Freelancers – Gateway to an abundant global talent pool

By Daya Mukherjee Oct 31, 2012
Freelancers – Gateway to an abundant global talent pool

Should I Hire Overseas Freelancers?

When it comes to outsourcing, one of the main dilemmas that many companies go through revolves around this question: should I hire freelancers overseas? The dilemma is understandable in the light of the bad press that freelancers have managed to generate in recent times. From abandoning projects midway to missed deadlines to being unavailable when needed, the list has been pretty long and damaging. Nevertheless, freelancing has been the backbone of the outsourcing industry and will always be the first bailout option for any business – small or medium – that is interested in cost-effective job shipping.

Which brings us back to our original question: should I hire freelancers overseas? The answer is a resounding, Yes! And with good reason too.

Yes, because otherwise you are restricting the talent pool from which you can hire. Freelancing opens the doors to a global talent that is now well within your reach, thanks to technological advances that have shrunk the world. It allows you easy access to the best, most skilled, and experienced professionals in the world. Why restrict yourself to who is available in your local area or even country? Pick and choose from the best in the world.

Yes, because freelancers can be a lot cheaper but just as talented as their western counterparts. Countries like India, the Philippines, and China will surprise you with just how skilled and affordable some of their professionals are. If a business can attain the same quality of work at a cheaper cost then hiring a freelancer overseas is in the best interests of the business.

Yes, because we live in the Internet age where work no longer necessitates a physical presence. More and more businesses are getting rid of rigid mindsets and embracing a whole new scenario where the real and virtual workforce are seamlessly integrated into their organization. So, just because someone resides halfway around the world, it does not mean they cannot do the job. Hiring is now increasingly guided by who fits the job profile rather than settling for someone purely because of their geographical proximity and thereby selling yourself and your company short. Limiting yourself to hiring only those who conform to geographical parameters – whether local, state or national – is the old way of thinking and not the modern way of doing business. When the whole world is literally just a mouse click away, you should also utilize this opportunity and get the maximum benefit from it.

Yes, because we live in an ever smaller and globalized economy. Outsourcing, contrary to popular belief, actually generates more jobs in the home country rather than “take jobs away.” The real debate should be how best this can be utilized to your company’s advantage. Globalization, superior technologies, and cloud computing drive the world today. Clients need to make the most of this or they may find their business simply getting left behind.

Today, businesses are fiercely competitive and hiring freelancers overseas is a great way to tilt the scales in your favor. It gives you an edge over your rivals because freelancers are so much cheaper than the locally available talent. In a fickle economic climate, where recession is always a lurking threat, there is nothing better than having freelancers on the team to better cushion the blow of another economic meltdown.

Yes, because businesses today need more of short-term contractors and not long-term, full-time employees. The restricting stranglehold of labor laws can make life difficult for your business. If wading through the maze of regulations was not enough, there is the inevitable red tape to deal with – all of which are time-consuming and energy-depleting exercises. Freelancers let you maximize your returns on investment because of the sheer flexibility they offer. They can never become “white elephants” like the regular employees on your pay roll who suddenly become “high maintenance” whenever profits dip or a recession hits. With freelancers, the simple rule of demand and supply applies – as soon as you don’t need the individual you stop hiring them.

Yes, because there is a high possibility that your competitors are already doing it and you don’t want to lag. Not many people realize the enormous cumulative benefits of outsourcing and how effective it is in making your business more competitive. Perhaps, the real question is not should you hire freelancers overseas but, rather, how you should hire freelancers overseas. In their eagerness to job shipping, companies often fall prey to the lure of the lowest bidder only to have the outsourcing process unravel rapidly.

There are some things to keep in mind when you decide to hire freelancers:

1. Don’t go for the cheapest option. Total work experience, exposure of working with international clients, client feedback and reviews and a robust online presence should all be taken into consideration while hiring a freelancer.

2. Hire overseas freelancers only for short-term and low-budget projects. The freelancing model of outsourcing is not technically suited for anything more complex than this. The work environs of the typical freelancer are mostly their home, from where they operate alone and unsupervised. Restricted access to the latest hardware, software, and communication technology can (and often does) hamper the work. Data security is another issue.

3.Remember, most freelancers work for at least two clients simultaneously, if not more. And, it is always the higher-paying client whose project gets top priority.

What if the work is long-term?

Clients often make an error of judgment when it comes to correctly assessing the volume and complexity of work a freelancer can comfortably handle just because one project has been executed satisfactorily. The temptation to offload more and more work of a longer duration is high but should not be indulged. A part-time freelancer simply cannot handle the pressures of a full-time job.

If what you need is actually an employee but opt for a freelancer instead simply because they are cheaper, it is a mistake. This miscalculation is one of the biggest reasons behind most freelancing disasters – when they are hired to do something they are not designed for. Freelancers should only be assigned projects which are short-term, low-budget, and where they can work independently on the project. If you have a long-term, high-budget project which requires you to interact with the person frequently, then you should hire a “virtual employee” because these are supervised employees that work from office, not from home. A virtual employee is best suited to work on high-end, complex, and permanent jobs because they function exactly like a locally hired employee only with the difference of geographical region and time zone. Accountability, professionalism, and commitment are the hallmarks of a remote dedicated employee. These are the qualities that are a must for any long-running outsourcing partnership. A freelancer can at best be likened to a sandwich grabbed on the run but can rarely be the main course.

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