Jobs adds payment methods to Chinese ‘gig’ offerings

Temp site growing as online services connect freelance workers with jobs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 June, 2016, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 June, 2016, 9:02pm

Australian freelancing website is set to expand into China by adding local payment methods and customer support in Chinese to connect the world’s second-largest economy with the international gig economy.

Freelancer connects contractors with job posters wanting to outsource projects from mobile app development to 3D rendering of a design or a cookbook.

Freelancer chief executive officer Matt Barrie said the seven-year-old company plans to expand into China as similar services in the country are on a smaller scale than its 20 million-strong user base.

“We’ve turned on Alipay and UnionPay recently,” Barrie said, referring to the mainland’s two most-popular payment methods.

“We have language support already, but we’re adding customer support in Chinese. We haven’t put any presence over here yet, but we’re just focusing on the getting the product to work well in the market.”

Online payment tool Alipay is part of the Alibaba Group affiliate, Ant Financial Services. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Barrie said freelancers using the site have completed nine million jobs worth US$2.7 billion across 247 countries, regions and territories

The gig, or temporary job market, is growing as online services connect freelance workers with jobs such as working as drivers for ride sharing app Uber.

A three-year study by JPMorgan Chase of the online platform economy, including Uber, Airbnb and on-demand job marketplace TaskRabbit, in the United States, found around 10.3 million people earned an income through these online services. That’s a 47-fold increase over the time of the study from October 2012 to September 2015.

A large proportion of jobs completed through the Freelancer site, Barrie said, have been posted by companies or individuals in the developed world which are then completed by users in the developing world, saving on costs and creating employment.

A company looking for a web developer in the United States would typically have to pay US$2,000 to get a website built, against US$200 on Freelancer.

Popular projects taken on by freelancers in Hong Kong include electronics, product and graphic design, Barrie said.

The volume of project listings have allowed Freelancer to track trends, such as the point when demand for Android apps exceeded the number of adverts looking for iOS apps for iPhone.

“We haven’t seen much demand, for example, for apps for the Apple Watch, but we see huge demand for mobile apps. Maybe it hasn’t got the cool factor yet, or hit the prime time.” Barrie said.

“If people are hiring people to work on jobs, it’s a pretty good indicator that down the track that’s a vibrant [area].”

Barrie said Freelancer now hosts postings for offline jobs such as dog walking or deliveries.

Hong Kong start-up Jobdoh operates on a similar model to connect casual workers with employers for jobs ranging from catering to promotions and market research.

Jobdoh’s on-demand services uses location and pre-screening to match suitable employees with employers.