Online freelancing platforms (OFPs), part of the human cloud market including online work services and crowdsourcing—are online labor marketplaces that match the individual supply of labor with demand for professional talent from business organizations. Leading OFPs are companies such as Upwork and Freelancer who broker direct work arrangements between professionals and businesses on their platform.
The platforms provide a diverse range of work categories from software and web development, to writing and translation, video animation, and data entry. For skilled professionals who are no longer constrained by geographical proximity to work, OFPs can fulfill a desire for flexibility and a balanced lifestyle. For companies, online freelancing platforms are a cost-efficient way to gain access to professionals with specialized skills on an on-demand basis, providing them with flexibility based on project needs.
Incumbents in the online freelancing platform space largely connect freelancers in multiple industry verticals. Likewise, a large number of top disruptors have taken a similar approach such as listed notable disruptors Upwork and Fiverr.
The “other” vertical, which focuses on providing specific freelancing services for specific industries, is also heavily populated by startups. This is likely due to general freelancing platforms not adequately addressing enterprise requirements on specific industry-based skills. Nomad Health, IntelyCare, and Ageras are notable startups seeking to address this gap.
Furthermore, the design and creative vertical is home to a handful of disruptors in their growth stage, with notable companies such as Snappr.
The incumbent players are traditional HR staffing firms that provide staffing solutions in either managing or assisting businesses in their recruitment process. Some companies have taken the initiative to develop their own online platforms, whereas others have invested in some of the disruptors. For instance, the Adecco Group, a global HR solutions provider, launched Adia, connecting freelancers to businesses in partnership with Infosys. Microsoft’s acquisition of Linkedin in 2016 for USD 26.2 billion marked its entry into the realm of online freelancing platforms (OFPs).
Out of the incumbents covered here, Randstad is identified to have taken a particularly aggressive stance in using investments and acquisitions as a tool to grow its portfolio. Other entrants via acquisiton includes Vistaprint (owned by listed Irish company Cimpress) which acquired freelancer marketplace 99designs in October 2020. Backstage, a freelance marketplace for content creators announced the acquisition of two freelance marketplaces for creatives, StarNow and The Mandy Network in February 2021.