Sebastián Siseles, international director of Freelancer.comSunday, August 9, 2015
‘Latin America is the region for entrepreneurship’
Technology has changed the way everyone works and one of the big changes involves a rise of independent workers who can work from home for companies across the globe. With more than 16 million users, Freelancer.com is one of the top websites for people who are looking for independent work, helping employers contact potential workers. In one of his infrequent stops in his native Buenos Aires, Sebastián Siseles, International Director of Freelancer.com, met with the Herald in a trendy private club in Palermo popular with well-off expats to talk about how the company has expanded as it gets ready to open up a new office in Buenos Aires.
How would you describe Freelancer and its main features?
Freelancer is the largest freelancing and crowdsourcing platform in the world, where employers and independent workers meet to do business. An employer signs up and can ask the more than 16 million freelancers registered on the website for anything, such as a logo design, an article or a new website. We started in Sidney but we also have offices in Manila, London, and Vancouver and we’re about to open one in Buenos Aires.
Why did you choose Buenos Aires?
It’s going to be the hub for Latin America. We wanted to reach a new time zone and we’ll do that by opening a new office here. At first, we’ll hire five or six employees but we can easily reach 50 in one year.
What’s the business model?
When the freelancer gets paid for his or her work and when the employer gets his work done by the freelancer, we charge a small fee to each of them. It’s a maximum of three percent to the employer and 10 percent to the freelancer, assuming they both have a free membership. There are also premium memberships with a lower commission.
Why do you charge more to freelancers than employers?
It’s a very small fee for each of them. We want to incentivate employers to post more projects on the website and the way to do it is by reducing their fee. If you are a freelancer, you don’t have to invest in an office, assistance or marketing, you can register for free and you aren’t charged until you earn money.
How do you ensure the freelancer gets paid?
By taking care of the payment. Once an employer and a freelancer agree on a job, we ask the employer to send us the money. We will keep it as a guarantee and we’ll release it when the employer tells us that the job has been completed. It can happen that the parties aren’t satisfied so we have an open communication system to avoid that.
How do you deal with currencies, especially in countries like Argentina where there are restrictions on foreign currency?
We started only with five currencies and only worked in English, now we have 33 languages and 19 currencies. The peso isn’t one of them due to the currency restrictions, not to bring money into Argentina but to send money abroad. But in every country you have to deal with some restrictions. We have more than 155,000 users in Argentina and between 10 and 15 percent are employers.
Why did Freelancer decide to expand into Latin America two years ago?
Latin America is the region for entrepreneurship. All Argentines between 20 and 30 years old want to become entrepreneurs at some point in their lives. There’s a strong similarity between being an entrepreneur and a freelancer. Besides Brazil, Argentina has the largest number of users and that’s thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and the good Internet connections across the country.
What are the most requested jobs?
We have 850 different skills from which you can get a job. Around 70 percent are related to technology as the people in the tech sector were the first to join the platform. Ever since we launched in Latin America, we saw big growth in marketing, translations and communications. Most jobs come out of Buenos Aires City, Santa Fe, Córdoba and Mar del Plata.
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of working as a freelancer?
The main advantage is that you can work at your own pace. It doesn’t matter if you’d rather work in the morning or at night. The other important aspect is the balance between professional and personal life. On the other hand, the challenge is that earnings fluctuate from one month to another. Technology changes the way we work and people have to adapt to that.
What characteristics should somebody have if they want to start working as a freelancer?
For young people, they need to specialize on what’s called the STEM skills, meaning science, technology, engineering and math. Those are the basic skills for the future of all jobs.
What are your next goals as a company?
We are constantly buying companies. Our growth is organic and based on acquisitions. When I joined the company we had 6.6 million users and now we have more than 16 million. We have a lot of competitors. Our last acquisition was Escrow.com, a US firm for large transactions.@ferminkoop