Tuesday Trends #1 – Freelancer’s Friend
I started out on this venture because I was asked to build a couple of websites and design some business cards. As long as word got around, work was steady and I could focus on completing projects – not marketing. But as anyone who’s worked in a design-related field, there’s an ebb and flow to the business cycle and eventually, the tide turns. Now, any good financial investment adviser would tell you that it’s necessary to diversify your portfolio. Spread out your investments among different levels of risk and return depending on your goals and proximity to reaching those goals. This will help you to weather the bear markets and capitalize on the bull runs. And if you’re out on the forefront, you can even capitalize in a down market. But this isn’t a Motley Fool column and I digress. When things began to slow a bit for me, I started to explore other possible revenue streams that might be out there. That’s when I ran into the crowdsourcing movement.
The Freelance Marketplace Isn’t Friendly.
The first such company I discovered was oDesk. Like a googlebot, I had followed some links from Yahoo Business to find that they were the provider of choice for Yahoo customers who were looking for creative, web design or development services. “Great!” I thought. I can do that. Account opened and profile created. Not long after, I found the rest of the gang and soon had accounts with 99Designs, CrowdSpring, and others. The short story is that I never got a dime of revenue from using any of those services. Most of the crowdsourcing sites work the same and are based on the lowest bidder. Competing against contractors in India, Philippines, and the like to win projects that would often pay pennies an hour was just not feasible. What was really a head scratcher for me was the caliber of talent I witnessed in some of the submissions. It was actually depressing to see what good designers were willing to accept. I won’t even touch on Fiverr or go into TaskRabbit. Eventually, I realized that this wasn’t going to work for me and decided I’d rather get a day job and continue to hone my skills than put hours into something that yielded little. By then the tide was coming back up and work began to trickle in, unconsciously drowning out memories of crowdsourced design competition.
An Emerging Market
But the need to diversify still rings true in my mind and recently, I took note of a new trend cropping up in the freelance market. Freelance sites that place a higher emphasis on representing the contractor over the client. These sites tend to screen and vet contractors in a way that gives a sense of legitimacy and offer a higher degree of quality to the service. A primary difference, too, is that the contractors set the rates – not the client. This still keeps rates competitive, but more in line with reality and away from the stigma of low bidder contests .
Envato is a site that I have used almost since day one of venturing out solo. Unlike the crowdsourcing sites, Envato is parent to over 20 niche sites called marketplaces where designers & developers can sell their creations. In their own words, Envato’s mission is”…to help people to earn and to learn, online. We operate marketplaces where hundreds of thousands of people buy and sell digital goods every day, and a network of educational blogs where millions learn creative skills.” Up until a few months ago, anything you bought from Envato was downloaded. Then came MicroLancer. A marketplace of service providers who are invited to set up their digital storefronts and market themselves. Clients can shop and go with whatever floats their boat. But they don’t drive the boat. The service is still in Beta, but I applied early on and was invited to set up a provider account and help test. I made some wise crack about free t-shirts on their Facebook page – all in good fun – but I might have stepped on someone’s toes because my Provider status is no longer active and I had to reapply. Sorry Collis.
Two other similar sites I ran across this week are Codeable.io and Tweaky.com. I found both through a WooThemes connection. Codeable actually acts as WooThemes’ WordPress support provider along with a list of other well known names in that WordPress community. They have geared their services towards webmasters and customers needing support for website – specifically WordPress – related issues. Again, the deference to the contractors here is clearly spelled out in their simple breakdown of the steps of the process.
- Describe your task: Let our contractors know what you’d like them to do and how much you can afford to pay.
- Get an estimate: After your task is published we will get back to you with a suggested price.
- Pick a contractor: There is a number of contractors waiting for your tasks, ready to begin when you are!
- Get it done! Chat with the contractor and give them instructions until you’re satisfied with the result.
With Codeable, the information about their contractors is sparse, with no clues given on the front-end. All you need to know is that they’re hand-picked, certified code ninjas. In fact, the whole website consists of 4 pages on the surface, one of which is the login page.
Tweaky is not as niche as Codeable but still seeks to offer a roster of experienced webmasters, developers, and IT professionals to solve your web issues. They’re more like MicroLancer in that they feature and direct customers to the profiles of their service providers, or ‘approved suppliers’ as they are labeled. On Tweaky’s site you’ll see the steps listed as:
- Create a brief: Tell us everything you want to change about your website. Get creative!
- We break it down: We break your project down into a series of tweaks. Each tweak is $39.
- Get the job done: One of our hand-picked developers will select your project and get the job done.
On the front page, Tweaky is all about what you can expect to pay as a customer. It even lists blocks of fixed price, or a variety of bundled services and what they cost. Clicking to learn more about a service turns out to be a link to the approved supplier’s profile page. In the sidebar are more stacks of ‘related services’ offered with prices.
This model of brokering web and graphic contractor services offers more promise and appeal to freelancers like myself, since clients are being guided and educated closer to what are reasonable costs for these services. These are folks who probably do a lot of the work themselves but find themselves stuck in a moment. Clients who understand the value of the work being done and are willing to pay for it and tend to become valued repeat customers themselves. It hurts to pay the tow truck driver, but we’re always glad when they show up.The no bid process is a winner because as stated on Codeable, “bidding takes time and results in poor quality solutions”. Whether or not I can personally join a service like this as a viable part of my diversified revenue strategy remains to be seen. But that might depend more on if I am deemed to be worthy of the ‘code-ninja’ sector.