First of all, how are you and how is your family in these times of COVID-19?
Matt Barrie: I’m good. Thanks for asking. My family is in good and healthy condition.
Tell us about yourself, your career.
Matt Barrie: This is my short bio:
I am an award-winning technology entrepreneur, and Chief Executive of ASX listed Freelancer Limited. Twelve-time Webby award-winning Freelancer.com is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by a total number of users and projects posted with more than 48 million users worldwide and over 18 million projects posted. Matt is also Chief Executive of Escrow.com, a world leader in secure online payments with over US$4.0b in transactions secured.
I was Adjunct Associate Professor in Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Sydney for 15 years and a co-author of over 20 U.S. patent applications.
Previously, I founded and was Chief Executive of Sensory Networks Inc., a vendor of high-performance network security processors, which sold to Intel Corporation in 2013 (NASDAQ: INTC).
In 2014, I was named the most influential person in information technology in Australia by Smart Company, and in 2015, the Top 100 Most Influential Engineers in Australia by Engineers Australia. In 2016 I was awarded Libertarian of the Year by the Australian Libertarian Society. In 2018, I was named Alumnus of the Year in Entrepreneurship by Macquarie University, and in 2019 I won a Gold Stevie for Executive of the Year.
I hold first-class honors in both Electrical Engineering and Science, a Masters in Applied Finance, and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. I’m a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia.
How is Freelancer Limited innovating?
Matt Barrie: In the early years, clients who posted freelance jobs on Freelancer.com mostly came from small businesses and startups as they were the ones who had the necessity more in hiring people on demand and/or based on a short-term basis compared to large companies.
However, as large organizations revamp their operating models, sustainability is a key factor in bringing in new changes.
Since 2015, Freelancer.com have teamed up to help crowdsource solutions to big clients. One of them is NASA. Freelancer.com and NASA have teamed up to crowdsource the most complex problems being faced by astronauts on the cutting edge of space exploration. NASA even reported to us that they had the experience of extraordinary cost-savings (80-99%) when compared to traditional methods, 97% across a wide range of federal space programs.
In June 2020, Freelancer.com jointly won the US$25 million NASA Open Innovations Series 2 tender. In 2020, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Freelancer.com have teamed up to help crowdsource solutions increase manufacturing energy productivity in the U.S. Other clients in 2020 who have teamed up with Freelancer.com to find freelancers are Airbus, Novo Nordisk, Deloitte, Arrow Electronics, IBM Technology, Facebook, and many more.
Hence, yes, we have seen that clients /businesses from large companies have started to see sustainability for gig workers. Since they keep having a partnership with us, we believe they have more trust in hiring freelancers now.
For sure, there have been a lot of products, services, and/or innovations developed from our end with the big change on the increase of enterprises tapped into the gig economy or freelance industry.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business, and how are you dealing with this crisis?
Matt Barrie: Since January 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic has unfolded in stages. While the impact on the macroeconomy is significant, the Company is seeing a positive impact on revenue and Gross Payment Volume due to increased adoption of its marketplace by organizations transitioning to remote work environments.
Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the world of work and working models worldwide. For us internally, it has also impacted the working model for our employees. Although we have policies that support working from home or remote work for our employees, still there have been some adjustments needed as we have 7 offices worldwide and most of our employees worked from our offices. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, most of our employees have been working from home. As we provide the freelancing platform, tools, and services that encourage remote working, the internal adjustments we did were not many.
While for our users worldwide, the digital disruption has impacted positively as we have spread the idea of remote works since the beginning. Businesses have started to believe in hiring digitally and using gig workers to get their projects done. They start to see the cost-effectiveness of doing this.
The freelance online job market continues to flourish in spite of global challenges. Towards the very end of Q1 2020 was the start of a deluge of demand, and in Q2 2020 and Q3 2020, the number of users that joined our platform, including freelancers and employers looking for freelancers, surged enormously. While COVID-19 has been the trigger of the already upward trending freelancer movement, this exponential growth can also be attributed to the strong desire for individuals to finally start their own freelance enterprise, work on their own terms and supplement their income. These are promising times and positive signs for the gig economy.
Did you have to make any tough choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Matt Barrie: Fortunately, no tough choices we have had to make in terms of the company operation, although all of our 500+ employees started to work from home…
Contrarily, with mandatory lockdowns at the onset of the pandemic and further impending restrictions, in the midst of this turmoil due to COVID-19, where it has affected peoples’ jobs and livelihoods, Freelancer.com has seen an upsurge in users on the platform since early March 2020. Many people are either looking for jobs or looking to transition out of jobs. Budding entrepreneurs who have found themselves out of their full-time gigs are setting up their startup or side hustle before they go back (if) into a serious job.
In this COVID-era, the whole world has been forced to work online – we completely rely on the Internet. Hence we see a lot more online projects. Also, with businesses including entrepreneurs and their new startups, we are seeing more new employers posting jobs on the site – there has been an uptick of around 50% over the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2020.
I think the increase of people joining the freelancing movement both for freelancers and businesses looking for independent workers recently shows that the perception towards the gig working model has changed for the better.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety during this time, and how do you and Freelancer Limited see yourself in the future?
Matt Barrie: We expect a permanent step change from the Covid-19 era as people increasingly work from home and experience the disruptive benefit of working online. From March 2020 onwards, Freelancer.com received a large growth in new traffic to the website as freelancers looked for work online, businesses increasingly moved to work remotely, and clients looked to hire more cost-effectively.
Based on Freelancer.com’s last coronavirus survey (May 2020 – sent to 44+ million users worldwide), in terms of business, 44% said their business had experienced a significant impact from COVID-19. In terms of income, the job market in general, and the economy, 72% said their personal income has fallen as a result of COVID-19. In terms of remote work, the freelance economy, and the future of work, 71% said they will be increasing their use of freelancers rather than hiring full-time staff. Of those respondents who previously had employees working in an office, 71% said they will continue to allow some or all of their employees to work from home, even after the pandemic is over.
We think all of these will continue in 2021.
A final word?
Matt Barrie: There will be a permanent step-change in both working from home and the use of freelancers by businesses.
Global leaders need to start utilizing digital disruption for their business growth and expansion by hiring freelancers.
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