For those of you who haven’t seen it already, there was a feature on PeoplePerHour.com on the BBC News at Six yesterday, talking about how our site is helping people and businesses in the recession. The feature was centered on two of our providers  – Edward Moss and Zoe Smith – with a short commentary from our founder in-between.

A longer interview with our founder was also posted by the BBC online in a feature titled “working from home to beat the recession

The publicity has created an unprecedented amount of traffic to our site that brought it down momentarily. We were fortunately able to revive it fast. We apologise to any of you who were trying to access the site at that moment.

We have a lot of follow –on press enquiries from regional and national press who want to hear similar stories from people like you and how you’re using the site to help your business both save cost and enhance your income.

So if you feel you have a story that is compelling and timely then please email us on pr(at)peopleperhour(dot)com.  Please be sure to state clearly the following and any other relevant information:

For Freelancers:

  • your location
  • employment status (full-time/ part-time employee/ freelancer / work for a company)
  • why you are using the site (to supplement your income  / you’ve been made redundant / you’re transitioning to        freelance / other )
  • family status
  • experience you’ve had with using the site and how its helped you: projects won / awarded / bids placed / how         much you’re business has saved by using the site

For Employers

  • your location
  • your company name
  • what kind of company you manage / own
  • how many staff do you employee
  • why you are using the site (to save cost / to avoid hiring people / to get things done fast)
  • What your experience with the site has been: how many projects posted / awarded

We look forward to hearing from you.

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The Future of Work

May 22, 2009

There was an interesting article about ‘The Future of Work’ in Time Magazine this week. Seth Godin, author of Small is the New Big, contributed some particularly insightful points. Godin describes a future in 5 or 10 years, where businesses will employ only a few essential employees and outsource the rest of their work.

A growing number of businesses are already adopting this way of working. We speak to dozens of you every day who tell us how you have cut costs by outsourcing work via PeoplePerHour.com. Many are cutting costs by more than 50% a year.

For example, earlier this week we spoke to Michael Parker, founder of A Quarter Of Ltd, which is a traditional sweetshop, selling retro sweets online. Michael has outsourced PR, affiliate marketing, article writing and web site development, saving an estimated £7k every month in salaries.

Similarly, Kerchoonz, the social networking site that allows free legal music that pays the artists, saved costs by finding freelancers for their PR, Marketing, IT and sales functions, for which they’d otherwise have to hire fulltime or agency staff.  Founder, Indiana Gregg, says “we have made an estimated saving of 32% in the last year by using freelancers through PeoplePerHour.com”.

Ask-Kent, a B2B telemarketing company, founded by Richard Romaine took his entire business virtual in January 2006. It previously had 10 fulltime people in an office. As a virtual company it has five telemarketers working from home at any one time. By doing this, Richard has cut overheads by £80k a year. This kind of business model is also greener as it eliminates the commute.

Thanks to all of you who are using the site and recommending it to others, PeoplePerHour.com has grown from 4,700 to more than 30,000 in the past year.  This suggests that ‘The Future of Work’ as Seth describes it is already well on its way to becoming a reality.

After numerous requests from Employers on our site we have now introduced a feature whereby they can optionally limit their bids to UK Providers only.

Our site is now over 70% UK freelancer, and despite a constant worry by many of you that you’ll be ‘undercut’ by lower bids from abroad, over 85% of bids are awarded to UK freelancers, despite many projects having cheaper bids from abroad.

The data seems to suggest that Employers on PPH rate locality, quality and ease of communication over price. The feature we’ve just added now takes this a step further by allowing our Employers to limit the bids they get only to UK providers if they fear of being  ‘flooded’ by large volumes of bids from abroad (as they’ve often declared) many of which are excessively cheap and ‘meaningless’ in their view.

Surveys we’ve done with our users show a split: some Employers adamantly do not want to get bids from non-UK providers and in fact often find them a nuisance for the reasons highlighted above hence the feature to optionally block them. Others see it as a nice-to-have comparison even if in the end they chose a UK freelancer 85% of the time.

