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Filipinos propel freelance economy

The world’s leading freelancing marketplace has its biggest global office in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, where 400 Filipinos occupy two floors of the swanky Ecotower Building.

Filipinos propel freelance economy
Freelancer International Pty. Ltd. vice president for international operations Sebastian Siseles
While Freelancer Limited is headquartered in Sydney, the Philippine office plays a key role in the global expansion of the Australian company which connects employers and more than 30 million freelancers, according to one of its top executives.

“We have seven offices worldwide: Sydney, Manila, Jakarta, London, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and Vancouver. The Manila office is the largest one, even larger than the Sydney headquarters.  We have roughly around 400 people here who are customer service professionals, account managers, engineers, product managers, designers and whose average age is 25.  They work for the global marketplace. The Manila office is key to us,” Sebastian Siseles, vice president for international operations of Freelancer International Pty. Ltd., says in an interview.

“The Philippines is in a strategic position in the world map, because of its good time zone and the people here speak two or three languages including English,” he says.

Founded in 2009, Freelancer.com directly employs 550 people around the world who facilitate the transactions of more than 30 million users, including 1.1 million freelancers in the Philippines.

The Philippines is also the fourth largest market of Freelancer.com, next to India, the United States, and Pakistan.  

It is changing the way people work, allowing them to work at home for projects assigned by companies and individual employers from different countries, especially the US, India, Australia and the UK.

“The platform is growing dramatically.  In 2015, we celebrated our 15 million users.  Now, we have almost 31 million users.  We doubled it in less than three years.  It is growing like crazy because of connectivity and millennials joining the workforce,” says Siseles, who is from Argentina.

Siseles says Freelancer.com is different from other job listing sites because all the transactions happen on the platform, including job postings, the bidding by freelancers, the awarding and the payment.

“Once the employer awards a job to a specific freelancer, everything continues to be in our website—from communication, video chat, delivery of the service and the payment for such service.  It is made through our website.  I would like to call it Internet 3.0 because it offers a different way of working,” he says.

Siseles says both companies and freelancers get a lot of benefits from the platform.  “For companies, they can access 30 million world-class talents without restrictions of geography, language, boundaries.  If you need something now, you can just post it today and tomorrow you can see on your Freelancer account hundreds of offers from people all around the world saying I can do this job for you,” he says.

“By freelancing these jobs, the company can focus on its core business.  If you are a technology company or a bank, you can leave the website, the logo design, the content of your website to others.  For the collateral things, you can just go hire freelancers,” he says. 

“For sure, you can get more competitive prices.  It does not mean you are paying less to freelancers.  We are not prejudicing the job market.  What we are doing is we put together the employers with the workers without middlemen or intermediaries,” he says.

“In terms of freelancers, there is a bunch of benefits. The minimum wage here in the Philippines is between $150 and $200 a month, while our average project or job that can take you from four hours to two days, is $196. Just imagine if you are a great designer and you have a good profile and reputation within our marketplace, you can be doing 10, 15, 20 logo designs for an average of $196 each.  You can earn good money,” says Siseles.

He says freelancers have the opportunity to access on average 10,000 new job orders a day.  “Since we launched our services in 2009 until now, they posted around 14 million jobs with the combined price of $3 billion.  This is a huge economy,” he says.

“Freelancers have the opportunity to access new jobs and be hired by companies from any other country in the world.  Why do you need to be exposed to only one territory?  You can be exposed to many others.  So if one economy goes down, you still have opportunities because you are exposed to companies in other parts of the world,” he says.

Siseles says Freelancer also allows individuals to work at their own pace.  “You decide when to work, for whom and from where.  You don’t need to go to an office.  You can do it from your house, from your garage, from coffee shop, while travelling to Palawan or while you are going around the world,” he says.

Siseles believes that on-demand work is the future of the job market.  “Forbes magazine said that by 2027, the largest portion of workers will be freelancers. Why is this happening? First is connectivity.  People are connecting at a very fast rate.  Second, the millennials are joining the workforce.  This job market is disrupting the classic way of working, thanks to the millennials.  So connectivity and millennials joining the workforce are the two biggest things that are disrupting the job market,” he says.

“In Freelancer.com, you can find 1,000 different jobs.  If we have to group them, I would say the number one is IT such as website development, app development, programming, etc.  No. 2 would be designed, and within design, you have banner design, logo design, graphic design, industrial design, 3D modelling.  The other is marketing and communications such as copywriting, book writing, article writing and Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, etc.,” he says.

“The vast majority of our users are millennials or people between 18 and 37 years old.  That’s maybe 70 to 75 percent of our users.  Around 70 percent of our users are men.  In the past, it was like 90 percent.  Fortunately, more women are joining the platform.  Now, the percentage is 70 percent,” he says.

Siseles says the platform has a good business model. He says while registration is free, Freelancer earns from its share once jobs are awarded.  “We only charge our users once they have success in the platform.  In terms of the employer, they will have success when they find the appropriate freelancer and when they award the job. In that moment, we charge them 3 percent of the total amount of the job. For freelancers, once they start working and they get the money, then we charge them 10 percent,” he says.

“Freelancers don’t need to do any marketing, they don’t need to pay public transportation for commuting, they don’t need to go out to submit CVs to companies.  They just stay at home, connect to the Internet, start looking, get a job, get paid and then they pay as much as 10 percent.  We are the cheapest in the market,” he says.

“Even NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] in the US is working with us.  They are looking for freelancers within our platform and hiring them without the need to go to Florida, Houston or Washington D.C. Freelancers work for NASA from their homes,” he says.

Siseles says like other technology companies, Freelancer aims to maintain its market dominance.  “We do have competitors, but we bought already 19 of them.  The leader takes all.  We are growing, and we expect to continue growing at this pace or more.  We are expanding to other markets,” he says.

He says Freelancer is on expansion and recently acquired Channel 40, an enterprise marketplace connecting freight owners with transport operators.  With the acquisition, the company launched Freightlancer.com, a global marketplace for freight, shipping and transportation spanning from complex enterprise haulage to consumer metro deliveries.

Siseles says beyond its business model, Freelancer’s mission is to help people around the world.  “We are proud of saying we actually change lives.  You don’t need to leave your home, you don’t need to leave your country, you don’t need to be away from your family. This is something fantastic.”

Topics: Ecotower Building , Freelancer Limited , Freelancer International Pty. Ltd. , Sebastian Siseles
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