Thursday, June 14, 2012

Freelance Nation: The Boom in Online Workers

NY Times -- "Global networks make it possible to obtain work anywhere, enabling companies to hire many specialists for specific tasks at fixed amounts. Chances are this is only getting started, and there are profound implications for things as diverse as corporate structure, employment, job skills and even taxation.

On Wednesday, Elance ("Instant Access to Great Talent"), a company that brokers often sophisticated short-term work online, released a survey of its customers’ hiring plans. The company asked what percentage of their work force would, in five years, consist of online temps. On average, the customers projected that more than half of their work force, 54% of all workers, would be these outsiders from around the globe.

The survey was unscientific and polled mostly small companies. Only 2.3% of the 1,500 companies surveyed had more than 100 employees. It is, however, another indicator that cloud-computing-based employment brokers like Elance, ODesk and Freelancer.com are gaining acceptance.

These companies allow easy hiring and collaboration between, say, a software developer in Russia and a marketing specialist in England on a project for a firm based in the United States. Job candidates present portfolios of past work, bid on listed jobs and are rated, much like the sellers of goods on eBay."

28 Comments:

At 6/14/2012 3:59 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

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At 6/14/2012 4:06 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

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At 6/14/2012 4:10 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Those companies largely exist for brokering the Third World. Their existence is why Right to Work should be extended to count any form of temporary/less than FTE labor as a labor union.

Freelance work is just prostitution with a morally-correct name. You have both the middleman and the contemptuous other party with strength over you. Something like this would do better with geographic restrictions such that it allows the First World and Third World to serve themselves without visibly harming the other.

Finally, these services - by design - do not offer the benefits and other enticements that normal, secure, full-time, and full-benefit work offers. They treat the workers with contempt since they are dealing with the desperate. Because of this, these kinds of services(or temporary/contingent/casual labor in general) cannot be a condition of work for any skill level. Too much risk being passed down without requisite reward or security.


Chances are this is only getting started, and there are profound implications for things as diverse as corporate structure, employment, job skills and even taxation.

Such work modes are bad enough in the Third World and in Europe. They are modes of work that must die a quick, nasty, and painful death before they impact the US. Temporary labor is de facto permanent slavery.

 
At 6/14/2012 10:08 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

All talk. People want face to face, and they want to work with people they know.

What's going to happen is a kith (look it up).

The primary motivator of any task will assemble people he knows and works with to do it.

A novelist will connect with a copy editor, a proofreader, a fact checker, and a promoter to work with him for a part of the profits or a base sum from early on and a lesser part of the profits -- anything like that, depending on how much faith each of those people has in the talents of the individual doing the primary work.

 
At 6/14/2012 10:16 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>>> Temporary labor is de facto permanent slavery.

Oh, geez, Seth:

head {-----} rectum

More separation is called for. Going through life with one inserted into the other is just not right.

>>>> Freelance work is just prostitution with a morally-correct name. You have both the middleman and the contemptuous other party with strength over you.

No, Seth, it's called the FREE MARKET. They have NO strength over you, since, if you don't like what they're offering, you can tell them to go TAKE A HIKE.

And as your value to them increases because of the fact that you know the things they want and how to produce them much more efficiently and effectively than some OTHER temp, you gain power over THEM and they're forced to give you a better deal.

>>>> cannot be a condition of work for any skill level. Too much risk being passed down without requisite reward or security.

Consultants -- which is one form of this, and the real form which is being suggested -- are among the most HIGHLY PAID WORKERS ON THE PLANET, geeenyus.

As I noted in my previous post, people like to be in face-to-face contact with one another.

That's why supermarkets can't be replaced by internet alternatives -- the people like the social and physical aspect of shopping, and, other than certain regularly used items -- milk, and the like -- would never switch to an on-line supermarket for their grocery shopping.

The worry that we're all going to become immobile couch potatoes hooked up to Tha Internetz is just wrongheaded, and ignores people's inherently social natures.

This kind of work will happen and grow -- but the manner in which it happens will be different from that suggested.

 
At 6/15/2012 1:40 AM, Blogger Cabodog said...

I've been using eLance for three years now with good success. I've hired work done in India, Pakistan and the good 'ole USA. Programming, data scraping, voice talent (voiceover), mundane data entry tasks.