This is not to say that our site is entirely UK: we have multiple cases of Employers awarding their projects to providers abroad with excellent results.  Those that have taken the time and care to submit well-thought out and structured bids have been successful.
The same goes for UK providers, and we urge all our providers to do the same – as we’ve done many a time in the past – in order to win more work.

This is yet another case of quality faring higher than price in our marketplace. The geographic distinction is simply an (unfortunate) interpretation that’s been deuced from the average case. Which is why we are not taking any measures to ban or restrict usage, but rather – as we always strive to do  – give our users more choice.

Thank you to everyone that has provided us with useful feedback, positive or negative, on the Premium membership scheme that will be launched in September.

We have collected and analysed all the feedback (from the blog and also from your emails) and have used it to identify the main concerns about the scheme and modify the scheme to address them.

Below are the highlights/main points from the feedback and how we have modified the subscription scheme to address them:

  • The bid allocation for the standard and gold membership was too limiting
  • o We have increased the bid allocation for Standard members to 15/month and for Gold to 40/month.
  • o The bid allocation to Gold members has now been doubled to 40 bids/credits.
  • o Also, we have decided to keep the cost of each bid to 1 credit regardless of the project value, which means that essentially everyone will on average be able to bid for double the number of projects with the same credits.
  • It would be more fair to ‘refund’ the bids if the project does not get awarded
  • o We see this point and do agree that it would be fairer to have such a system but unfortunately it would not be possible to ‘refund’ bids because everyone would have to buy bids, then wait until project expiry to before the bids can be refunded.
  • o We decided that it would be more practical to give more free bids (see above) to everyone that will in practice neutralise the effect of some wastage.
  • The number of categories allowed were too restricting
  • o We can see the point that a lot of providers have skills that span two categories so have doubled the free categories for both Standard and Gold members to 2 and 4 respectively.
  • It would be very difficult for new providers to win work
  • o Again, this was one of the major factors behind the big increase of the free bids for the Standard membership.
  • o Also, we are working on a new system to allow providers (new and existing) to ‘import’ feedback from projects they have completed outside PPH. We’re hoping that this will help new providers start with some feedback and win work.

On another positive note, from the buyers asked separately about the scheme, the feedback was almost 100% positive about introducing some type of premium accounts for providers and also to limit the number of free bids to increase quality.

We expect this to improve the percentage of projects awarded, as the common complaints by buyers are that they have often have to go through a large number of bids from providers that do not necessarily have all the skills needed and also that some providers do not respond to the buyers during the bidding stage (and sadly, some don’t even respond after they have won the work!).

It’s worth stressing again that the main drivers behind this is to increase the bid quality and number of projects accepted, as well as provide an avenue for those who wish to benefit from lower commission fees. Without wishing to spark a debate about this (and you’ll have to take our word from it or just ignore this comment!), it’s worth noting that we actually estimate (based on the figures so far) that any financial gains from the bidding will be offset by the reduction in commission, so there will actually won’t be any significant direct financial benefit for PPH – we are however hoping that the increase in the number of projects awarded will benefit both PPH and our provider community.

In summary, the new scheme will be as follows:

 

Standard

GOLD

PLATINUM

Monthly Fee

Free

£7.95

£14.95

Monthly Credit allowance

15

40

80

Additional credits (per bundle of 10)

£5.95

£4.95

£4.95

Service Categories

2

4

Unlimited

Max No. skills listed in profile

10

15

20

Profile listing

Hosted portfolio

2Mb – 5 files

10Mb – 10 files

20Mb – 20 files

Additional service categories

£5.95/mo

£3.95/mo

Free

Service (Commission Fee)

10.00%

8.50%

7.50%

Minimum service (Commission Fee)

£15.00

£10.00

£10.00

       

Project Value

Credits/bid

 

 

Less than £250

1

   

£250 – £500

1

   

> £500

1

   

 Some other amendments to the scheme include:

  • Longer expiry period for purchased bids – this has been increased and instead of expiring at the end of each month, the bids purchased will only expire at the end of the following month e.g. if purchased on 10th of September, the bid credits will expire at the end of October)
  • Free period when upgrading to the premium accounts – the period between the date of upgrade the end of the current month, will be free of charge for those who choose upgrade to Premium accounts e.g. if the upgrade takes place on the 7th of September, the rest of September will be free and the firstly monthly fee paid will be for the month of October.

