Jenny Lederer is a freelance marketing and branding creative, currently at work on Freelancr, a platform to make it easier for companies to manage their freelance workers.
After a few weeks at Summer Launchpad, my partner Alex and I had done dozens of customer interviews with both freelance workers and the people managing them. We heard over and over from managers who agreed that it would save them both time and countless headaches to have a system at their disposal where they could get insight into their freelancers' day-to-day availability, and thus spend less time emailing and waiting and emailing, ad infinitum.
While it was gratifying to hear our hypothesis affirmed, we still didn't have any real proof of how useful it would actually be in practice. So we decided it was time to put our idea to the test.
All we needed at this point was a company that fit our customer profile (one that uses at least a couple dozen of different freelance creatives on a weekly basis) who would play the guinea pigs to our mad scientists in a real-world pilot. Happily, the first managers we asked---a team from one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world---agreed to let us experiment on them. We would contact the freelance workers they already knew, have those freelancers fill out a web-based form with their availability, and then our product would transform it into a spiffy, easy-to-read report to send back to the managers.
The problem was neither of us had the time to code something to actually do this transformation. (Nor did we want to spend a bunch of energy building something that would possibly need to change drastically after this first round.) But without putting the product to the test, we wouldn't get any hard evidence about its functionality.
We created a workaround: a website that consisted of a splash page and a fillable form that fed into a spreadsheet in Google Docs. From there, we manually inputted that raw data into a more streamlined version to send out to the managers. It's not the prettiest process, but it's fast, cheap, and adaptable, which is exactly what we need it to be at this stage.
We've run the pilot for two weeks now, and while we haven't answered all of our questions yet, our early metrics are promising: we've had a 70% sign-up rate and our clients are using it productively several times a week. We're sure there's a sleeker version down the road, but for our purposes at the moment, scrappy suits us just fine.
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