ourselves in.
The one thing I was just going to address to Matt was something I hear an awful lot from people in my group and on my email list. Which is how to actually get off the starting blocks on freelance job boards. Just how to nail that very first job. Are there any tips, Matt, that you would give them?
MATT: Yes. I mean, to be honest, the hardest job you’ll ever have as a freelancer is your first job because you’ve got no reputation built up on the platforms, you’re new to the whole thing, you’re trying to figure out how it all works, you probably not sure how to price yourself, all that sort of stuff.
The tip… the biggest tip is: number one, fill in your profile in a lot of detail. So, you know, make sure it looks great.
Make sure you put in all your work history, samples of your work, if you’ve got any sort of portfolio at all put it in, et cetera. So make sure, number one, that you look great on the website, right? I mean, if you’re going to not upload your photo or not fill in your description or what have you, then people won’t give you as much of the time of day as if you’ve got a great looking persona, right?
The next thing you need to do is: when you’re bidding on projects, you’ve got to be as detailed as possible when you put your proposal in. So, address what the job is, ask questions, engage, talk about how your skills and experience are relevant, maybe break down what you think is required in your own words.
Really try and stand out from everyone else. Because what you are going to realise is the power freelancers… the edge you have being a newbie is that the power freelancers get a bit lazy. So they are the ones that basically cut paste, cut paste, cut paste.
They don’t take the time to bid on the jobs properly because they’ve got such a big profile and they appear high in the listings and the rankings and what have you that people go, “Okay, great. Good reputation, good rating. I’m just going to hire them.”
So you do have an opportunity to really stand out if you take the time to really craft a great proposal and really engage the person who placed the job. So there are some key things you can do.
Other things you can do: we have a range of certifications on the website. So if you’ve got some skills that you want to prove up, you can do these exams. You get little badges in your profile and they’ll make you stand out.
Another is to go through all the trust factors. So, we will light up little icons in your profile when you verify your email, when you verify your phone number, you verify payment method. Your profile’s been checked. You’ve sent your identity documents in to KYC et cetera. And these things just light up all the trust lights. And the more you have of them, the more people will trust you on the system.
So, that’s the base. And then if employers or job posters do start engaging with you, make sure you’re responsive. Make sure you get back to them quickly. Make sure you answer their questions. Make sure you go over and above.
You need to have something extra in today’s world. I think Tom Friedman says the world today is hyper-connected, and you need to be, you know… the days of being average over, you need to stand out. I think Tom Friedman talks about in his book… even if you’re a waitress at a coffee shop, right, you can just be delightful in your smile, you could be really engaging with your conversation and really give a lasting impression.
In any job that you could possibly have, you can stand out in some way! That’s a goal. You don’t want to be average because the days of being average are over.
ALEX: I absolutely love that. The days of being average are over.
We’ve talked about this before in terms of tips for applying for jobs and I think it always comes back to that kind of thing that applying for freelance jobs, applying for stuff online… it’s no different to applying for a job face-to-face.
These are real people who want work done and they want to know that a) you’re going to do the job well, and b) you kind of want to work with them or work for them.
BEN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ve been giving advice on a lot of everything that Matt said. It’s just so nice to hear someone else say this because I’ve been writing so many articles about this over the years.
Having hired on freelance platforms as well as worked on freelance platforms, I don’t think it’s wrong to say an awful lot of people don’t do the things that Matt’s recommending.
When I’ve posted jobs… I do get some absolutely dreadful applications. When you stand out, you really do stand out!
MATT: Absolutely. I mean, that’s the other thing. I mean, on Freelancer we make the proposals public so that everyone can see them and you can kind of see what other people are saying. And if everyone on a particular project is being pretty slack in actually being engaging it can be relatively easy to stand out.
As I said before, the power freelancers…they get a bit lazy over time because they’re winning projects all day, every day and so they don’t take the time that you will take as someone fresh out starting.
ALEX: It’s interesting, isn’t it? We looked at some global trends recently before the Coronavirus hit and it’s been fairly positive for the world of freelancing, as I’m sure you’re aware.
What comes with that is you’ve got some particularly popular areas of work and it starts to become a bit of a buyer’s market in one sense or another. But actually, it’s always that point of…if there’s more work there and that’s the area that your skills are in, then you have to stand out. You have to become better. But why wouldn’t you want to be better? You know?
MATT: Yeah. I mean, the world of freelancing has only just begun. I mean, if you think about it… you know, you think about the largest companies in the world and they’re global market places for products, a lot of them.
