A dedicated HR department, a marketing staff, IT experts at the ready? Thanks to crowdsourcing, you can. Leveraging the availability of a small army of experts around the world in every area and the technology of cloud computing, companies are bringing this expertise to bear for every small business with a laptop and an internet connection.
It's another form of outsourcing, freelancing or permalancing - the new way to work and to staff our businesses that is developing a growing following. So here are some terms to learn:
Crowdsourcing: Bringing a group of experts from all over the world together to perform a set of tasks via an internet aggregator. Some examples:
-- myGengo is a distributed network of translators. Need a white paper translated into Mandarin? Submit it to the website for an instant quote and wake up to a translated document.
-- GetSatisfaction is a customer-service platform that integrates to everything from an iphone to a company website and allows users of a product or service to provide customer support for others with questions.
-- Experts Exchange is a collective resource for technology support. You can go there to look for answers to a question or post a specific question on technologies ranging from desktop support to high-end programming. If you are a technologist, you can sign up to be an expert and have a list of open issues in your area of expertise emailed to you daily. The more you resolve, the more points you get. Points allow you to create your own "site" on the ExpertsExchange site and develop customer relationships, which in theory can translate into business.
Freelancing: The term freelancing was coined in medieval times to identify mercenaries who would sell their services to any realm. Thus they were free - lancers. The term is used widely to describe people who have solo businesses although most often to those in design and communication. The idea - and the law - behind freelancing is that the expert is free to accept or decline any position. They use their own equipment, they work on their own time, they do things their own way.
Contractors: Long-term hires, usually through an agency. Contractors are usually not entitled to benefits but may work at the company, using company equipment and interacting - even managing - company employees. Typically they are hired on a project basis for a limited term. But that term can be several years, depending on the project's completion timeline.
Permalancing: Now a new term is starting to be heard that describes a new way of working. Permalancing describes what is happening in larger companies across the country. Freelancers are being utilized to do tasks once associated with permanent staff - bookkeeping, customer service, marketing, communications, etc. In most cases, the definition of a permalancer is someone who falls somewhere between temporary employee and staffer.
The challenge is in not blurring the line that delineates the difference between freelancer and employee.
If outsourcing, permalancing and freelancing for corporations and larger businesses continues, laws may be changed to recognize that a new way to work is emerging. For companies the advantage is in a pay-as-you-go model that is even more attractive now when so many top-notch people are marketing their services. For the free- or perma-lancer, it's the opportunity to control their own work life, to do things that interest them, to fit work into their life rather than life into their work.
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Is the day of the full-time employee over? Probably not, but outsourcing - not to cheap foreign labor - but to local experts who are starting small consultancies or freelance shops in your area is a new way to work and get things done. It is bubbling up and its doubtful employers will put a cap on this new type of workforce. For small businesses, it levels the playing field and increases competitiveness without having to grow payroll. The genie is out of the bottle.
Portfolio is a solution provider for small businesses offering expertise from freelance affiliates in communication, technology integration, and software/productivity training. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter or call us for a free consultation at 864-213-6314.