Charles Dickens wrote what freelancers are feeling these days in the opening lines of Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Like the French Revolution, the freelance revolution has its own drama. Many wonder whether freelancing will continue to prosper or be impacted temporarily by the economic and inflationary challenges that global economies are presently facing.
There will be winners as well as losers, leaders and laggards, as freelance platforms and their ecosystem partners adjust to difficult economic circumstances. As in past, well-respected professional services tend to do well despite investment slowdowns and layoffs. But, the question remains, how to avoid the dip? What actions will aid any organization, and especially young freelance businesses, to stand out from the crowd during tough times?
Over the past few months, several early stage platform founders and teams have contacted us at the Agile Talent Collaborative, asking how they can fortify their brand and quickly grow market recognition. So, we’ve assembled a group of leaders of successful freelance platforms in a wide range of countries, and asked for their advice:
What advice do you have for new and beta freelance platforms or related ecosystem services to cut through the clutter and grow market recognition of their brand on an accelerated basis? In a tough period with limited talent “supply”, nervous and impatient investors, and many relatively undifferentiated competitors, how can they stand out?
Here’s what they said:
Oz Alon, Founder and CEO of HoneyBook.com (US). “Focus on the user experience, delight the business owner, and align your interests to theirs as much as possible. We’ve always been passionate about empowering Independents to build thriving businesses and our members trust us because we understand and solve their pains – we only succeed if they succeed.”
Morten Petersen, CEO Worksome.com (Denmark). “The market is always growing and changing and it’s imperative to ensure your company does the same. Too many businesses focus on the newest niche challengers, rather than the most successful players and determine how they can win a piece of the bigger, well-established market. Can you create something that is actually a viable exciting alternative to the established leaders? Remember, it has to be something that is a better, more innovative, option.”
Tash Menon, CEO Mash (Australia). “MASH was born out of the insight that exceptional creatives seek the freedom to choose work that truly fulfills them: We empower creatives to work for themselves. It’s more important than ever to stay true-to-purpose to cut through the clutter and we endeavor to ensure every decision considers the impact on our global freelance community of MASHers. After all, without great talent eager to join us and referring others, we have less of a business.”
Gabe Greenberg, CEO G2i.co (US). “Read Good to Great by Jim Collins and create a clear hedgehog concept. This means what your marketplace can be best at in the world, what you are most passionate about, and what drives your business. Pour yourself into that concept. For us at G2i it’s increasing developer health. The flywheel takes a while to spin up but it’s worthwhile long-term and you’ll be surprised with the amazing people you will start to attract!”
Daniel Prianti, Co-founder BPool.co (Brazil). “In our case, in the very beginning of the journey when we did not have enough capital to invest in marketing, a lot of the initial awareness and buzz was created from well-respected clients and talent that we managed to persuade to join the platform. This created a strong network effect.”
Hanadi El Sayyed, CEO Gigthree.com (UAE). “As more players enter the talent platforms market, differentiation becomes arduous, so ‘know thy customer’. Carve out the customer niche the platform will serve. By understanding your customer base, you can focus energy, effort, and valuable resources to build a brand and offering that your clients will resonate with and trust.”
Niclas Thelander, Co-Founder, Outsizedgroup.com (UK). “Never compromise on quality, whether that’s related to vetting and onboarding talent, or servicing your demand-side clients. Cream will rise to the top, so don’t take shortcuts in areas that really matter even if it can take a bit longer to build a business this way. By following this principle we’re now growing exponentially with sophisticated enterprise clients across Asia, MENA and South Africa.”
Runar Reistrup, CEO YunoJuno.com (UK). “Focus on a niche and first make something that is of greater quality than anything that exists in that niche. Then branch out into adjacent niches. YunoJuno started as a hyperlocal marketplace for elite creative freelancers in London matching them with demanding London-based clients. Only after establishing uncontested market leadership in that local and vertical niche did we expand to become a UK leader in the Creative and Tech space and now are rapidly expanding beyond the UK.”
Pat Petitti, CEO Catalant (US). “Not all revenue is created equal. It’s easy for early-stage companies to get distracted and pushed off-course by chasing short-term gains from transactional clients without having established product-market fit. This feels good in the short term but doesn’t provide a strong foundation. Ultimately, companies need to deliver unique, strategic value. Otherwise you’re capturing vapor that will dissipate. Creating strong relationships will help you weather bad times, and more importantly, make your customers better off than they were without you.”
Eusebi Llensa, CEO Outvise.com (Spain). “We lead our space by leveraging and collaborating with our community of clients and talents, benefiting from a network effect. Our obsession to be relevant and trustworthy becomes our theme which is always present in our communication. On a daily, weekly and monthly basis we post jobs, share use cases and newsletters through email as well as social media and affiliate networks and take part in industry events. Knowing who we work for, business tech with a core in telecoms, defines our focus and audience and allows us to multiply the effect of each euro spent becoming recognized within our community.”
Angela Alberty, Partner, Mybasepay.com (US). Platforms that prioritize the experience of your talent through an optimized tech stack while maintaining a compliant and integrated approach for enterprise clients will be best poised to lead the pack. Partner with other leading providers in the ecosystem you service and invest in attractive benefits that lead to an increased headcount of talent.
Rich Wilson, CEO Gigged.ai (Scotland). “Using growth hacking techniques ahead of beta launch helped Gigged.ai build a pool of amazing freelancers and brand awareness. First, we built a basic website with a ticking countdown clock and pre-launch sign-up feature. We shared product updates on LinkedIn and Twitter. Building in public is great for building a user base. We paid less than $1,000 for our logo to appear on billboards in London and feature in blogs, discord pages and even old school newspapers. This ensured a user base and a following ahead of the beta launch.”
Indiana Gregg, CEO Wedo.ai (UK). “Beta freelance platforms need to hone in on their message. Too often, new startups focus on what’s under the hood of their product rather than how improves the lives of customers. If there is already another company out there who does what you do better, figure out how you can remove a pain point that nobody else has done. It’s helpful if your brand has a personality that is relatable to the customer niche you hope to attract. Spend time on your brand, your consistency and your messaging. Is it clear, concise, easy to comprehend. Does it evoke any emotion? Is it fun, uplifting, interesting?”
Mike Morris, CEO Torc (US). “Two elements are paramount —M&O and customer service. Entrepreneurs must build a sustainable business that drives measurable results, like EBITDA, and avoids chasing anomaly valuations based on the latest venture capital hype. As for success with the talent marketplace and associated ecosystem services, you can’t develop skilled freelance communities (supply) without the enterprise (demand) and vice versa; commitment to adoption and growth needs to be genuine on both sides of the equation.”
Viva la revolution!
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