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How to Create a Remote Team in the CIS Region and Save up to 80% on Production. The Case of an Austrian Company

Living in Europe and working with a team of remote specialists from the CIS region is an increasingly popular practice. We have dozens of examples with impressive results. This time we want to tell you about the experience of an Austrian company that has been working like this for over 10 years.
We had the task of editing 110 videos. At first we turned to local Austrian freelancers, as it seemed easier and faster. At the time, we had no idea what this decision would lead to. We had six months of downtime, with many nonsensical and absurd negotiations ahead of us. The most frustrating thing was that we lost four-figure sums on prepayments — in Europe even test assignments eat into the budget.
This is the story told to us by Alexander Solovykh, founder of the Education in Vienna project. The situation is familiar to anyone who has ever ordered services from freelancers or remote teams.

The problem is particularly acute in Europe. The prices of local frelancers are several times higher than those of their colleagues from the CIS region. At the same time, the skills and competence of specialists are not always better. How did Alexander solve the situation? Well, let’s look at it in the right order.

How it All Began

Alexander Solovykh moved from Russia to Austria to attend university, and he was so inspired by the country that in 2009 he opened a company there. It helps Russian-speaking applicants from all over the world to enroll in local universities and obtain higher education in Austria.

Today, his project Education in Vienna organises relocation and admission to educational institutions in the country on a turnkey basis, as well as solves related migration issues. The remote team even managed to launch an EdTech project: a personalised video course on self-admission.

Over the years, Alexander has realised that finding a good IT specialist in Europe is a difficult task. That is why he has focused entirely on specialists from the CIS countries. Here the digital industry is several years ahead of the curve, there is more choice, and prices for services are several times lower.
Russian-speaking entrepreneurs are probably not even fully aware of the gap between the EU and the CIS countries in terms of design, technology, and online opportunities. What seems to be the norm in Russia is considered high tech in Europe.
Alexander Solovykh
founder of Education in Vienna
It sounds like the perfect solution, but there is a couple of "buts":

  • Making each international payment requires a written application;
  • Standard bank commission for one SWIFT transfer is 37 euros and sometimes more;
  • Payments to other countries can take up to 5 business days;
  • To reduce the tax burden, you need closing documents in two languages (additional hassle for both freelancers and customers);
  • Bureaucracy steals about 10 hours of an assistant’s time;
  • There’s an increased workload on the accountant at a rate of 350 euros per hour;
  • In order to work efficiently with foreign freelancers, it is often necessary to open a representative office in the country.

Working according to this modele was inconvenient for both the company, as a legal entity, and the freelancers. This is especially true for private entities. The bureaucracy took up a lot of energy and time.
Since we have quite a large team (at the moment there are 21 people on the staff from four countries, including Russia and Ukraine, and 15 people working as freelancers), there was a need to pay remuneration in a way that was fast and affordable. The usual bank commission for a SWIFT payment transfer is at least 37 euros per transaction. This was financially inefficient for us. Moreover, closing documents were required. Ideally from the executor, who had to prepare invoices and certificates in two languages. This added to our routine work.
Alexander Solovykh
founder of Education in Vienna

How Payments Were Organised in the CIS

A friend, who is an HR specialist from the USA, helped them find a way out. She told Alexander that she worked with contractors from other countries through EasyStaff. The service acts as a general contractor and takes on all the tasks of making official payments to employees and freelancers, preparing closing documents, making quick and legal payments in any currency. And all this for a fixed commission of 7% of the amount transferred. No need to open representative offices in the CIS countries.

EasyStaff is a convenient payment service for freelancers and remote employees. It allows you to work with freelancers of any tax status and from any country without opening an office, and receive closing documents from the contracting company in Lithuania:

  1. You sign just one b2b contract with easystaff. io, and invite your remote team to the service.
  2. From their end, freelancers conclude a service contract.
  3. You set tasks and fund your account by SEPA transfer.
  4. You confirm the task, and easystaff. io makes the payment to the freelancer.
  5. You get a confirmation of the charges.

If you are not yet getting the benefits of working with qualified freelancers from the CIS, contact us, and we will find you a specialist for free.

The solution fits perfectly into the company’s business processes. Alexander contacted us. In three days we discussed the particulars of his work, the specific requirements of the Austrian tax authorities, and found the best solutions. We have been working with Education in Vienna for four years now.
We have lost the fear of recruiting a remote team in different countries. We know that we can pay salaries on time. Before, the issue of payment could have been a stumbling point that caused us to lose good specialists. Now it is all gone.
Alexander Solovykh
founder of Education in Vienna

Video Editing Tasks

Let’s get back to the unpleasant story. The Austrian team of video editors had taken the company’s time and money. We were left with unprocessed videos and a faint hope of finding competent freelancers, and finishing the task as soon as possible.

Alexander decided to turn to a Russian-language freelance marketplace. Now he had a tool in his arsenal, easystaff. io, which would help him build long-term relationships with freelancers without getting bogged down in paperwork.

Just a couple of test assignments led him to a strong team from the CIS. The team did an excellent job in three weeks and asked for five times less for the work than their Austrian colleagues. Specialists of such a level are rare in the EU, as is such speedy work. By way of contrast, it took the Italian candidate 5 weeks just to legally approve her participation in the project.
If it takes you a year to nurture an idea, several months to hire an employee, and weeks to transfer payment, creating an up-to-date product is out of the question
Working with local freelancers, Alexander encountered restrictions, but he was not afraid to understand the intricacies of hiring foreign specialists. As a result, he was convinced by his own example that what is considered the norm of the digital sphere in the CIS countries would be high tech in Europe.

What Helps to Build a Successful Business with a Remote Team from the CIS?

The company has been building an effective recruitment funnel for several years. Today it looks like this:

  1. Preparation of a detailed job description and selection criteria.
  2. Preparation of a form for candidates to fill out, the TOR for the task, then there are more tests when hiring full-time employees: PAEI, Hrscanner, on hard and soft skills, sales tests for sales managers.
  3. Posting jobs on hh.ru, Telegram channels, freelance marketplaces (Kwork, FL, YouDo, Workzilla).
  4. Interviews are conducted via Skype or Zoom. Before that, applicants are asked to record their answers to questions in audio format. This technique helps you choose the best candidates for the call.
  5. The candidate you like is invited for a trial period of 10 to 14 days. An internal knowledge database of 300 pages with the information on company policy, organisational structure, responsibilities and services helps with onboarding.

Today, the company manages to find ‘a gem among stones' out of 70 — 100 candidates from different countries in just one month. Retaining a specialist of this level is helped by an environmentally friendly product that can be sold without shame, interesting tasks, opportunities for professional growth and flexible working conditions, as well as remuneration.

The company learned how to work remotely in an efficient way even before it became mainstream — in 2018, then it grew by 20% over the pandemic. It works with freelancers from countries with the right level of candidates. Bureaucratic delays no longer interfere with freedom of choice, nor do they slow down business processes.
Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries are a treasure trove of super-competent and super-efficient, innovative personnel. Those companies that learn to work with them remotely will secure competitive advantages for decades to come.

Alexander Solovykh

CEO of Education in Vienna