Collaborative marketplaces — online portals for crowdsourcing freelancers — can guarantee a bevy of talent for all types of projects. What they can't guarantee is whether the talent you find will save you from headaches or give you one. Some companies, however, are on the move to change that.
Although this relatively nascent way of outsourcing tasks can save businesses time and money from having to hire in-house, there are several drawbacks to the collaborative marketplace system. One is that the vast number of freelancers available, combined with the fact that trusted references aren't always available, can make it difficult to find the right fit for a project. Another is that the talent is shared between several companies, posing a conflict of ownership. Nonetheless, the collaborative economy is the future of business, said Lee Sherman, chief content officer of Visually, an infographic and data visualization marketplace.
"In 2020, the U.S. freelance workforce is estimated to grow 40 percent," Sherman said. "That’s 60 million Americans redefining how we work. The question that remains is to what extent we will be able to capitalize on this movement." [3 Tips for Hiring Freelancers]
Visually aims to create a bridge between the growing number of freelancers and businesses short on creative talent by minimizing the disadvantages of collaborative marketplaces.
"For freelancers, we provide a way to connect with major brands that they would normally not have access to. For businesses, we help them overcome geographical limitations and time to filter through a much wider pool of talent, greatly increasing their ability to identify the perfect fit for their needs," Sherman said.
Such a collaborative marketplace is particularly helpful when outsourcing is part of a small business's overall creative strategy. Using Visually, small businesses can find designers to create visual content for marketing materials, ad campaigns, presentations, website content and more.
"Small businesses are always looking to get the most out of their advertising and marketing efforts," Sherman said. "Data visualization tools like infographics, interactives and videos can be among the most effective means of doing so."
In this way, marketplaces enable small businesses to maximize their investments by providing more value and helping them optimize their outsourcing decisions, he said.
Sherman provided the following ways the collaborative economy is beneficial for small businesses.
1. The collaborative economy is a win-win situation.
The collaborative economy is a model that institutionalizes trading and shared services by crowdsourcing talent and providing access to a wider range of alternatives with the comfort of a company brokering and guaranteeing the process. The result is a win-win situation, where an increasing number of service providers gain access to customers and customers benefit from high quality services at a lower cost and faster turnaround.
2. The collaborative economy is all about access.
Companies like Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, oDesk and Visually are creating an environment where ownership is no longer the driving force. Instead, what drives people is access. Access to goods through a platform that decreases friction and extracts greater economic value from idle assets is ultimately what everyone wants. For businesses — small businesses, especially — it isn't practical or economical to hire a long-term staff member to fulfill every possible task they may need fulfilled. At the same time, they want to ensure that they are identifying and using the best solution available. The collaborative economy is the ideal way of fusing high quality with economic efficiency.
Many have claimed that the collaborative economy is a reactionary transformation because of the economic crash. I would go further to say that rather than being reactionary, we are undergoing a reallocation of resources that allows them to be more fully realized. Just as the average car in the U.S. only gets driven two hours each day, we have unexploited capacity in our workforce that benefits from the collaborative economy.
3. The collaborative economy is a major resource for small businesses.
Because of financial constraints, most small businesses need to outsource certain projects to tap into greater expertise, cut costs or deal with the limited resources of smaller staffs. Yet, if they try to outsource on their own, they are heavily limited by geography, time and their own personal networks when trying to find the right fit for their needs.
With the freelancer trend growing, businesses need to find a way to sort through these vast numbers to find the perfect fit, not just the best they happen to know personally. Marketplaces provide a meeting point that can help businesses sort through the crowd so they can maximize their investment. The chances of finding the talent you need to complete a task are much higher in marketplaces than if you just consulted your address book, asked for recommendations or relied on an agency. And a true marketplace helps both sides.
Take Uber, for example, which insists that both drivers and passengers rate each other before they can complete a transaction. In this way, people are rewarded for a job well done, providing a natural performance incentive that raises the quality of the marketplace overall. Even more, most marketplaces provide guarantees.
Visually uses advanced algorithms to pair you with the best talent based on your needs and style. Yet, even on the off chance that the project isn't done to your liking, it can automatically find an alternative to do the project without adding cost.
4. The collaborative economy provides real-life value.
There are several practical uses of collaborative companies and the number is growing every day. Some of the most obvious benefits are the use of the crowd to cut costs, deliver real-time and on-demand service, and create a community around your brand.
For instance, oDesk lets you rent available office space as needed, so you can cut costs before you're ready to buy an office of your own. Airbnb and Roomer lower travel costs for business, and TaskRabbit can help you outsource basic tasks that you don't have time for, but don’t warrant bringing on a full-time employee.
Visually's two-sided marketplace provides value to both the company and the designer. As the client, you have the ability to seek out on-demand work for a project with as much or as little interaction with the designers as you want. This saves small businesses time. For a designer, Visually grants access to countless clients — from Fortune 100 companies to sole proprietors — while also using merit and personal style as the primary means of making matches. The result is an environment where businesses and designers are matched based on their shared vision and are set up for success.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.