I've found the work out of India and Pakistan to be of decent quality and most importantly, great attitude from people who WANT to work. Can't say that about many contractor relationships in the USA.

 
At 6/15/2012 6:26 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Freelance work is just prostitution with a morally-correct name. You have both the middleman and the contemptuous other party with strength over you"...

Still pissing into the wind sethstorm...

Aren't your pants soaked and shoes sloshing over about now?

 
At 6/15/2012 9:15 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

I worked for five years for a virtual company. It was a real boon for me when I was recovering from disability, being able to work from home. HQ(such as it was) in Dallas, Accounting in KY, HR in CA, clients around the country.

Although I was a "permanent" employee of the company, and the company had permanent, ongoing clients, the work structure was not all that different from a Temp service.

It was eventually bought and absorbed by a bricks and morter company.

Sethstorm is partly right: I have seen situations in which contractors were treated with contempt, for reasons I don't understand: if you need the services of talented people, why stick them on folding tables in a boiler room?

 
At 6/15/2012 12:08 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>>>> "Sethstorm is partly right: I have seen situations in which contractors were treated with contempt, for reasons I don't understand: if you need the services of talented people, why stick them on folding tables in a boiler room?"

For reasons I don't understand, what kind of idiot (well, seth, clearly) would work for a company that treated them that badly?

And, if they weren't there to pay them, where the hell would these idiots be getting money from, since one has to bet they have no marketable skills?

 
At 6/15/2012 12:48 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Sethstorm,

Truly some of the most idiotic things you've ever written (and that's impressive).

Again, ramblings about hiring and 3rd world employment from a person who has never been in either situation with your own money on the line.
Awesome to be an expert that has zero knowledge or experience.

I use oDesk often and have made some wonderful hires/contacts who were in full competition with first worlders....was price a consideration? Of course. But I wasn't going to buy an inferior product either. Much to my surprise, the fee requested for each of my hires from low-cost-of-living countries wasn't dramatically different from that of UK and US applicants.
Don't tell me that my money spent with them didn't have a much more significant impact...and I got far better service.

I, myself, am technically a "freelance prostitute" and I wouldn't have it any other way. In all honesty, and insult not intended for the sake of being insulting, you are a far more ignorant person than you believe and that makes you potentially harmful to yourself and others.

 
At 6/15/2012 2:51 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Consultants -- which is one form of this, and the real form which is being suggested -- are among the most HIGHLY PAID WORKERS ON THE PLANET, geeenyus.

While all that cash is made in one shot, as opposed to over time, independent of any risk issues.



I've found the work out of India and Pakistan to be of decent quality and most importantly, great attitude from people who WANT to work. Can't say that about many contractor relationships in the USA.

Consider that their prime motivator is desperation. They don't know job security.

In the US, contract labor is seen as a benefits dodge and sign of distrust for the worker.


That said:
What's wrong with having the Right to Work law apply to contractors of any type and part-time workers as it does to labor unions? It maximizes choice so that the employer can't just act like the labor union.

 
At 6/15/2012 3:55 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"What's wrong with having the Right to Work law apply to contractors of any type and part-time workers as it does to labor unions?"...

Why sethstorm the answer is simple, its the contractor's money and if the workers don't like it then they can move on...

 
At 6/15/2012 4:53 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"While all that cash is made in one shot, as opposed to over time, independent of any risk issues."

What's wrong with that?

 
At 6/15/2012 4:59 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"That said:
What's wrong with having the Right to Work law apply to contractors of any type and part-time workers as it does to labor unions?
"

It does.

 
At 6/15/2012 11:12 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

For reasons I don't understand, what kind of idiot (well, seth, clearly) would work for a company that treated them that badly?


===============================

It wasnt the company, it was the company's customer.

 
At 6/15/2012 11:18 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

So, i don't understand, why you hire a subcontractor who is valuable enough for youto pay him big bucks, have him show up on your site, and you give hime worse working conditions than your lowest paid tech.

It makes no economic sense, and it is pure politics: contractors and subcontractors are lower than pond scum.

 
At 6/16/2012 2:40 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"It wasnt the company, it was the company's customer."

Same difference. How about "...work at a company..."?

"It makes no economic sense, and it is pure politics: contractors and subcontractors are lower than pond scum."

