Looking around my local coffee shop, where tables used to be over-run by mothers and their prams or students pretending to study, I see a change in the crows. A new phenomenon has arrived - The Laptop-Mogul.
It appears that, thanks to modern technology, anyone with a word processor and an internet connection can now call themselves a professional. With so many programmes and "self teach" blogs and videos out there, so many half-day courses to take to pad out your CV, the talent pool is becoming diluted.
Freelancing/contracting used to be reserved for the very best in the field, but with online platforms and sleek looking websites fooling us all in to thinking that any start-up can be specialist, I'm starting to see the market saturated with novices. Begging the question - When did everyone become an expert?
Now how to separate the men from the boys? When trying to delegate those fiddly tasks like web content or social media marketing, you don't need to have anyone in house - thus is the beauty of the collaborative economy - but what if you don't have that competent contractor on hand? A Google search just doesn't cut it, as anyone can fabricate a relatively decent looking portfolio if they know how to fluff it out enough, and you'll end up wasting your time waiting for substandard work. Where to find the true talent?
The first place I go to is my network of contacts, seeking recommendations and tip offs from my trusted colleagues and clients. It's nice to know that Word Of Mouth isn't yet dead, isn't it? But sometimes I still come up short, and speaking to my fellow entrepreneurs, they've found the same issues. We don't have the time to be wading through the work-from-home wannabes when we should be evolving our industries. So what next?
The answer is the same as when you're looking for a new phone plan or the best local plumber - The Comparison Site concept. Find the platform that pits them up against each other, using experience and user ratings to not only level the playing field, but bring the cream of the crop to the top and to your attention. For freelancers, this comes in the shape of PeoplePerHour, where freelancers can't just join up and then rest on their laurels - They're there to fight for contracts and win your work, which takes all of the hard work out of your search. Plus, there'll be no novices here... Each freelancer works on an eBay style rating-system, each vying for a spot on the "Top Talent" list, so you can be sure you're getting the best of the bunch and not just having to accept what you can find from your search engine.
I've seen so many start-ups flourish from finding the right freelancers to farm out key tasks to. Let's face it, no man is an island, but an entrepreneur must be the puppeteer... The person who can split up their concept in to pieces and send it out, then put it together when it comes back in to the perfect picture. We're puzzle solvers. But you're only as strong as your weakest link, as the old adage goes, and I've watched some of the greatest idea's fall at the first hurdle by fumbling around for substandard contacts in lieu of looking in the right places for the perfect professional.
So when it comes to trying to see through the fog of try-hards and beginners, don't waste your time. You don't have it to spare, after all, if you have something that's really ready to take off. Choose a platform that allows you to become the customer and post your tasks, then sit back and watch the pitches come in, allowing you to pick the perfect partners. Pit them up against each other, don't go trawling the internet for the best you can find, and you'll not only save yourself valuable time but also set yourself ahead of your competitors when it comes to growing your business. That's how to sort the men from the boys.