Expat Workforce is an online meeting place for businesses looking to outsource work to Americans living abroad in low cost of living countries.
Andrew Motiwalla, Founder and Interim CEO, created this company with the idea that hiring expats living in low cost of living countries offered a variety of benefits to US based companies. The site makes it easy to meet the expats, discover their skills and availability, and get to work!
MO: Tell us about your experiences that led you to creating this unique business?
Andrew: After college, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America and I realized that I loved living abroad. However, once my Peace Corps service was finished, I discovered it was difficult to get meaningful private-sector work abroad. The only options I found were teaching English or doing translation work. However, I wanted something that had more potential for growth. So, I returned to live and work in the USA, always with the intention of moving abroad someday.
Fast forward 14 years. I am now the CEO for an international education company that sends school groups abroad. Every year when I look at our financial statements, I think to myself, “we could save so much money if we could outsource some of these staff functions to highly educated expats.” It was frustrating because I know those expats exist, but there was no easy way to find them.
That’s when I realized that there needed to be a marketplace to hire expats. Not just so my company could save money, but also so that one day I could move abroad and be able to do meaningful work.
MO: Why should people hire expats?
Andrew: Over the years, I have outsourced work to different countries. In some cases it worked fine, in other cases it didn’t. Many of my small-business owner friends have also had mixed results. The times it didn’t work usually involved miscommunication – the person doing the work didn’t quite “get it” and the project never ended like the client wanted. Outsourcing to other countries requires a great deal of skill – you need to clearly define every detail of the project, every word of copy, every graphic, etc. This is often fine for big companies that have entire teams working in the US to spec a project and then they simply send it abroad for implementation.
However, small and medium sized businesses don’t have that capacity. In these cases, outsourcing to an expat is like adding another person to your company. You can explain a project to them in broad strokes and they can help you design it, spec it and even give you ideas about how to improve it. There’s less cross-cultural miscommunication.
Sometimes, there are certain tasks that require a deep understanding of American culture. For example, we had a company hire someone to run through a database of customers and figure out what their gender was. Nowadays with the proliferation of non-traditional names, this wasn’t an easy task. There was another company that wanted people around the world to write descriptions of bed and breakfasts in their country. The descriptions had to written with an understanding of the mentality of the upscale American traveler. These are tasks that are best suited to expats.
MO: Tell us how the process actually works. What are the costs, how do you pay the workers?
Andrew: It’s totally free for expats to build their online resume to showcase their talents. We allow expats to post their resume, a link to their LinkedIn profile, and even embed a YouTube video so they can pitch themselves to potential employers.
It’s also free for employers to browse the profiles of our expats. When they’re ready to contact an expat, they simply purchase a subscription and it unlocks all the tools to communicate directly to them. It’s up to the employer to rigorously interview the expat just like they would interview any employee. It’s sort of like a dating site – you can browse profiles for free, but then you must become a subscriber to contact someone you like. However, we are currently offering free subscriptions while we are in beta.
Once a business connects with an expat, the relationship is solely between them. Expat Workforce does not charge a finders fee or commission. All hiring and payments occur directly between the two parties, there are no middlemen.
MO: You have expats with a variety of skills and in a large variety of industries. Can anyone be an expat worker, or do you have to fit any qualifications?
Andrew: Anyone can be an expat worker. Expats can list whatever skills they have. It’s up to employers to review the expat’s resume (posted on the site), check out their portfolio and interview them, just like they would with any employee. In some cases, employers just need someone to do simple tasks that any expat could do. In other cases, they require more specialized skills. We seek to have a wide range of expats featured on our site.
MO: Have you considered hiring people living in areas of the US that have lower cost of living, such as rural areas?
Andrew: Yes, there’s definitely a similar opportunity with people living in rural areas. In fact, the designer of our site, based in the middle of Ohio, was featured in an article years ago about outsourcing to the rural areas. However, at this time, it doesn’t fit the positioning of the site.
MO: What do you think are the ideal jobs to outsource to expats?
Andrew: Jobs that require the skills of a native English speaker are ideal for expats. Examples of these jobs include: blog writing, receiving customer service phone calls for the US market, US telesales, copywriting, proofreading, virtual personal assistant, and market research in the country where they live.
For my other company, I personally use Expat Workforce to find American teachers around the world who can teach the school groups that we send abroad.
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