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Ben Chan interviewed by James Giancotti (Photo Credit: Envato)
Talent shortage is a pain point felt by all organizations in developed countries. But the emergence of the sharing economy and freelance marketplaces has promoted the feasibility of borderless talent sharing.
It is now possible for people to connect to a pool of talented people with no location restrictions. This has especially been a boon for Asia, which is a major contributor to the freelancer market. Traditional lower socio-economic countries which did not have the same opportunities as the western world, have reaped the rewards of the global freelance "gig" economy where they can earn better salaries.
And this market is expected to grow. According to Randstad Sourceright’s 2017 Talent Trends Report, over the next 12 months, around one-third of companies are likely to hire temporary, contract, or freelance workers that will account for a significant percentage of the total global workforce.
Leading the pack
One startup leading the freelance sharing space is Melbourne-based Envato, a marketplace for creative assets and creative people that allows its freelancers to get rewarded for their skills and talents through freelance tasks and projects. As a crowd-sharing platform, they utilize skills and talents.
Since Envato’s inception, freelancers on the platform have earned close to US$500 million without the capital outlay of starting up a business with physical entities. And it has helped Envato become a billion dollar startup. Freelancers whom have joined the Envato platform come from all parts of the world, but with a large amount from Asia including Indonesia, India, Vietnam and China.
In addition to this, they have been able to build up their community to a thriving ecosystem. Ben Chan, general manager at Envato, explains that the company has an education space called Envato Tuts+ which offers free video courses and written tutorials to help users to learn creative skills in coding, design and illustration, photography, video, music, web design, game development, craft, and more.
Many of the talents registered on the platform are also learners from Tuts. They learn and apply their skill into Envato’s marketplace which has been instrumental in selling products and skills to create a community and a complete ecosystem. Rather than companies trying to sell to other companies, its been entrepreneurs selling to other entrepreneurs.
More than just contract work
Freelance marketplaces have opened the door to many work forces which a decade ago, were uncharted territory. Now, cities in Asia such as Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Pune which were formerly untapped are sources of strong and affordable talent.
While hiring freelance workers may help solve an immediate business problem, there are still other things that need to be considered. Invariably, there will exist the issue of quality and a mismatch of skill sets. Marketplaces have aimed to solve this by offering timed, project based or contract workers.
Envato’s response to this demand is a complete ecosystem of skilled contract workers for employers to find freelance talents to work on projects at any stage. Freelancers get paid for working on the projects remotely. Looking into the numbers, Envato has already connected projects to more than 6 million suitable users. According to Chan, “Envato has been so successful that we have made more than 75 designers/developers achieve $1 million dollars in revenue. The quickest freelancer became a millionaire within 2-3 years.”
With those millionaires coming from places across Asia, the freelance economy will only grow. For entrepreneurs trying to build a sharing economy website, like an Airbnb, Freelancer, Uber or 99designs, where competition is intense, they could seize the opportunity, utilize the freelance market and build revenue from day one.
As raising funds from venture capitalists is becoming tougher, investors are focused on revenue generating businesses. Working in the freelance market may just be the thing.
James Giancotti is the CEO of Oddup, researching and rating startups.