The Work Crowd is matching quality freelancers with high-value projects using the Airbnb model of supply and demand.
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Alice Weightman, founder and CEO of The Work Crowd, explains how her business connecting talented people with projects is empowering female freelancers in particular, helping mums balance home and work life.
What's the business?
An online market place that connects businesses with the best freelance experts and consultants in marketing, communications and PR.
Why did you think there would be demand?
There were two sources of inspiration for The Work Crowd. First of all, I kept meeting clients who were struggling to find or retain female talent. Then, around the same time, I was approached by a number of mums at the school gate who heard that I was a headhunter in PR and marketing and wanted advice on how they could reignite their careers, which they had paused to raise their kids.
It occurred to me that if these businesses are crying out for great talent and these people are crying out for great work, there must be a way to bring them together. I originally started to help some mums individually, but thought technology must be able to do it faster, cheaper and smarter than me!
The Work Crowd therefore helps solve the problem of talent leaving the PR and marketing industry, mainly driven by new parents unable to balance working and raising a family.
The Work Crowd answers the question: where did all the women go?
I met so many unhappy, rather deflated mothers at the school gate who had given up their careers to raise a family and now didn’t know how to get back into work. Alongside that, clients were having conversations with me asking where all the women had gone.
I felt technology was best placed to solve this problem - using the Airbnb model and translating it to the freelance world. My aim with The Work Crowd is to empower people to work in a way that suits them, while offering businesses the ability to find the talent they need.
Plot the growth story to today.
We raised some initial investment from a business angel, before launching the BETA site in September 2015. We now have more than 1,400 freelances, have transacted on over £500,000 in projects and our team is five strong.
Our clients range from agencies, start-ups and brands looking for a more agile workforce.
Last year at Web Summit we were in the top three most talked about start-ups on twitter!
What is the big opportunity?
The model has been done before, but we have learnt from their mistakes. We are keeping our community tight and believe that quality is key - quality freelancers and projects.
At the moment we are focusing on PR but soon this will role our across all marketing sectors. The vision is to have a global platform of expert freelancers!
What have been the major bumps in the road (be honest) and how have you overcome them?
Building the technology took much longer than we had planned. It’s like building a house - keeping it to budget and time is a challenge! Also what we thought people wanted wasn’t always right, so we have made a lot of changes along the way – it’s a constant learning curve.
The platform took longer than expected to develop - a perennial problem for start-ups
What marketing techniques do you use?
We have a very small marketing budget, so it’s been on a boot strap! We were selected to pitch at Web Summit – which I had never done before. I definitely could have done it much better – but it was a great experience and helped to get our name out there.
We also produced some cheeky business cards that we put under people’s hotel room doors and slipped into their pockets. We were ranked in the top three most talked about start-ups as a result!
What is the good and bad of running a business?
I love the challenge. It’s hands on, strategy, business development, fund raising and people management all wrapped up in one.
If I could change one thing about doing business here, I would make it easier for women to work. So reduce childcare costs, or allow parents to off-set their income against childcare.
I would also get rid of NI for start-ups and those people investing in talent. And the same for IR35!
What is your biggest mistake?
I’ve made so many mistakes long the way! I tend not to live in regret though.
Hiring people who aren’t right is always a big error, but I am often blinded by the potential revenue that they can bring. But culturally they weren’t right, it was a disaster!
My kids are my biggest critics – they are very vocal about the mistakes that I make in business and my home life.
Finding the right cultural fit is important in building businesses
What sets your business apart?
The current recruitment agency model is broken for freelancers – it’s expensive, time consuming and there is no one place to go to find the best talent. The Work Crowd provides a fast, cost-effective and high quality service. So we are here transform the recruitment market.
Meanwhile, the current online freelance market is full of disputes and low quality freelancers and projects – meaning the great ones are lost in the mass. In contrast, we are focusing on the best in class and want to build a community that works for the freelancer.
The Work Crowd provides:
· Quality controlled freelancers
· High value projects and freelancers
· Local market knowledge experts rather than off shore and low quality
· Our platform specialises in marketing sectors, covering enough granular detail to find an expert
· Built from recruitment expertise of the market
· No bidding system which can drive down cost
How have you developed your staff?
High great, smart people and empower them to do the job, giving them the responsibility and accountability to do it.
Set the vision so that you are all on the journey together, making sure you have fun along the way.
And finally, always set a great example of good work ethics and a passion for what you do.
How do you rate government support for growing businesses and why?