Food for thought: 1173 freelancers on oDesk.. have we met them all?

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It was a bit interesting to see the following image up on TechCrunch – it made me stop for a second to take a second look:

The actual story wasnt really as interesting, but a thought did strike me – 1173 freelancers? Are there really that many people preferring the road less travelled to try to build their own futures and hopefully products one day?

Or maybe these represent small mom-and-pop tech shops with 10-20 developers doing project after project and getting by… even so, there’s still a good chance that a good group of us arent aware of them or havent met them.

I know organizations like PASHA may not be connected with the smaller firms – we’ve been connected with many freelancers and innovators through G&W but… not this many.

1173 isnt a number to ignore – someone needs to find a way to connect with these people, to hear their thoughts, to represent them to ensure they’re not disenfranchised. Who knows, some of those brave souls might be trying to become the next Apple but are trying to bootstrap their way to their big hit.

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  • Actually Osama although some of these would be individual freelancers, many of them are as you say small 10-20 people companies – and a number of them ARE members of P@SHA. We are an all-encompassing Association and everyone is welcome. Although different from G&W, we are a community too and we know that the most innovative of companies start with two people in a garage :-)

  • Yes, but I wonder why I still know about a dozen or more companies that are still under the PASHA radar.

    Look for announcements of some of them tomorrow.

  • … and I dont mean it sarcastically… but really I just represent CDF Software.. we’re not trying to become an industry-wide association, yet I’m humbled that people seek to be associated with G&W even when a formal platform exists already.

    The brand of Pasha – as far as I’ve felt at the grassroots – is that its still an org serving the bigger companies interests above others. I know from interacted with you guys that that’s not true, but thats the brand among the grassroots. I think SI is going to help broaden that perception.

  • No doubt about that – in fact probably many more than a dozen. That is our challenge. We strive to show them value so that they will come into the fold.

  • Ah the power of blogs and over-caffeinated executives that are always up way past their bed-time.

    A near-realtime question, answer, conclusion cycle !

  • Yes perceptions sometimes are often worse than the reality – just like in the case of Pakistan’s image. P@SHA only for large companies? I was President for 3 years and ran a 10-12 person New Media Tech shop. Jawwad’s company Alchemy has only now grown to 35 people. Yusuf Jan’s Mixit Tech is now growing from 35 to a substantial incease due to new contracts. Perhaps we are too quick to judge sometimes :-) P@SHA does also have the likes of Systems and Netsol and the large shops. That is what gives us an interesting mix where everyone is an equal.

  • Jehan,

    By that definition, Basecamp would be under your radar.

    Most of the interesting things are happening in 10 -20 person shops in the country or smaller.

    But again – like I said I know how you guys interact internally, and maybe people who have interacted know. But a brand is what people in general feel about that interaction and it wont change by our words alone.

    Again, SI should help to fix this.

  • Indeed! there are alot many freelancers around in the country But most of them are not full time freelancers. I myself know 20-25 odd guys who work for oDesk and other sites with a full time job in morning.

  • Hi guys,

    I would like to share with you a bit more information from the oDesk “oConomy” regarding Pakistan and the question “who these freelancers are”.

    Pakistan has been a relatively new power in our network – we saw a major surge in 2007 and now it represents a 5% of our network – 2020 providers to be exact. The vast majority of them (more than 90%) is what we call ICs, i.e., Independent Contractors (chart: red is IC).

    There are more good news.
    As you can see here : Pakistan is currently the #6 most active country in our network in terms of billing Assignments behind India, Russia, US, Ukraine and Philippines, and on top of that it has higher average feedback than any of the countries above it.