Right? So your Amazons, your Alibabas, your eBays, what have you. That’s because back in 1994-1995, that’s when in the Western world the internet hit in a big way.
So ’94 was the year the geeks had email addresses. ’95 was the year your grandmother had an email address. People went online and, being very consumer-driven economies, that led to the emergence of commerce and people buying and selling products online.
Now services is delayed, right? It’s delayed a decade or so because of a few things. One thing is that the internet wasn’t good enough. Back in 1999, you couldn’t actually transfer the files backwards and forwards if you were a designer and you’re trying to send the graphics files. It took forever to load.
You would need to go meet people in a cafe anyway to give them the CD-ROMs et cetera. Now we’ve got the tools, we’ve got the software, et cetera. And so it is delayed… because the internet has really caught up.
The other thing is that services are a lot more subjective, right? It’s easier to sell a book. You know how many pages are in a book. You know what a book should look like. You can verify the quality et cetera. You know, if you design for someone a website it’s a lot more complicated service to deliver.
Is it a $500 website? Is it a $50,000 website? You know…I like it, your girlfriend hates it, your mom likes it, the tech guy says he doesn’t like the technology. It’s a lot more complicated to deliver.
But, you know, the services space is bigger than the product space. And so, give it a number of years and you’re going to have big market places with the volumes going through them that you are seeing on Amazon’s, you’re seeing on Alibaba’s, and so forth. Right? So the whole industry of freelancing has only just begun.
What that means is…you could have the most niche skillset that you’re interested in. Right. You could be in the most remote rural area. Right. And before you had to go work in, I don’t know, a timber mill, or coal mine, or whatever was in the local area. But now you can work in very, very, very niche specialised areas because the jobs kind of come to you.
When you sign up and you fill your profile in and select which skills you’re interested in…you know, as the jobs come in they will match to those, and we’ll just send you them daily. And we have 10,000 jobs a day being posted.
And so you can, increasingly over time, have more and more niche things you’re interested in. And the jobs just come to you.
So that actually helps you as a service provider. Because half of the time when you are a service provider you are chasing work. Which just doesn’t earn you any money. And the other half of the time you’re doing the work, which makes you the money.
The other problem you have as a service provider is that as you get good and you build your client base up and you get really, really busy…every service provider knows that the second you turn away a customer or client, you won’t see them again.
Say you’re a designer and you get really, really busy and someone comes along and you can’t do the work. They’ll go find someone else and then they’ll start using them and they won’t come back in a hurry.
The good thing about freelancing in these platforms is you can build up your client base and you could get a bit too busy…you can start to go “Here are the things I’m really interested in. The bread and butter stuff I’m not so interested in. I can hire another freelancer and get them to do the job for me.” So you can actually just sub the work out. So it becomes quite flexible in that regard.
There are some wonderful stories about people who have started off…there’s one of a lady who is a voiceover talent person who had a child and was forced to be at home due to health issues and she started doing voice overs. And then she got really popular. And then she built her profile up.
And then people started asking her, “Can you do male voices?” She actually goes, “I know these freelancers who are male who can do these different voices, who I’ve met over the years from doing the work. I can take the job on and I’ll get you good people.”
So then she built that up and then she started a company. And then she went through the transition from being a freelancer to an employer. And so she started the Great British Voiceover Company. In fact, when the London Olympic Games came along, she was contracted to be the voice of the London Olympic Games.
So she actually built a business starting off as just a freelancer on day one.
ALEX: That’s incredible. I shall have to look her up, actually.
I’m really interested by this, and I think we’ll get on to the new normal towards the end… but it just made me think, actually, in terms of one of my favourite quotes, by a guy called Tom Goodwin who said, “The world’s largest media company, Facebook, doesn’t create any ads. The world’s largest retailer, Alibaba, doesn’t hold any stock. The world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, doesn’t own any property.” You could even say things like Uber don’t own any cars… or they sort of do these days.
I just think it is really interesting thinking about that shift that people have been looking at from products to services. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I think that’s absolutely fascinating. You’re quite right. That free movement of talent is going to be huge.
MATT: That’s right. Mary Meeker publishes an Internet Trends Report. She talks about a lot of this as well. She’s got a very detailed report, she publishes once a year, where she just goes through and shares about all these companies.
The largest telephone company in the world is a software company. The largest bookstore in the world is a software company. The largest retailer was a software company, et cetera, et cetera.
I mean, in some ways Freelancer… if you buy the thesis, you know the Marc Andreessen thesis that software is eating the world and every industry is becoming a software company… I mean, Freelancer is the very, very early days of (being one of the first online) countries in the world.
