First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Michael Brooks: I know this has been a difficult time for everyone. Fortunately, we’ve been able to adapt a little easier because we work remotely and have been home-schooling our kids for many years. Our business has been a completely remote model, so we’re ahead of the curve.
One of the benefits is that this has been the most time I’ve ever spent with my family since I’ve had one. In the past, I’ve done a lot of travelling on business. That has changed due to the pandemic. My children and I read to each other at night and have more time for activities together. Our business, goLance, was built for a remote world, and more people are moving to that model.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined goLance.
Michael Brooks: I used to be an employee and I even spent time freelancing myself. Now I’m an entrepreneur. Earlier in my career, I had to make cutbacks in my business and I turned to freelancers for help. I have a real appreciation for the value that freelancers offer businesses. So, when my other company, ResponseCRM, was on autopilot, I thought about what I wanted to do for the next 40 years and founded goLance in 2015.
I launched goLance because I wanted to make life better for all online remote workers and their clients.
Freelancers can work from any location and set their own hours. Business owners also have more options when they use freelancers. They can work from home, without having to pay for an office and related expenses.
How does goLance innovate?
Michael Brooks: We started with an innovative model. We welcome ideas from the user community, listen to what they say about our platform and services, and continuously add enhancements based on their feedback. Our clients are happy because they don’t have to pay fees to hire our freelancers. They even get cash back based on the number of hours the freelancers charge. We make it easy to manage and pay our freelancers quickly—in the currency of their choice—and the fees that freelancers pay out of their earnings are among the lowest in the industry.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business and how are you coping?
Michael Brooks: More people are becoming freelancers, and more businesses are looking to hire them. So, our business is growing. In the 2009 recession, I went through what many entrepreneurs are dealing with now, and using remote freelancers saved my other company at that time. I was able to do that because I had to make difficult decisions to reduce costs. I shut down my office and hired remote freelancers. Other people are going through now what I dealt with a decade ago. My advice to helping people cope, especially during this time, is to look at their options and find more efficient ways to do things. Hiring a freelancer through a high-quality online marketplace helps to reduce those costs.
Another way we’re coping is by building a powerful remote culture. I can work from anywhere and rely upon a team of global freelancers for my business, which has paid out more than $81 million to workers. I connect with my team through remote video meetings and use collaborative technology, like Slack. I even put on my Oculus gaming headset and meet in virtual rooms with some team members, clients and advisors. When you’re together in the same virtual room, it’s a great way to connect and have productive meetings, especially at a time when travel isn’t usually an option.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Michael Brooks: I’ve been fortunate because I made those tough choices more than a decade ago. I’m very sympathetic to what companies are going through today. By focusing on having a powerful remote culture supported by a team of highly skilled freelancers, businesses can find ways to cut costs and still deliver high-quality products or services to their customers.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, and how do you project yourself and goLance in the future?
Michael Brooks: Stress is real when you’re an entrepreneur, and there are certain things that you can’t always control. So, when I feel stressed, I take a deep walk and meditate. It’s the time to go inside your head, understand where you are, and understand your options. If you are truly burnt out, then go out and help someone. I sometimes answer customer service calls to reduce my stress, and interact with the freelancers as a customer service agent. They don’t realize they’re talking with the CEO. If they live in a country with a struggling economy, every dollar matters and their problems make mine look minuscule. I want to help them and make a difference in their lives. It gives me a better perspective on my own issues and helps me to get outside of myself.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michael Brooks: My competitor is Upwork. I think about what’s their plan for staying in the game when more people find us? I’m not shy about our competitive nature. We’re here. Service and value and having a great remote culture will help us to win this game.
Your final thoughts
Michael Brooks: Whatever you’re doing, commit to it. Freedom is freelancing. Think about what you want to do and you won’t ever want to stop if you’re having this much fun.
I just released a book, which explains everything an entrepreneur needs to know about running a business with freelance talent and leading a great remote culture to gain a competitive edge. The book is especially important at a time when more businesses are going remote. It’s a quick read and provides helpful tips and best practices.
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