    The disappointing part is that, like with the rest of our network, less than 10% of the Pakistanis are actually on the payroll.
    That’s a far cry for having made a difference in a country of 170mil, still if we keep on growing 3X annually, lets see… I guess our next generation will be able to live the dream :-)


  • I can share my thoughts too. I think there is a full galaxy of devs available who wants to work as a freelancer. Specially the young energetic blood who is just passing out and want to work on any cost. I know a no. of people bidding on rentacoder or guru or some other sites. They are the skilled people but they dont know how to get the client. Initially as a startup freelancer they dont have a good profile which limits their chances of getting honey from hive. Moreover the payment options of many sites make it very difficult for a freelancer to even think about it.

  • 4.2 years of average experience is a number I find surprising. One would expect students and fresh grads to be into this sort of thing.

    Freelancing is a new global phenonmenon and its not only limited to IT. I know a friend who was desigining engine parts for a german company.

    Looking at profiles in ranking lists on such sites like rentacoder, getafreelancer, etc reveals that quite a few of these providers from pakistan are actaully companies, which raises another issue altogether. If quite a few of these accounts are company accounts, imagine the number of people behind some of these accounts.

    Moreover around 20 – 30 % of the revenue these sites make is from Pakistan[This statistic is quoted out of memory, but was availible at either rentacoder or getafreelancer’s website. I’ll look for it]. Other countries that provide people are India, Russia, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Generally in the low income areas.

    Some of the people who came to attend Startup Insiders were freelancers including myself. Most people start off on such sites and take the business off site once they get to know clients. This way they dont get ripped off for 15% of their earnings as site fees. Doing petty jobs is a good way of introduction.

    Maybe in the next series of Startup insiders we might be able to talk more about freelancing. It is a lucrative and addictive business, especially for rebellious young minds and it pays handsomely compared to local jobs and they get to choose the projects that they want to work on.

    Clients come in many shapes and sizes too, some resembling the classic example of the pointy haired boss but generally you can convince them to do it your way since they’re mid sized companies with expertise in a non IT area or small companies that want to get experimental products out[ was made by a mexican coder under contract] or tools supporting their business. They’re quite a few homework requests on the sites too :P.

    I beleive that such experiences are good for future startups, because it breeds confidence & rebelliousness into the minds the the young which might convince them enough to work on their own products too when they see the value of their own skills and time.

  • Hey, I am one of those 1173 freelancers. :) And I’ve made some of my friends become full-time freelancers. Thats a really relaxing career!

    Osama: You are right. More than half of freelancers registered with outsourcing platforms are small IT firms. But there are nerds also who are working from the luxury of their bedroom “preferring the road less traveled to try to build their own futures and hopefully products one day”.

    Jehan: P@SHA is a body every software/IT firm, be small, medium or large, should join because “together we win”. I’m sorry but my perception is that not all small IT firms join it. Reasons may be different but we should sit and think about bringing them into P@SHA. (I’m with you if you need any help). “P@SHA had now grown to 360 members.” []. Thats obviously a very small number. AND one thing more: P@SHA has any plans to incorporate freelancers? :)

    Ali Raza Shaikh: Yuppie.. Thats true also.. Many prefer freelancing as a side job.

    Fahad Ahmed: You’ve pointed out ‘the right things’. Every freelancer suffers from those things. Who will guide them?

  • Odysseas,

    Its great to get some direct feedback from oDesk on this discussion – and very interesting stats too!

    Is there an RSS feed of this data that I can widgetize and put up on this blog just so that we can keep track of these numbers?


  • Great topic because I am in search of these freelancers and startups. Why? I want to create the market for these fine youth. Where? Europe!

    If people are interested, I invite them to send me a mail.

  • notice how close we are in terms of cost with India, and more importantly, Eastern European countries.

  • im a student in UK right now, studying entrepreneurship.

    i dnt know anything about programming or software but am interested in setting up a BPO business back in pakistan next year when i complete my studies.
    can someone help me in which skills i will need to start one up and would these freelance sites help in finding cliets, also what are other ways to find cliets,
    my budget for setting up my business would be 10 laks

    please respond

  • Hi, I have some coverga of the oDesk also here

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