We have a GDP. We have employers and workers. We have a rudimentary financial system. Rudimentary legal system… we have dispute resolution, arbitration, et cetera. So it’s really the emergence of countries online. That’s how I see it.
ALEX: We have gone a lot deeper on this podcast than we do normally. Ben, have you got anything you can add to that?
BEN: No, I’m actually just quite awed and inspired by it all. No. I won’t interfere any further, I’ll leave you to carry on.
ALEX: Basically, just before we get into… and I really want to go back into this idea of how we’re going to emerge and end on a positive… but I just think in terms of freelancing advice at the minute. Just to give you a hypothetical situation.
There’s somebody at home. They’re working from home. Perhaps they’ve been furloughed, they’re there. What do you think is the absolute first thing they should do if they’re looking around the world and your incredibly positive view of it? What’s the first thing that somebody needs to do right now to try and take control of the situation?
MATT: First thing, have a little bit of a break and decompress. Everyone is going through a pretty stressful time at the moment. So you know, if you want to decompress a little bit, take a week or two off to kind of just to relax. I would say, is a starting point. I think, over the next few months it’s going to get quite stressful.
Then, I think, if you want to start working online there are two ways you can approach this. Right? Even if you have very little in the way of resources. You don’t have to just use these platforms to be a freelancer and get jobs.
Very inexpensively you can also start businesses. There’s always, like phenomenal stories about companies that started literally with nothing in a weekend and built up to billion-dollar businesses.
You know, there’s an example of a coupon site, which is RetailMeNot. These guys… it’s just a website with coupons online. And they started with $30 and a weekend. Right? They just jumped on a freelance platform and with $30 they built a basic website, had a list of coupons for finding discounts online.
The company, literally $30 and a weekend, grew over time into this huge phenomenon and then actually sold to a venture capitalist, Austin Ventures. Who then IPOed it and now it’s a multi-billion dollar company. I’m going to look up the market cap right now. The ticker is SALE.
ALEX: We’ve got a lot of research for Ben to do for the show notes on the back of this.
MATT: Right… for billions of dollars… I’m pulling it up right now…
ALEX: That’s all right, we’ll have a look. Ben will go back through this. He’ll put it all in the show notes.
I’ve just absolutely hung him our to dry there!
BEN: I was already starting to think I’ve got a lot of show notes to do. So no worries, it’s all good.
MATT: Yeah. I mean, there’s never been a better time to start a business, right? You think about it. Every business in the world is now a software business or an internet business. Everyone in the world is forced to work online or buy and sell things through the internet and distribute their products and services through the internet.
If you look through the history of distribution of products and services to the world, you know, it would take… I don’t know how many years… it was like a hundred years, I think, for 50% of the population to get the telephone. And then, over time, you go through TV and washing machines and whatever. It gets faster and faster and faster to get 50% of the world’s population to adopt a product.
And now these companies start from nowhere, and if you’ve got a great product or service you can make a billion dollars in a year. Right? I mean, you look at the Facebooks, and the Groupons, and all those companies, and the Ubers, and how fast they can grow.
The great thing is that all the tools you need to build these things are either free or very cheap. So you’ve got all this open-source software out there, which is free. We can build businesses and the stuff that you need to pay for is very inexpensive.
Like, a payment system like PayPal is very inexpensive. Hosting is very inexpensive, right? And even if you don’t know how to put any of this stuff together, you could hire freelancers very inexpensively, right?
ALEX: Is there a website you’d recommend if you wanted to hire freelancers?!
MATT: I have heard of one. It is called Freelancer.com!
ALEX: All right. Okay, yeah.
MATT: So you can think about from two perspectives. One perspective is: what sort of business can I start today? For $500 or whatever it may be, or even $50. There are plenty of businesses that you can start with very small amounts of money. Get them going.
You could build like a Shopify store, for example, and maybe dropship a product from someone else, that supplies the product, and so you don’t actually have to touch any of the goods. You just basically build a website that people go to to get…
ALEX: Which is very useful at the moment.
MATT: Yeah, and then get someone else to do all the fulfilment. And all you’re doing is acting in the middle, right? Things like that, you can start.
Or you can use your talents. You fill in a profile, upload your portfolio, get out there, and start freelancing in any skill area you can possibly think of.
And you know what? Maybe, if you’re actually out of work, you can go, “You know what, I want to do something different. I don’t want to do the same job I did before. So, maybe for a few months, let’s try something new.” Right? You could do that. So it’s all out there now, the opportunity is there.