Bias: Some people are willing to hurt their bottom line to indulge their biases. See the previous post on gender discrimination.

Envy: An unhappy person who knows they are in the best job they will ever have and 15 years from retirement, resents a contractor who won't be there in a month or 6 months and who can say at any time, "eff you, I'm not coming back tomorrow.

Lack of respect for individuals: The contractor won't sue over workplace abuses, and has only the option of leaving.

Unrealistic view of one's own worth: Perhaps the contractor overestimates their value to an employer.

New-hire syndrome: The new guy always gets the shit jobs.

There are probably others.

 
At 6/17/2012 7:50 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


For reasons I don't understand, what kind of idiot would work for a company that treated them that badly?

Desperation. This is defined by the opportunity and financial costs of leaving far exceeding the gains of departure.

Apparently you've never worked in somewhere setup as a company town.


It does.

Then point to the provision. So far, no state with Right to Work has the specific provision to include staffing agencies, consultancies, temporary help, or any other form of contingent labor under the mandatory consent (membership is not required as a condition of work with the final employer) provision.

If this provision indeed did exist, it would completely disarm businesses that use such groups like labor unions. It would provide the same destructive effect to temporary labor as an HR & Legal weapon as RTW has done to labor unions, while retaining choice.

 
At 6/17/2012 7:56 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


What's wrong with that?

Long-term planning is nearly impossible short of wondering about the next contract lining up. THat's little different than paycheck-to-paycheck. The exceptions to the rule have the rare luxury of being able to deny permanent jobs in favor of less-permanent ones.

 
At 6/18/2012 1:31 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Ron H: "It does."

You: "Then point to the provision. So far, no state with Right to Work has the specific provision to include staffing agencies, consultancies, temporary help, or any other form of contingent labor under the mandatory consent (membership is not required as a condition of work with the final employer) provision.

If this provision indeed did exist, it would completely disarm businesses that use such groups like labor unions. It would provide the same destructive effect to temporary labor as an HR & Legal weapon as RTW has done to labor unions, while retaining choice.
"

Apparently you don't understand what "right to work" means.

 
At 6/18/2012 1:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

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At 6/18/2012 1:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Long-term planning is nearly impossible short of wondering about the next contract lining up. THat's little different than paycheck-to-paycheck. The exceptions to the rule have the rare luxury of being able to deny permanent jobs in favor of less-permanent ones."

Then I must wonder why some people *choose* to be contractors?

Did it ever occur to you that being a valuable employee helps ensure continued success of an employer, and thus continued employment for you?

Unless, of course, you are forced to belong to a union, in which case nothing *you* do affects your status as an employee. It doesn't matter how good a job you do, or how skilled you are, you're just a commodity. a unit of labor. The union, through it's actions, will decide whether you work or not.

I know the answer is no, you haven't given that any thought.

And, it's obvious you've never been self employed.

 
At 6/19/2012 9:14 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Apparently you don't understand what "right to work" means.

I do - the law means that you don't have to join a labor union as a condition of work. Why not be consistent and apply it to employers as well?

Indirect/temporary labor acts just the same as a labor union - except for the benefit of the employer - yet is not covered by the Right to Work laws. What would be wrong with classifying all the various forms of temporary/indirect/etc. labor as labor unions for the sake of consistency?

The only problem is that it would get rid of the ability for employers to use temporary labor as a dodge.

 
At 6/19/2012 10:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I do - the law means that you don't have to join a labor union as a condition of work."

Good for you. That's all there is to it. Keep that idea in mind.

"Why not be consistent and apply it to employers as well?"

Employers don't need to join a union as a condition of work.

"Indirect/temporary labor acts just the same as a labor union - except for the benefit of the employer..."

No it does not. Temporary agencies supply labor to employers who don't want to hire a full time employee and then fire then when they're no longer needed. People work for agencies voluntarily, and take assignments voluntarily. There's nothing coercive about it.

Such an arrangement gives an employer an opportunity to evaluate potential permanent employees without commitment, and it allows workers to evaluate potential employers without commitment. An excellent arangement.

From your comments it's obvious that you have never worked as a temp or contractor, but you have plenty to say about it, even though you don't know what you're talking about. Doesn't anything embarrass you?

