Most of the people who register to work as freelancers on Elance don’t end up earning $1 million or more in annual revenue. Ignacio Galarraga did it with his graphic design company NetMen. As my conversation with him will reveal, Galarraga started out on Elance in much the same way as Sanjay Dange started out on Freelancer.com. Both cite the production of excellent products along with a singular dedication to customer satisfaction as the keys to their unusual success.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Ignacio. First and foremost, congratulations on reaching the elusive $1 million in your entrepreneurial journey.
Ignacio Galarraga: Thank you.
SM: Tell us a little bit about your company. Where are you located? What’s your business?
IG: My company is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started this company myself in 2001. We serve all types of Web and graphic design needs, starting from an initial logo that an entrepreneur is looking for when he has his idea or business plan and wants to start his project. Then we help him build his company. Once the company gets going, we start delivering other products. For example, a Web design or we design brochures and any other things an entrepreneur may need once his company starts going. Basically, we do everything from starting the brand identity to a complete website, an e-commerce website.
SM: Are you selling primarily through Elance?
IG: Yes. Our company is 100% Elance. We started there when Elance was just a couple of years old.
SM: How did you find out about Elance?
IG: Online. Initially, in 2000, it was very difficult to do online business for graphic design. Initially, only eBay or Amazon was growing, so people were used to buying products but not services online. I was looking for something to help me put my company online. I don’t remember how, but I found Elance. As soon as I found it, I researched it. I liked it. I created my company there, my profile and I started uploading examples of my logos, my brochures, and so on. In three weeks, I got my first job. From there, I never stopped. Right now, we have done more than 15,000 projects through Elance. My company has 55 full-time employees. I started myself, so it grew a lot. We went over $3 million in revenue on Elance.
SM: Great. So, tell me a bit more about how you built this business on Elance. You started alone, and you started doing projects in 2001. How long were you alone?
IG: I was alone for two months. As soon as I got more projects, and I wasn’t able to handle everything, I hired my first graphic designer. From there, I hired another graphic designer then more accounts and clients came in. So, I had to hire someone to help me with my account development. From there, I hired account directors and then credit directors. My company was growing, so I had to build a complete organization from scratch. It was a completely new type of business because there was nothing written about how to do business online, how to sell services online and to get customers 100% satisfied. We had to learn and do a lot of things three steps forward, one backward. Now, we have 7,000 reviews done on Elance. Our customers are 97% satisfied with our work.
SM: Talk to me about how you grew your business, going from zero to $3 million on an Elance-based channel. There are obviously lots of things that you’ve learned. Talk to me about some of these areas. For instance, let’s break it down into four or five different areas in which you have created good processes. One is the business development itself. What do you do on Elance that allows you to get projects on a regular, sustained basis?
IG: Apart from our high-quality designs, we are a company that is 100% committed to the customer. The first time I started working on Elance, the first thing I had on my mind was satisfying my customer, no matter the cost. I think that that pushed my company to where it is now. We always work with our customers. My company’s commitment to its customers is the best thing that that my company has. I have seen a lot of providers start, in 2001 and 2002, and they were bigger than my company. But they didn’t have the same success because I think they didn’t have the same commitment. In my company, each employee has this commitment as the first rule: Satisfy our customers 100%. It’s not a secret, but it’s like our secret [ingredient], you know?