A movement is forming within the global freelance community. Freelancers call it the rise of a Freelancer First philosophy. And, Contra is in the forefront.
Here’s why this matters.
First, freelancing is expanding rapidly, which is of course simultaneously helpful and challenging. According to MBOpartners full and part-time freelancers have increased by over 60% in the past two years. More fulltime freelancers helps grow enterprise demand, but also increases competition for interesting, well-paid, work. Additional freelance interest has certainly been generated by the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and more recently by layoffs. Technology has made it far easier to work remotely but, in turn, increases competition by non-local freelancers.
While freelancing has grown overall, demand is lumpy. In some areas, particularly in tech, demand continues to far outstrip supply. But in many other professions and specializations there is more talent supply than demand. Platforms provide a great deal of work to millions of freelancers, but are understandably limited in their ability to offer regular work.
It’s particularly tough for new freelancers. As the Global Survey of Freelancing pointed out, new freelancers often describe the first year frustrating and difficult. First year freelancers report a lower workload, a less well-developed network of relationships, lower satisfaction, and a greater need to build reputation. In fact, new freelancers score lowest among different experience levels on every dimension of satisfaction:
For these reasons, a Freelancer First philosophy makes a significant difference. Helping new freelancers start out strong and experience early success is like yeast; it makes confidence and competence rise.
The Freelancer First philosophy provides a common challenge to platform and marketplace teams: prioritize the success and prosperity of freelancers, with a particular focus on “newbies” whatever their specialty, age and professional experience. Innovative and forward looking platforms have responded in a variety of interesting ways. And, Contra is a leader in building an active and engaged community, and supporting growth in a unique way.
Contra, a fast growing and highly respected marketplace for freelancers and creatives, is committed to a powerful vision for their 300,00 platform members. As the saying goes, “Give someone a fish today, and they will be hungry tomorrow. Teach them to fish and they will never be hungry again.” Ben Huffman and the team at Contra asked why platforms weren’t offering freelancers a easily customized and personalized way of communicating with clients and colleagues that enabled them to manage their business, easily update their profile and portfolio, and collaborate with others in marketing and delivering joint project work. When asked how he wants Contra to be known, Huffman put it this way:
“We want to be known as the definitive platform for freelancers by making contributions in three areas: providing opportunity for interesting work at good rates of pay, putting great tools in their hands, and personalizing their experience of being part of Contra by being able to customize how they work with the platform and connect with clients and colleagues.”
Every platform out there wants to provide interesting and well-paying project opportunity to their freelancers, and Contra has generated more than its share in specializations like design, engineering, marketing, social media, and copy. But, the strongest point of differentiation is the quality and ease of building a great looking online presence that offers a powerful business-building and management toolkit. TechCrunch put it this way, “A Contra profile looks like a storefront for an independent creators’ business. The first thing you will see is project experience, with the option to toggle between services currently available for sale, recommendations from the referral network and, finally, the About page.”
The way CEO Huffman describes it, a freelance portfolio is the “nerve center” for managing a freelance or creative business. And it’s easy to set up and get started, which is particularly helpful to new freelancers, particularly side-giggers, who are moonlighting in addition to fulltime employment and easily overwhelmed by the complexity of starting a business. Huffman literally demonstrated the ability to get an effective and good looking website up and running within 15 minutes, stocked with cases, descriptions of services and products offers, and a professional looking bio.
What’s in the portfolio? Access to tons of helpful stuff. The care given to the portfolio offering, its visual presentation and functionality, reminds you of a well-designed Apple product. What’s essential is there and easily accessed, but no excess or confusion. So, for example, freelancers have easy access to tool libraries and vetted forms for creating contracts, proposals, and sending invoices.
Contra’s tools extend also to helping freelancers collaborate actively with platform colleagues in seeking broader opportunity. As many other platforms have learned, teaming enables individual freelancers to attract larger, more interesting, and more lucrative projects when they work together and “hunt in packs”. It also enables newer freelancers to work with and learn from the experiences of more experienced freelancers. Peer mentoring is one of the ways that Contra grows its community appeal and impact.
As the data points out, freelancing can be lonely work and working alone can be limiting. Contra makes it easy to find new projects coming into the platform through the community job feed, and offers a platform search capability to identify others who might make effective colleagues in proposing work or forming “studios”. Huffman notes, “So you can think about any type of modern-day product team consisting of a designer, an engineer, a PM, maybe a writer, or maybe someone distributing content. There’s a high degree of referability among these users and we want to actively support that.”
Contra thus takes its place as a platform that is Freelancer First in intent and design, with a specialty in providing the tools that freelancers need to build their business. Other platforms are addressing Freelancer First it their own, unique, way. In fact, 15 platform CEOs from 10 countries are collaborating as a “Freelancer First Study Group” with Human Cloud Partners to identify and implement the philosophy. For example, Vicoland assists their freelancers to organize as teams to grow their business. Outvise, in Spain has invested in building collaborations with other platforms in the EU to provide greater opportunity to their “business-tech” freelancers. Folq, in Norway, offers their freelancers good ongoing opportunity and support for career development. Ollo, in Brazil, has created additional income potential for freelancers through a tie-up with Bpool, a regional agency leader. Catalant in the US provides independent management consultants with industry data sources and significant project support. Gigged.ai in Scotland uses AI to help clients more efficiently and accurately describe project and budget scope, which supports their freelancers efficient use of time. Similarly, Uncompany in the US has focused on reducing friction points for their freelancers. Irish Indielist creates a variety of meetup opportunities for their freelancers to share tips, techniques, and client information. UK based Talmix offers their independent management consultants continuing education and trend forecasts on various industries to help them market. Torc in the US provides real-time coaching and feedback for their developers, while G2i.co, also in the US, focuses on providing freelancers with healthy work. Bubty in the Netherlands, is building talent clouds for corporates that stuffs education and other services. CodeControl and 9am in Germany offer greater opportunity to their tech freelancers, as does Uplink, another leading German platform. And more recently, global Open-Assembly has begun work with a number of platforms to provide freelancers with greater enterprise client opportunity at scale.
Freelancer First is just getting started. And Contra is right up front.
Viva la Revolution!
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