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'Companies are looking to really maintain business continuity': Upwork CEO on freelance workers

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Global freelance company Upwork helps connect professionals and agencies to businesses seeking specialized talent. Upwork CEO Hayden Brown joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move to break down how her company is faring as well as address how freelance workers are managing to work during the pandemic.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: We learned this morning the weekly jobless claims number have reached 4.4 million for a five-week total of 26 million. What about the freelance workers out there?

We're joined now by the CEO of Upwork, Hayden Brown. She's joining us from Santa Clara, California. And what your company does is offer freelance workers the opportunity to sort of be farmed out, so to speak, to different companies and to work remotely digitally. What are you seeing right now in terms of demand from companies? One would have to imagine it's gone down. And what kind of demand are you seeing from freelance workers who want work right now?

HAYDEN BROWN: Thanks, Julie, for having me on. We're actually seeing continued demand from clients as a lot of companies are looking to really maintain business continuity, even while they're kind of getting through the crisis. And so we've actually seen a lot of strength around people hiring for information security, around network and systems admin, as well as fields like gaming where I think with a lot of people at home, companies are really investing in how they can bring more entertainment options to people. And then categories like writing where there's a lot of interest in getting freelancers to rewrite ad copy or help with messaging around COVID, things like that. And so I think a lot of businesses are just adapting and focused on business continuity as well as how they can leverage these types of workers to get work done even in this uncertain time.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And there's a belief that we're going to see more use of freelancers and gig-economy-type workers from home after COVID-19 crisis. But one of the things that it exposed was the lack of a safety net for some of these people. Do you think they'll be a push, either by employers or by some kind of freelancers union, for Congress to address that kind of issue?

HAYDEN BROWN: I think the current programs in place have been excellent in actually letting the freelancers tap into those for the first time. And so already I think the government's on the right track by creating the access in the current relief programs to independent workers who often are the hardest hit in these types of downturns.

MELODY HAHM: Hey, Hayden. And as I understand it, you are kind of embodying your own mantra. So you're based in Santa Clara, but as I understand it, you have team members across 800 cities worldwide. Have you had to furlough any folks? Have you had to lay anyone off during this time?

HAYDEN BROWN: We've been doing remote work for 20 years, and so you're right. We've had 1,200 of our freelancers working remotely from 800 cities around the world, and that's just part of our core model. So we have not had to make any major changes around that part of our business.

We have asked the employees that work out of our three offices in the US to work from home. That's been going on for many weeks now. And I'd say the transition has been really smooth as we've done that and really just focused our teams not on some of the internal change, which has been minimal, but how do we help our customers? because a lot of them are making these changes for the first time. They don't know how to work remotely. They're really trying to adapt to managing distributed teams, and we have a ton of expertise in that. And so really what we've been doing is reaching out, helping them, giving training, providing tips and tools so that they can transition remotely and manage their workforces really successfully even at this time.

JULIE HYMAN: So, Hayden, for folks-- not the companies who are looking for freelancers but the freelancers who are looking for work and people, as you say, who are trying to pivot right now and find work, what are some of the biggest tips that you can offer to them in terms of finding that training or things that they need to know when they're looking for work right now?

HAYDEN BROWN: There's definitely a lot of demand from those workers right now for work, and we've seen a surge on our platform of more talented professionals signing up and looking for those opportunities. I'd say the tips are, number one, this is a moment to really focus on upskilling and reskilling. So if someone is looking for these types of independent jobs, they need to make sure that their skills are up to date, and they can use a variety of online training courses and those types of things to get up to date.

The second thing is making sure that they sign up on a platform like Upwork and create a really detailed profile that showcases their expertise, portfolio items of work they've completed, maybe some recommendations from past clients or employers.

And then finally, when they're reaching out to try to win independent professional work, it's really important that their approach is tailored. We see success time and again from folks who really take the time to understand the client's requirements and then propose how they can help in a very targeted way.

JULIE HYMAN: All right, Hayden, thank you so much. I was just glancing at your stock price, which is up about 2% today. I know you guys were out with earnings in early May on the 6th.

Thank you so much for joining us. Hayden Brown is the CEO at Upwork. Appreciate it.

HAYDEN BROWN: Thank you.