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How to Tap Into the Remote Economy

Putting a Global Network of Freelancers to Work

Small-business owners across the country and around the world are tapping into a tremendous new talent pool—virtual freelancers. Thanks to advances in telecommunications technology and applications that make it easy to organize and monitor remote workers, small-business owners can now operate a prosperous, dynamic company from their living rooms.

Since the tech and dot-com booms of the early 2000s, a new generation of online service marketplaces has appeared to connect small companies with specialists and freelancers. Main Street is no longer a physical place; increasingly, small businesses rely on virtual tools to manage workflow, coordinate employees, and deliver products.

Apps and virtual networks are leveling the playing field between small and big businesses at an unprecedented rate. Now, a small-business owner acting as a sole proprietor can look to the wider world of virtual freelancers and remote service providers.

Need an IT fix?  Hire an engineer in India. Time for a new brand? Contact a designer in London. When it comes to finding solutions to common small-business problems, the whole world is literally at your fingertips.

Benefits of Telecommuting

Entrepreneurs understand the mission of their business better than anyone else. More often than not, a small-business owner can effectively execute every task associated with her business. That’s why many business owners prefer to directly supervise a workforce of centrally located employees and contractors.

The only problem? Remote workers are often two to three times more cost-efficient. And recent advances in technology have made it easier than ever to manage projects and monitor the progress of your contractors with little more than an Internet connection and a smartphone.

If you’re ready to make the transition to a virtual workforce, the first step is to identify what tasks might be ripe for outsourcing to remote freelancers. The next step is to choose a platform that best suits specific needs of your project.

The marketplace is crowded with websites and applications designed to facilitate business owners growing a virtual workforce. Elance and oDesk, for example, offer virtual work rooms and automated systems for monitoring hours, progress, and payments.


Marshall Walker Lee graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan's Honors College with degrees in Writing and Philosophy. As a freelance writer and designer he has developed branding strategies and programming for J. Walter Thompson, Nike, the Kellogg Foundation, Spike TV, Sony Films, and General Motors. He is the co-founder and director of Poor Claudia, a 501(c)3 non-profit publishing enterprise based in Portland, Oregon.