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Online Freelancing Platforms

Online Freelancing Platforms

Human Cloud

The following report was prepared and published by our sister platform SPEEDA—March 2023.

Trend Overview

‘Human Cloud’ Enables Acquisition and Utilisation of Human Resources for One-Off and Short-Term Jobs

Businesses experience fluctuating demand which requires them to adopt an agile approach in sourcing labour. To do this at a reasonable cost without compromising the level of talent, businesses have turned to a wide range of outsourcing methods over time, from hiring people as regular employees to using temporary staffing agencies. The human cloud allows a business to cost-efficiently access a large pool of professionals with specialised skills on an on-demand basis, providing them with flexibility based on project needs. The human cloud refers to a form of employment where digitally connected talent marketplaces act as middlemen to connect businesses with independent workers. It is a way for businesses to find workers with specific skills and expertise, and for freelance workers to find flexible work opportunities. The human cloud is a subset of the gig economy; while the gig economy is a broader concept that includes all types of short-term contract and freelance work, the human cloud is a type of gig work that is facilitated via online platforms.
The human cloud can be divided into three areas: online staffing platforms (OSPs), crowdsourcing platforms, and online work services. OSPs enable specific hirers and specific workers to transact short-term or project-based work virtually, from anywhere in the world. It is the oldest human cloud model, arising in the early 2000s. Online work services deliver certain specialised services performed by the worker and managed by the platform provider, for example, transportation from A to B via “Uber (USA)”. Crowdsourcing on the other hand enables work assignments to be performed by a widespread “crowd” of independent workers who work at their will, for example providing a specific volume of feedback on a prototype via “Applause (USA)”. Contracts for the latter two are thus often based on output and value delivered. While crowdsourcing produces deliverables by distributing the workload among many crowdworkers, OSPs and online work services tend to match customers with individual entrepreneurs and micro-businesses. In this report, we will explore the human cloud, focusing on OSPs.

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