"...yet is not covered by the Right to Work laws."

Temp employees and contractors don't have to belong to a union to work, so yes, Right to Work applies to them.. They don't have to work for a temp agency either, if they prefer not to.

"What would be wrong with classifying all the various forms of temporary/indirect/etc. labor as labor unions for the sake of consistency?"

They aren't labor unions, you numbskull, and don't function like labor unions.

"The only problem is that it would get rid of the ability for employers to use temporary labor as a dodge.

A dodge? You really are moronic. Employers create the jobs, and own them. They can hire anyone they want, for as long as they want, under whatever agreement they and an employee voluntarily make. Right to work helps ensure that freedom of choice for employers and employees.

Just because you no have longer have marketable skills, and no ability to manage your own life doesn't mean everyone else has the same problem. Your view of the world is really pathetic.

 
At 6/19/2012 10:31 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Then I must wonder why some people *choose* to be contractors?

Such contractors don't have to worry about benefits coming to them. They know the benefits will come to them. These contractors are rare birds in that no system will be bad for them.


Did it ever occur to you that being a valuable employee helps ensure continued success of an employer, and thus continued employment for you?

I know the answer is no, you haven't given that any thought.

Wrong. I've been on the good side of employers of varying sizes from small to large. All of them directly employed...



And, it's obvious you've never been self employed.

No benefits in doing so. Any benefits of scale are turned against you. That, and it's a very unstable arrangement that does not allow for any real long term planning.

 
At 6/19/2012 10:40 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Temp employees and contractors don't have to belong to a union to work, so yes, Right to Work applies to them.. They don't have to work for a temp agency either, if they prefer not to.

But to accept the job, they have to work through that company or as that kind of worker. What I am talking about is the choice of working as a temporary/indirect/part-time worker or not - an expansion of Right to Work. This can be done by placing all forms of temporary/indirect/contingent labor on the same standing as labor unions in existing RTW law.

That is a subtle difference, but one that disarms the employer from using their usual weapon of contingent labor as a condition of accepting the job.

 
At 6/19/2012 11:32 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


No it does not. Temporary agencies supply labor to employers who don't want to hire a full time employee and then fire then when they're no longer needed. People work for agencies voluntarily, and take assignments voluntarily. There's nothing coercive about it.

The probationary period at an employer is the proper purpose for any "trials". In addition, this incentivizes the employer to "feel his oats" and act as if they could not be touched.



Such an arrangement gives an employer an opportunity to evaluate potential permanent employees without commitment, and it allows workers to evaluate potential employers without commitment. An excellent arrangement.

An excellent arrangement to keep employees in line, such that the employer can use the temporary help agency to smite the worker down.


From your comments it's obvious that you have never worked as a temp or contractor, but you have plenty to say about it, even though you don't know what you're talking about. Doesn't anything embarrass you?

Not everyone gets to roll the dice with the expectation that they'll be the expectation to the rule of temporary employment being bad in general.

You act as if one could not acquire knowledge of the various practices and incentives. By the looks of it, you would be afraid of the employer actually having to give a choice instead of making it a condition of work.

 
At 6/20/2012 12:48 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"But to accept the job, they have to work through that company or as that kind of worker. What I am talking about is the choice of working as a temporary/indirect/part-time worker or not - an expansion of Right to Work. This can be done by placing all forms of temporary/indirect/contingent labor on the same standing as labor unions in existing RTW law. "

You are missing the point. No one has to work for a temp agency. It is an opportunity for most people, not a curse, but of course you wouldn't understand that.

Would you prefer that employers who need varying or seasonal amounts of labor hire people when they need them and then fire them when they are no longer needed?

"Such contractors don't have to worry about benefits coming to them. They know the benefits will come to them. These contractors are rare birds in that no system will be bad for them. "

That's true for most people who know how to manage their lives, but of course that's not you.

"The probationary period at an employer is the proper purpose for any "trials". In addition, this incentivizes the employer to "feel his oats" and act as if they could not be touched. "

What nonsense. "Feel his oats"? What can that even mean? LOL. You are ignoring the benefit to a potential employee to check out an employer without commitment.

"An excellent arrangement to keep employees in line, such that the employer can use the temporary help agency to smite the worker down."

That's all I can handle. You are a moron.

 

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