Before the internet era, if you lacked job opportunities in your area, migrating was the only option you had. You had to physically move to where work would be found. Often times, this movement involved crossing national borders.
The need to migrate for work is becoming less pressing. Armed with a computer and access to the internet, you do not have to leave your room - let alone your country- to find opportunities and work in foreign countries. It goes without saying that online freelancing has given work a new reality. One that is beyond what we could imagine just a few decades ago.
You can be a resident of a far flung country and still have a chance of being hired by a technology startup in the Silicon Valley. In cyberspace, only your skills and your skills alone, matter. It does not really matter who, or where you are on the global map.
And this is just the beginning. Current trends in the workplace indicate that we are yet to see the full transformation. Jeff Wald, co-founder, and COO of WorkMarket, a software platform that helps businesses find, manage and grow their freelance workforce, has estimated that by the year 2020 online freelancers will make 50% of the workforce in the United States across major industries.
More and more employees and employers are looking online
It is not the volumes alone that are growing. The variety of jobs that can be done through online freelancing platforms seems to be expanding too.
It is no longer just writers, editors, transcribers and software developers who are being hired to work remotely. The old fashioned professionals like accountants, engineers, and financial expert are joining the ranks in droves too.
In every essence it appears that online freelancing is indeed the future of work. But where do Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies stand in all this? It turns out they are a solution to a problem online freelancing is facing.
First, let us define the problem at hand. It goes without saying that after work, payment is expected. And if online freelancing is going to work for everyone, everyone should find it easy to not only get paid but also to cash out.
That is not really the case at the moment, especially for trans-border payments. Current payment methods like PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, and Skrill, that are currently accepted on most freelancing sites like Upwork and Freelancer are still rough around the edges when it comes to moving money across borders. Not all countries are covered by these payment services.
PayPal, for example, lists more than 190 countries in which its services are available. However, a closer look at access in each of these countries tells a different story altogether. The full suite of PayPal services are only offered in about 50 countries, where one can cash out through a local bank account.
In the majority of other countries you can have a PayPal account and cash out, but only through a US bank account. Getting a US bank account for someone in Africa or South Asia is another rigorous and often disappointing process.
Further, in over 50 countries you cannot withdraw money from a PayPal account to either local or US bank account. In those countries, online freelancers have to rely on informal money exchanges which come at exorbitant costs.
With barrier to payment, online work isn’t truly borderless
Taking the factor of payment methods into consideration, online freelancing and working remotely is not truly borderless, and this is where Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can change the landscape.
Bitcoin is decentralized and thus no one can dictate in which countries it should be used, and in which one it shouldn’t. Furthermore, it is a fast and low-cost way of moving value on the internet.
There are startups already building online work platforms that use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as the primary mode of payment. They include the likes of Coinality, XBTFreelancer, and Git Money.
Indeed, online freelancing and remote working will be truly borderless when the payment methods become insensitive to geographical borders. And cryptocurrencies could be what makes that change possible.