By Jesse Krieger
Or at least if you’re looking at unemployment statistics, I’ve never been counted in the employed column.
That’s because I’ve never formally been an employee…
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. Lost in the jumble of labor statistics and economic indicators is a relatively new class of people who earn a living through either entrepreneurship or contracting their services for compensation online.
The way I see it, the Internet enables a fundamentally different way of working and earning an income. 15 years ago, the thrill of the Internet was being able to sign on with a 2400kbps modem and find guitar tablature for my favourite songs, then queuing them up to download overnight as the connection was so slow. Now it’s possible to hire, manage and coordinate teams of specialists in different countries and time zone via online platforms that enable a wide array of business functions.
With little more than well-defined job requirements, you can connect with service providers around the world to act as virtual departments within your business. This goes well beyond simply “outsourcing a call center”, as that assumes there was a domestic call center beforehand.
There is something innately fun in doing business this way and as a by-product you come to learn a little about different cultures and geographies as well as who specialize in what, and where. I’ve found great graphic designers in Kosovo and Argentina, solid programmers in Ukraine and India and of course agile manufactures and logistics coordinates in China and Hong Kong.
English tends to be the common language of international business, but learning a little about the customs and language of the people I’ve worked with has built some goodwill and facilitated working relationships with a personal touch, as opposed to focusing exclusively on the task at hand.
In most cases where continuity of the working relationship is crucial, I’ll insist on working with a team as opposed to an individual. This way I can build a relationship with the project manager and then communicate with team members doing the day-to-day work on my project.
Once the framework of the working relationship is in place in the form of a Service Level Agreement (SLA), then it is not important who is executing on the deliverables so long as they get done on time, on budget, and at the level of quality I expect. This allows for broad operating latitude on both our ends and eliminates any urge to micromanage or spend more time than is necessary to get a project done.