Matt Barrie is an award winning entrepreneur, technologist and lecturer. He is Chief Executive of Freelancer.com, the world's largest outsourcing marketplace connecting over 3.3 million professionals from around the globe, and in the top 250 websites globally.
Matt is a prolific speaker and has spoken at or featured in the Summit Series, the New York Times, Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, The Atlantic, Switzer, BRW and The Economist. In 2012 he was selected out of a field of 600 presenters to be one of 20 featured speakers at South by South West in Austin, Texas (SXSW), which is one of the world's largest interactive, music, film and technology festivals.
He has won numerous awards and titles and took five minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to Creative Boom. Sit back, relax and enjoy our line of questions...
When and why did you start Freelancer?
Freelancer.com was born out of the acquisition of about nine marketplaces across the world. The oldest marketplace we acquired was a Swedish site which started on February 4, 2004 - actually the same day that Facebook started! However we have been known as Freelancer.com for the last three years from when I started a "roll up" of the online outsourcing space.
How has the site grown since its inception?
In the last three years we have grown from 500,000 users to almost 3.5 million. We have gone from around the 5,000th biggest website in the world to the top 300. We have completed almost 1.6 million projects to date and physically paid out cash over $126 million to freelancers from across the world.
How many freelancers now use the site and what's the most popular field of business?
We have almost 3.5 million who are active across over 470 categories of world. Three years ago, we had only about 20 fields of work and they were mainly IT related - website design, graphic design, copywriting, SEO etc. Today we have sections in astrophysics, aerospace engineering, genetic engineering, biotechnology, industrial design and tax.
Are there any developments in the pipeline?
Many! We have a very aggressive product pipeline. We already have 13 regional sites with dedicated marketplaces globally (e.g. Freelancer.co.uk in the United Kingdom) and deal in over a dozen currencies.
It says that projects start at $30 and average job is under $200... Doesn't this cheapen a freelancer's offering?
We primarily connect up small businesses in the West, such as the United Kingdom and United States with freelancers in developing economies. In the past, SMEs in the UK wanting to get websites done have been quoted 5,000 pounds or more. Often they give up because of the cost and frustration of getting something simple like that built. Through Freelancer.com, they can now get the same site built for 500 pounds. This is a huge saviour for SMEs trying to get things done.
Our top 20 users are creatives in the West who instead of pitching clients to do low value work like logo or business card design are making our marketplace work really well for them. They are churning out websites and mobile applications at a tremendous rate- they put together the mockups and user experience, and get freelance programmers to build them for them or put them in the Apple store.
Many say that the whole term 'freelancer' holds a certain stigma, what are your thoughts on this?
Freelancers are the vanguard of an economic revolution sweeping through emerging economies- when you can make your month's salary in a few hours or days, it is a tremendously liberating thing both economically and socially. The great thing about this is that freelancers are helping entrepreneurs in western economies become more productive in their businesses by helping turn their ideas into reality. It doesn't matter if you can't program an iPhone application- you can now get someone for 400 pounds to build it for you. Have a great idea for a product that you want to get made in China? You can easily hire a freelancer to get it done for you.
Any interesting projects that you've spotted?
For sure! One project I liked the other day got a freelancer to design and manufacture a WiFi controlled lawn sprinker that interfaced with Twitter, Facebook and the Web. The design only cost about 160 pounds, and the then provided assembled circuit boards from Asia for the employer to sell through their website. A few weeks ago someone found an underpants manufacturer through our site, wanting to design and sell custom underpants for autistic children. Recently I also saw a great iPhone application get designed for reading Manga through our site.
Finally, what advice would you give to freelancers starting out?
If you're looking to freelance, pick a niche skill area that's unique, and high value add. The hardest job you will ever win will be the first, so make sure you fill in your profile in detail, take a few exams to win some badges and make sure you really engage with the client when you bid on a project, you need to stand out!
The best thing is to turn the site around and rather than looking to take a job - create a job instead. All those ideas you have for building websites, mobile applications, products or Internet services you can now get done very inexpensively and easily. It's just so cheap now to start a company thanks to the Internet. People are doing it literally off a few hundred or thousand off the back of a credit card. If you need some inspiration just look through all the projects! You'll see some really cutting edge stuff and lots of great ideas to get you going.
To find out more, visit Freelancer.com.