The Head, Corporate Communications, TERAWORK, a freelance website where individuals or businesses can search and hire talented freelancers, Olutola Majolagbe spoke to Judith Obaze on the company’s operations, the economy and others. Excerpts:
What is Terawork into and how long have you been in business?
TERAWORK is into the business of connecting service providers or freelancers through our online market place with the people that need their services. TERAWORK is a freelance website where individuals or businesses can search and hire talented freelancers or sell freelance services including art and creative design, web design and digital marketing, social media marketing, technology and software programming, writing, business consulting, accounting, legal, virtual assistant, multimedia, fashion& lifestyle etc. TERAWORK freelance website was open to the public in December 2017. That’s like 12 months ago.
Why did you decide to create this website?
TERAWORK website was created essentially to solve two major problems that lots of people face. First, for individuals or groups of people with marketable skills who are willing to earn a living by taking freelance jobs, TERAWORK website was created so they can register freely, showcase and sell their services globally. TERAWORK ensures that they always receive payment for their works as long as they deliver quality jobs. Freelancing is an alternative to full-time employment, and this in a way tackles unemployment problem.
Secondly, for individuals or businesses who face difficulties in getting the right, competent professionals to help them get their jobs done at the right time, and at the quality they want; for people who often feel vulnerable and live in fear of not getting values for their money when they try to engage someone for their jobs, TERAWORK is created so that they can conveniently search and hire top-quality freelancers to help them get their jobs done, without ever paying for poor quality jobs. Also, entrepreneurs and SMEs with lean budgets can search our website and hire freelancers for one-time, temporary or short-term roles, rather than committing themselves to employing regular staff that will eventually become redundant when the roles is no longer required.
How has the response been so far and are more Nigerians searching for services online?
We are gradually gaining traction as the number of people visiting and engaging freelancers on our website is gradually increasing. But we still have lots to do in terms of awareness, because there are so many people out there that will greatly benefit from hiring our freelancers or offering freelance services but are yet to come across us.
What has been the challenges faced in the industry so far?
One of the banes of online platforms is users fear when it comes to safety of their personal and card details, people feeling reluctant to enter their card details on some online sites, fearing that someone else apart from the website they visit might steal their details, gain unauthorise access to their bank accounts and steal from them etc. At TERAWORK we take security, safety and confidentiality of our users’ data paramount. We follow best practices in our website designs and change management, we build useful features and create options where possible to ensure that our users have nothing to worry about when they use our website to sell or buy freelance works. For example, our website uses secure http protocol with SSL certificate which encrypt our users’ data with the strongest available security and carries warranty worth hundreds of thousands of US Dollars to further protect their purchases. In addition, apart from making payment with local or international cards, our users can also make payment when ordering freelance jobs with Internet banking transfer or with our GiftCard. Another challenge is that while a lot of people practice freelancing in a way, they don’t consciously describe the act as freelancing and somehow, we all found the word ‘freelancing’ not as popular as we actually practice it. For example, what we call ‘side hustle’ is actually a part-time freelancing. With continuous awareness this will change.
Do you feel that our technology in Nigeria is improving as fast as other parts of the world?
The use of technology in our processes is improving no doubt, but definitely not at the same pace with the western world countries. In the recent time If you observe you will see techie companies springing up more rapidly than ever, and existing companies are trying to be more efficient by introducing new technologies in one form or another in their processes. Nigerians are embracing technology because the values it brings are obvious; things get done faster, smarter and more efficiently, great conveniences for users, etc. This is one of the things that spurs us to create TERAWORK where we try to use technology to efficiently and effectively connect people with common interest, which is freelancing.
What is freelancing, and do you think the Nigerian market is ready for freelancing?
Freelancing simply means working on contract basis for variety of companies or individuals, rather that working as employee for a single company. So, a freelancer is a self-employed person who works or offers services to one or multiple clients – individuals or companies – at a time. Also, like I describe earlier, there are people that are not full-time freelancers, who still keep a regular 9-to-5 jobs but are doing ‘side hustles’ in their free times. Freelancers have the liberty to set the time they want to work, and they get paid what they worth. With a platform like our website – terawork.com freelancing can be a great business model that let you get started with virtually no overheads – you don’t need a website, we will give you one and showcase you to the world free of charge; you don’t need advertising, we will do that for you; you don’t need to worry about whether your clients pay or not, as long as you deliver top quality work we will make sure you get paid etc.
The word freelancing goes with a concept of ‘gig economy’ – a situation or environment in which companies that have temporary positions contract independent workers or freelancers on short-term engagements – for hours, days, weeks or a few months. So, anyone with marketable skills and does short-term jobs is freelancing. Nigeria is ready, Nigeria is already practicing freelancing, and side hustling if I may add. For example, we have a growing number of people today in Nigeria offering taxi service via service marketplace platforms like Uber and many individuals and companies are patronizing them. Also, more companies and people are looking to outsource some of their services like graphic designs, web and UI/UX designs, writing, software coding, SEO/SEM and social media accounts management, call centres, hardware support, events management etc. to freelancing.
How fast is the Nigerian market moving at par with other foreign countries?
