Is it time to buy Freelancer Ltd shares?

Freelancer Ltd (ASX: FLN) is the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace with over 20 million users and 8.8 million projects worth over $3 billion posted to date.

Along with the likes of XERO FPO NZ (ASX: XRO)Aconex Ltd (ASX: ACX) and WiseTech Global Ltd (ASX: WTC), it is founder-led, highly innovative, and has massive global potential.

Freelancer’s most recent report showed strong growth in all key metrics. Revenues have compounded at around 50% per annum for several years. It has reached positive cash flow, has plenty of cash in the bank to continue funding growth, and has strong gross margins of around 87%.

Platforms like Freelancer create a global market for skilled workers, primarily connecting talent from developing markets to businesses all over the world. Freelancer now operates 52 regional websites and supports 34 languages.

Incredibly, around half the world’s population still does not have internet access. As this changes in the coming years, the supply of skilled freelancers is likely to continue to grow.

Looking at the demand side of things, Freelancer estimates there are currently 160 million service jobs worldwide which could potentially be carried out remotely.

Research from UBS found that the “total blue sky addressable market for the Small Business and Consumer crowd-sourcing markets could be as large as $122 billion and $155 billion respectively.”

UBS also estimates that projects sourced through the platform cost around 10x less than if sourced through traditional means in Australia – a $2,000 job might cost only $200 if done through Freelancer.

In 2015, around 50% of completed projects were sourced from the US, UK, and Australia, with the other 50% spread throughout the rest of the world.

With these industry dynamics, it is hard to imagine anything other than strong growth in the demand for online freelance work in the next few years.

Network effect + industry tailwinds = big profits  

If Freelancer can sustain a network effect in the face of plenty of competition, the growing trend towards online outsourcing is likely to lead to substantial growth.

It is too early to tell how strong Freelancer’s network is, and there is a risk it could lose out to one of its major competitors, such as US-based or In addition, any online business operating in a niche area faces the risk of eventually having to compete with one of the global internet giants, such as Google or Facebook, who have the biggest and strongest networks and are always looking to apply them to new areas.

However, so far, Freelancer has done a good job of continuing to grow its network of users and projects.

Time to buy?

Shares are down around 22% from their high in the last 12 months. Currently trading around $1.50, analysts have a consensus 12-month price forecast of $2.04.

Freelancer is a speculative investment, however, in my view it currently represents decent value for long-term investors, and there are few companies on the ASX with greater global potential.

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Motley Fool contributor Matthew Bugden has shares in Xero, WiseTech Global and Freelancer . The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of WiseTech Global and Xero. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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