Richard Branson's eggheads have come up with another exciting wheeze for small businesses. The Virginbiz.net website has launched a freelance sourcing service for SMEs, called Marketplace.
Users can contract out small pieces of work that will help them establish or grow their businesses, and freelancers from around the world (or 'e-lancers' as they have been dubbed) can bid on doing the work.
Marketplace focuses on certain pieces of work that most smaller businesses do not have expertise in-house to perform. Preparing market research for a business plan, writing a press release to announce new products or services, or setting up a website are all pieces of work that are ideal for e-lancers - and they don't even have to be in your own country to do the work well and inexpensively.
The website cites the example of a US company that set up an online shop to offer films, music, books and software over the internet in downloadable formats, such as MP3, PDF and WMP files.
Based in California, pyke.com had its website designed by a Russian e-lancer in Kiev, the back-end services behind the website put together by a freelance engineer in India, the logo designed by an Italian freelancer, and a business plan written by a writer in Canada.
Ed Shull, pyke.com's owner, said: "For my complete website, business plan, logo design and other work, I have paid a little under $12,000. In the area I work in now [Silicon Valley], that wouldn't even pay for the logo. The website itself, including the back-end, cost $3000."
Marketplace is run by a US company elance.com, and Virginbiz simply links into the site.
Afam Edozie, Virginbiz's marketing director, said smaller companies will find this the best way to locate expertise, and at a reasonable cost.
"You might need to have some work done on your office network, or some marketing or financial services, and all you do is post up the requirements in the forms, and suppliers will then bid on the work. It means you will get a good price," he said.
Edozie said that Virgin will not vet suppliers or become involved in disputes. However, there is a facility built in to the e-lance system that allows people who have used suppliers to rate the services they have received.
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