As I mention earlier, we are not doing badly as a country in terms of embracing new technology to solve some of the challenges we face, however, we are not moving as fast as most western countries. Take for example, approximately 55 million Americans, representing about 35 percent of their workforce, were freelancing as at 2016. One of the reasons freelancing gets popular there is because they use technology to drive and run it. There are many freelance websites in the US that connect companies and individuals with freelancers. They are bringing great values to both the freelancers, the companies and individual people that hire them. This gap is what TERAWORK is filling in Nigeria and Africa at large. ‘TERA’ in our name means trillion – meaning through our website, trillions of freelance jobs will exchange hands between our freelancers and people that patronize them.
Are there other competitors doing this already and what makes TERAWORK better?
Yes, there are local and international competitors. However, what makes us better is that at TERAWORK, freelancer and client’ signups are free, secure and intuitive. We don’t charge our freelancers before they are listed for potential clients to see. Likewise, we don’t charge our clients before they interact with our freelancers. Unlike some of our competitors who only provide list of freelancers to potential clients, our website in addition provides features that enable freelancers and clients effectively manage their projects, communicate and securely share project files, handle payments efficiently etc. Also, we have dedicated customer support system and great documentation for timely resolution of problems, we have blog posts, helpful tips, news and users’ testimonials on our blog site. Also, we are conscious of the fact that people should like and trust our brand and we are trying our best to see that these happen.
How have you been able to attract both freelancers and those seeking their services?
First and foremost, signup is completely free for both freelancers and those seeking their services. We don’t charge any fee for freelancers and clients to interact, discuss their projects, negotiate price or specify and consent to quality level and requirements for their projects to be considered successful when the freelancers eventually deliver the projects.
In addition, our clients’ privacies are highly respected. No freelancer, in a bid to advertise their services, is allowed to send unsolicited messages to our clients. You know, that can be annoying most of the times. Our website has all the cool features and tools to give our clients great user experience. Also, everyone that signs up as a freelancer on our website practically gets their own branded e-commerce site with access to manage contents on their pages from the backend free of charge. Every freelancer receives their own branded e-commerce website hosted on terawork.com with friendly, easy to remember URLs. All the tools they need to manage their projects are built into the system, made available to them, and our system ensures that they get paid for every job they successfully deliver. All these give everyone who has marketable skills an opportunity to earn a living.
How competitive are the charges by the freelancers and does the company charge a fee to be on the platform?
Let me answer the second question first. We don’t charge freelancers to be on our platform. Freelancer’s registration is completely free. Equally, we don’t charge clients to register and use our platform. Their registration is also free. Now back to the first question. One of the values we give our freelancers is that we actively market the platform, their brands and their services, and that already takes some cost off them in a way. This enables our freelancers to be able to offer their services at a lesser cost, thereby extending the same values to clients that patronize them.
What are the quality measures put in place to ensure 100 percent customer satisfaction?
When clients order jobs from our freelancers, we don’t release payment to the freelancers until the freelancers deliver the jobs to the specifications they agreed with their clients, the clients confirm to us that they are happy with the quality of the job delivered by their freelancers, and the clients authorise us to release payment to their freelancers. With this arrangement, clients will never pay for poor work on our website; they will have 100 per cent refund of their payment once their freelancers fail to deliver their work at the quality they agreed before the work commences.
In addition, we give opportunities to and encourage our clients to rate and write reviews about the freelancers that worked for them. Those reviews are published on our freelancers’ pages so that everyone can see.
Are there security measures put in place to protect both the freelancers and the potential buyers?
Like I mentioned earlier, At TERAWORK we take security, safety and confidentiality of our users very paramount. We follow best practices when it comes to security. Our website uses secure http protocol with SSL certificate, i.e. https. This encrypt our users’ data with the strongest available security. It also carries warranty worth some hundreds of thousands of US Dollars to further protect their purchases as I mentioned earlier.
Also, our website doesn’t store any of our users’ card details. Our payment gateway companies do, and they have all the relevant expertise, processes and certifications like PCIDSS etc, in place which the likes of companies like MasterCard and Visa etc. require and are comfortable with. That’s further protections for our users.
In addition, our users, both freelancers and clients have their own secure backend access to their accounts which only them alone have access to and as long as they keep their password secure no one else will have access to their private data.
What are your future plans in remaining relevant by being more creative and innovative?
Being creative and innovative is a journey and not a destination for us. Everyone in our team knows this and we are all committed to continuous improvement of our website and processes.
The economy is currently going through a difficult patch, even after recession, do you think this stands as a threat or opportunity for the business?
Most economies in the world are going or have gone through a difficult patch at one time or another, however, every challenge come with opportunity. Gig economy which makes freelancing popular is one of the way societies respond torealities of difficult moments. Freelancing helps entrepreneurs, businesses and individuals get things done faster and at a cheaper cost, while at the same time it also helps freelancers, vendors or service providers themselves get their businesses started with the lowest possible cost, thanks to all freelance website initiatives including TERAWORK.
Do you think the government is doing enough to create enabling environment for new online companies?
Government is trying their best no doubt. There are lots of federal and some state government initiatives that are encouraging online companies. But there’s room for improvement