ALEX: I think that’s absolutely fantastic. You know what? There’s so much negative going around at the minute but talking to you and actually seeing… you know, as a successful businessman yourself, you’re always going to be attuned to opportunity and where you can go. And I think that’s absolutely fascinating!
That whereas you might look at “Oh, everybody’s online, everybody’s going to be freelancing”… It’s like: “Well, no.” That means that everybody’s online. And that means all your customers are going to be more able to access whatever it is that you do as well, I suppose.
MATT: They’re not just online. They’re forced to work online. They have to do it.
If you’re a business now, how are you going to hire someone in the traditional sense? You’re not going to have people turn up to interview because no one’s in the office. They’re all working from home. You are not going to have someone knock on your door to come for an interview.
In fact in some countries, like mine, it’s illegal to have a gathering of more than two people. Right? So you have to hire them online.
All businesses have to hire people through the internet and work with people through the internet. I mean, this is the great forced freelancing experiment, right? It is! You have to do it this way!
ALEX: Love it. So go on… I’m going to get you to get your crystal ball out for this. I was chatting to someone the other day and I was saying, “Do you think handshaking will ever make a comeback after this?” Because, obviously, all you see is touching elbows.
What do you think is going to stay in the new normal on the back of the Coronavirus crisis?
MATT: Well, I mean, as I said at the very beginning… I think that, after the current virus is over, organisations will never go back to how they were before, just like after the GFC they never went back to how they were before.
In the fact that a lot of the tools, the infrastructure and processes and comfort of having a more flexible working arrangement…it’s going to persist. A lot of people are going to go stir crazy…
It is actually quite funny. I run these global town halls every weekend, so I link up with all the offices around the world. We’ve got nine offices. We link up with the ones that are in the right time zones. I get up there and I say, “Ask me any question you want on any topic you want and I’ll answer it.”
So sometimes they ask me about work, sometimes they ask about macroeconomics, but every week for the last couple of months, before Coronavirus, I got: “Can we work from home? When can we work from home? How often can we work from home? Can we work three days a week in the office? Four days a week in the office? Two days a week in the office?” Every week!
And as we got closer to Corona, because I was actually following this quite early on, I said, “Be careful what you wish for because you may be forced to work from home soon.” Right? And it’s actually quite funny. I mean, some people love it. But some of the people who were most vocal for like, “Gee, I want to work from home” are now saying “I’m going stir crazy working from home. I want to go back to the office.”
I think, when it’s over, organisations are going to be a lot more flexible and they are going to have all the infrastructure to be able to do that.
For example, we have an enterprise product that we’re deploying in a very, very large Fortune 500 which allows organisations to 1) Hire each other… So if you’re a large company, like a Coca-Cola for example, Coca-Cola staff can hire Coca-Cola staff; 2) Hire freelancers.
I just think that all this infrastructure is going to be out there. All the communications tools are going to be out there. Obviously, Zoom is growing its bandwidth to be able to deal with everyone using the conferencing tool. People will be used to it and the longer this goes on, the longer they’re going to be used to it.
Yeah, when it’s over a lot of people will be like, “Wow, thank God I can go back to the office.” But there’s going to be more flexible arrangements and there’s going to be much more acceptance to hire people over the internet. People will be a lot more used to it.
I mean, the thing about using Freelancer.com is…if you’ve never tried it before to hire someone, just try it once. It’s free to do so as you’re posting a job, et cetera. You only pay some money, 3% on the employer’s side, if you hire someone and they accept it.
So there’s no risk in just giving it a go and posting a project and seeing what happens. But once you try it… the light bulb goes off. I mean, it is the most eureka moment, where it’s like, “Oh my God, I can now get…”
You know, as a frustrated entrepreneur… everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. I read this survey… 60% of you want to be an entrepreneur, 5% of you actually do it. Right? But you know, once you realise “Oh, wow, it’s not so hard anymore because all these people I wanted to hire… because I can’t do design and I can’t do programming… I can now. And I can find them from all around the world…”
It tends to be quite cost-efficient because you only pay on demand, you only pay for people as you use them. As opposed to the old model, where I have to put someone on a full-time payroll and I can’t afford to do that if I’m a small business because I don’t have enough work for them. I’ve only got a bit of piecemeal work here or there.
The light bulb will go off! I just think that more businesses will try out working online and they’ll love it, they’ll adapt to it. And then when we go back…yeah, everyone will want to get out of the house and want to get back into the office and what have you… in some ways. But this deal is going to be permanent, in some respect, in terms of the volume of work that’s going to be going through the internet now.
