DESIGN firms in Scotland are being undercut by a website that allows users to outsource work to Eastern Europe and India at a fraction of the price, sparking fears that buyers will increasingly seek inferior designs at the expense of small British firms and sole traders.
Hairy Coo, an Edinburgh-based coach tour operator, used Freelancer.com to source artwork for its bus from a designer in Bulgaria at one tenth the price that was quoted by a UK-based design firm.
Matt Barrie, chief executive of Freelancer.com, which he has dubbed “eBay for jobs”, dismissed concerns over the effects on small design firms in Scotland.
“We help the traditional small business owners,” said Barrie, who founded the website five years ago. “I’m opening up new markets. There is a whole new class of work that did not exist in the past. We create jobs, not take jobs. Now, for a very small amount of money, you can create a business using freelancers.”
Freelancer.com has more than 3.5 million users and has seen 1.6 million assignments – mainly web and brand design – being commissioned abroad, Barrie said.
But Mark Gorman, former managing partner at advertising agency 1576 and now “head of thinking” at consultancy Think Hard, said users of overseas contractors must be wary. “Anyone that wants good design needs some sort of thought-through brief and some talent,” he said.
“I’m sure someone in Bulgaria is perfectly capable of knocking something up for £100, but if you have got any pride in what you want you are probably going to spend more than £100 on a logo.
“That sort of proposition appeals to the sort of people that are only interested in cost. Pay peanuts and get monkeys. I don’t think it poses a threat to credible design companies.”
A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said: “A platform that simply connects businesses shouldn’t be regarded as a threat to Scottish businesses.
“You would hope that, for every Scottish business losing work to a foreign firm, there’d eventually be a Scottish business selling their product to a foreign customer.
“Many Scottish businesses will have to rise to this challenge. They may not be able to compete with businesses in developing economies on price alone, but a focus on quality and customer service could give them an edge.”