FreelanceStation: designers for hire
SA start-up FreelanceStation wants to connect designers with businesses in need of their services, and that’s just the start. By Craig Wilson.
Freelancing has become an increasingly viable, lucrative and popular career choice in SA, particularly in the creative fields. So, too, has outsourcing once-off or small projects that don’t require permanent staff. The problem is finding the right people for the job at the right price. FreelanceStation, a new SA start-up, hopes to streamline local freelancing one job at a time.
Erik Kruger, co-founder of FreelanceStation, says the service is meant to ease the process of finding a quality designer in SA. A physiotherapist by day at two Johannesburg hospitals, 28-year-old Kruger started the self-funded service with his younger brother Joe.
The older Kruger handles most of the day-to-day running of the service; his brother works in marketing for a major international fashion brand.
FreelanceStation allows companies to post their graphic or Web design projects on the site for free and designers who have registered with the site can bid for these projects. Designers can also upload portfolios of their work to bolster their chances of securing jobs. Although clients can see and compare all bids, designers cannot see one another’s submissions.
Projects can also be managed using the site and clients can set various milestones, upload reference material and communicate with designers through the website.
Erik Kruger says FreelanceStation came about because of his own frustration trying to find a designer to produce a logo and website for his services as a physiotherapist.
“My journey led me to freelance sites from abroad,” he says. “Although these sites offered many people to work with, I longed to find local talent. I also realised how language barriers could affect the progress of a project, and that some SA companies were reluctant to outsource projects too far afield because they want to be able to make direct contact with the contractor.”
Kruger says FreelanceStation isn’t his first online venture. “I love working online, the low overheads and work-anywhere factor really appeals.”
Kruger previously ran an online directory of gyms, which he built using developers in India. That process led him to international services such as oDesk and Elance and got him thinking about building a local equivalent.
FreelanceStation has about 70 contractors and 150 designers signed up so far. The site has only handled a few projects since it went live in early June. “We’re inclined to let it grow gradually so we can make sure everything is working perfectly.”
The biggest challenge, says Kruger, is getting new contractors every day — not just individuals but companies, too. “We also want more big clients. It’s important for the quality of the site.”
Another challenge is getting companies to accept that they can manage a project online without meeting the contractor in person. “It’s a new concept in SA, but it’s silly to be limited by geography, and I think people are slowly realising that.”
In keeping with the spirit of the service, the site was built by outsourcing the work to India. It’s marketed from the US.
For now, the site is only for local contractors and employers. “Once we see it generating interest, we will open it on the client side for international projects, but we want to keep it to only SA-based contractors,” Kruger says.
Kruger did extensive testing before launching the site and encouraged test users by offering them a free month of use after it went public.
Contractors have two options: a basic membership for free that limits them to five bids per month and doesn’t allow for portfolio hosting. The paid membership costs R100/month for all functionality.
“We take a 10% hiring fee for whomever clients take on, but the service is free before that. Clients can post for free. We only take a fee once they’ve secured a contractor’s services.”
Clients can then rank contractors, and vice versa. Contractors rate clients’ professionalism, communication and payment behaviour, while clients rank the quality of work, expertise, skills, communications and ability to meet deadlines.
Payments between clients and contractors can either happen outside of the service, or using PayFast, which handles all requests and proof of transactions via the website.
For the time being, FreelanceStation’s main focus is on graphic designers, Web designers, developers and multimedia, audio, video and animation professionals. Depending on demand, this may be expanded in future, but Kruger says these are the most popular categories worldwide.
There’s no sense trying to take on international sites with services like these, but there is a lot of room for it locally,” Kruger says. “South Africans are getting more confident about doing things like this online, and we’re hoping to increase that confidence while helping local creatives find work in the process.” — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media