ALEX: I mean, it’s almost superfluous for me to say I agree with you completely Matt because that seems to be the tone of the entire podcast. But I think you’re absolutely right there.
There are so many people now, you know… helping my mother-in-law get onto Zoom and various different things like that. It’s just going to become, as you say, completely the new normal and people will be used to it.
And those questions to businesses, I’ve already heard this…The number of people who are saying, “Oh no, it’s not possible to work from home, you need to be in the office.” I think even a month in… in some cases or, you know, for friends in Hong Kong it’s been nearly three months now…it’s just absolutely been proven that there’s no need to be in the same space all the time in order to work effectively together.
MATT: Correct. There are pros and cons in both environments. There’s also pros and cons of actually getting out of the house and working in a coffee shop or in a pub or whatever as well. Right?
They all have their advantages, they all have their disadvantages. And I just think that people are going to now know more of what the pros and cons of each of the different work environments are. And it’s not going to be a case of 9 to 5 in the office every day once this is over.
ALEX: Yeah. You used the word flexible earlier on and I think that’s something that comes up in almost every podcast we do. We’re going to be in a much more flexible world, hopefully, on the back of this.
I’d never really factored that freelancing had taken a boost after the global financial crisis. But of course it did. And I think the thing is, every great crisis in history… you look at it… there are some unintended consequences that play out for many years to come.
I think it’s going to be fascinating to see where… I think you’re quite right, freelancing is going to be one of the areas that take a huge boost from it.
Ben, you’ve been very quiet for a while. It’s most unlike you.
BEN: Yes, I know. It’s quite relaxing, as well. But no, it’s been an absolutely fascinating discussion. The last point did make me think.
I think there’s going to be people who have found themselves, as you say, furloughed or completely, sadly, out of work who may start to dabble in freelancing now and actually find in three or six months that, “You know what? I like this! I’m going to carry on doing it even if the chance of a traditional job is back on the table.”
And I think maybe a lot of people who kind of distantly had a dream of doing it have now been forced into realising that dream. And I hope there’ll be some lovely stories around that in the months to come.
ALEX: Good stuff. I have a little note here that says I need to sum up the entire podcast, and this might be the most difficult… this is the challenge for me. Ben, you’ve got to do all the research. I’ve got to do this.
Matt, is there anything that you wanted to add right before I sum up?
MATT: I could talk for eight hours about any topic at all. So I’ll let you sum up.
ALEX: I think that, absolutely, as we’ve just been talking…that when the Coronavirus crisis is over and it comes to an end and we all emerge blinking into the sunlight, then we will be in a new normal. We will be in a world where everybody will have worked from home for a while.
People will have looked at their career options. The effect won’t be “I can carry on doing the same job from my home office.” It will be, exactly as Matt said, careers will change. You can do two or three different jobs.
As Matt said…the positivity out of this… Now is the time to start that business. Now is the time to look at that side hustle and see if you can turn it into the billion-dollar company from your garage. Now is the time to actually start looking at what your skills are and seeing if you can branch out. Because I think the world that we’re going to be in, on the back of this, is going to be a world where the opportunities will grow.
Finally, the other thing, of course, is…I think it would only be fair to say Matt’s been brilliant in giving us his time and inspiration to this as well…that a great place to start with that is probably Freelancer.com.
If you are going to go there, then just take those tips. Which are: make sure that you fill in plenty of detail, make sure that you’re really engaging and active when you’re looking for stuff. And also, just as it would be in any other world of work, make sure that you stand out, make sure you engage, make sure that you’re better than the other person going for the job.
Have I missed anything there, gentlemen?
BEN: No. It’s a good summing up.
MATT: Yeah. Adversity breeds opportunity. The last thing you want to do is come out of this Coronavirus great debacle and all you’ve done is watch Netflix. Now is the time to get to work and do something.
ALEX: That being said, I am getting a new TV delivered today, so…
MATT: Oh, here we go.
ALEX: It’s been an absolute pleasure! Matt, thank you so much! I genuinely… I know it’s not morning where you are, but this has started my day off brilliantly. I’m feeling properly energised. I’m going to have a look around and see where I’m going to make my first billion today.
BEN: Thank you very much, Matt.
MATT: Thank you. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
ALEX: Oh brilliant, brilliant. I hope everybody’s enjoyed this as much as I have.
Please do like, subscribe, review the podcast and…absolutely let us know what you think! Let us know what you think is going to come out of this. Continue the conversation.
Ben, how can they get in touch?
BEN: The best way is via email.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.