With the launch of the networking features a few months ago, a large number of providers have been collaborating and building their professional network by connecting with other providers that they can work on projects with.

With that in mind, we have launched earlier today new features to enable providers to form virtual teams with other providers in their network and bid together, as a team, for projects. To start forming a team, you need to log on to the team section under “My Network” and once you have created your team, you will be able to invite other providers to join.

Each team creator is also the leader of each team and is responsible for placing the bid, communicating with the buyer and coordinating the work done. Once the project is completed, the team leader raises an invoice and collects the payment from the buyer to his PPH account. It is up to each team to agree their own business terms regarding payments from the team leader to the team members for the work each one has done.

To assist with the payment process, we are providing the facility (for those who wish to take advantage of it) for team members to raise invoices for the team leader, who can then pay them using the funds in his PPH account. This minimizes the number of payments and hence transaction fees for everyone. Alternatively, team providers can agree on another arrangement for settling payments but we recommend using the PPH payment system available where necessary.

Please send us your feedback if you have any comments/suggestions about the new features that have been launched.

We often get asked to provide help with bidding and advise on how it’s best to write proposals and how much to charge. While there is no ‘magic formula’, we have compile a short checklist of what we believe you should have in mind. While some points might seem fairly basic/obvious (e.g. having a comprehensive, up-to-date profile), a quick glance at the site shows that it’s easy to overlook these especially when you are going through a busy period at work. 

  • Your profile – review your profile to make sure it’s complete and all your skills have been added (these are also important so that buyers can find you when they are searching). The numbers speak for themselves – incomplete/poor profiles hardly win any work! Make sure your profile is always up-to-date and your online portfolio contains a good selection of your best work; revisit your profile periodically to add your latest projects, skills and clients. 
  • Feedback – a recent study that we conducted revealed that providers’ success rates in winning work had increased at least 10 fold after winning their first positive feedback on the site, with the top providers’ success rates reaching 15%-20%. Make sure you always ask buyers to leave feedback for you as soon as they pay for the invoices you have raised through the site. Invoicing through PeoplePerHour.com is the only way to build feedback and stay protected against bad debts.
  • Cover all bases – ensure that you give comprehensive proposals, explaining clearly why you are equipped to do the job, highlighting relevant previous experience. Look at relevant accepted bids on the site to refine your proposals and get a feel for the pricing if you are unsure what to charge. While it may be good idea to start with a template for your bids, ensure that you put in the time to customise each bid and address all the particular requirements of the project in question.
  • Be specific – be as specific as possible in your communication with buyers, not only in providing verifiable examples of relevant work you have done in the past but also on costs and timescales. If the buyer has not provided enough information for an accurate quote, do your best to provide a realistic quote if possible and state clearly your assumptions to the buyer or, even better, ask for the relevant information before committing to a final price.
  • Offer a free sample – make the first step and proactively offer a small, free sample of work to the buyer – it’s the best way of convincing them that you are capable of doing the job; results speak for themselves! For example, if a buyer needs their website to be redesigned you could offer redesigning 1 page for free as a sample. This approach can work for a number of sectors; translations, copy editing/writing, design are only a few of these. Most buyers will even be happy to agree to pay for the ‘free sample’ you have provided upfront if they end up accepting your bid.

This list is by no means comprehensive but should get you off to a good start – feel free to share your suggestions and experience with others, either here or in the ‘Bidding Q & A’ discussion group (you will need to log in with your Provider credentials).