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PeoplePerHour.com, which has been described as an 'eBay for business', is an online marketplace which allows freelancers to advertise for work, and small businesses to outsource work.
I've been talking to founder and CEO Xenios Thrasyvoulou about the business...
How does PeoplePerHour.com work?
It's an online marketplace which, mainly small, businesses can use to outsource work to a thriving community of self-employed freelancers, or people with micro-businesses, perhaps working from home.
This outsourcing is facilitated through the site; we help businesses to find the right freelancer for the work, and follow it through to the fulfilment of the work and the payment.
This whole process is managed online, which makes it different than a traditional job board. The payments go through the site, as well as feedback on how well freelancers performed.
When did you launch the business? How have you funded it?
We launched in 2007, and initially bootstrapped. I providied the finance for the first six months, and since then we have had two rounds of seed funding.
Our investors include Michael Van Swaaij, who is a former chairman of Skype, and has also worked for eBay, and knows a lot about online marketplaces. He has been very active with the company, and the regular chats and meetings with Michael have been invaluable.
How does the site make money?
We charge commission, service fees for any work completed through he site. When the client pays for a piece of work that has been done, they pay us, and then we take our fee before paying the rest to the freelancer.
There are also different levels of membership for more active freelancers, and they can pay extra for benefits such as more detailed profiles and more prominent listings.
How do you manage the feedback on the site? Are reviews certified?
Yes, reviews can only be left by people who have used that particular freelancer, and only after payment has been made. This helps to provide the tools for businesses to make a decision about contracting someone for a particular jib, and encourages the freelancers to provide a good standard of work.
Is there any sort of vetting process before freelancers can advertise on the site?
They can provide references for previous employments, and where applicable, such as technical jobs, they can complete online tests and display these results in their profiles.
The whole idea is that the community provides the ratings, and over time, this will build up a picture for people using the site over time. Ratings from other businesses that have used freelancers provide the ultimate form of validation.
How has the recession affected the business? Have companies looked to freelancers as a way of making savings?
There are some effects of the economy which have been favourable; there are more people looking for freelance work now, which provides employers with more choice, but overall demand for freelance work has fallen. However, this is a cost-effective way for companies to outsource work, so we have got a lot of business in this way.
Are more businesses looking to outsource work like this? What are the most popular categories?
Sales and marketing jobs are the biggest category on the site, followed by online jobs, web designers, developers etc.
I think the small business sector is still waking up to the realisation that this is not just an ad-hoc avenue to pursue, and I think that businesses will outsource work like this more and more in future.
There are now plenty of online tools that allow people to work away from the office yet still allow for easy collaboration and management. The infrastructure exists to make it easy to use freelancers to help build of your businesses, with VOIP, email, collaborative web tools like Basecamp, social media and more.
This creates an environment where you can manage a team remotely, and PeoplePerHour's team is a great example of this. We have 35 people working for us, but just six of them are based in the office.
This kind of working arrangement is now a growing trend, and this was part of the initial vision for the business. On the continent, this way of working is more commonplace than it is in the UK, but we believe that is just a matter of time.
Is the business profitable yet?
Yes, we are cash-positive, but we are scaling up all the time, and we use any profits to fund this growth. We have grown organically so far, and are still using this cash to accelerate our growth,
How many users does the site have?
We have about 45,000 freelancers who advertise their services on PeoplePerHour, and these freelancers get hundred of jobs per day, this is twice the level of three months ago.
How have you been marketing the site?
A lot of the growth has been a result of word of mouth recommendations. As people have found work on the site, or businesses have been satisified with the job done, they have come back again to use it. We have had some good press coverage, including appearances on BBC news, since we started which has also helped.
On SEO, we are near the top of Google for a number of key terms, but we have done this slowly, and by the book, our SEO strategy has not been especially aggressive. It has come form good page structure, relevant headers and content, as well as a lot of relevant terms contained within users' profiles and listings.
We do well on a lot of long-tail terms thanks to this content, and this has become a valuable source of traffic for us.