How do we turn the freelance market completely upside down? That was a challenge Lars Evers and Noel Wilson were willing to take on. Out with the old-fashioned traditions within the employment market. The result is Jellow - an online platform that connects clients and freelancers. But of course a lot has preceded this; how did they go about it?
Surprise at traditional job placement system
Lars worked at an employment agency at the time and was frankly amazed at the traditional operation of "the system. "And of course that system is gladly maintained by the intermediaries, they make quite a bit of money from it," he says. Complicated procurement systems and procedures mean that freelancers cannot sign themselves up directly for a particular job. So this goes through a mediator; an employment agency that sneaks money in and is anything but transparent about rates and margins. Moreover, the procedure slows down; clients cannot easily switch to candidates who might be able to do the job well. Frustrating for both clients and freelancers. "That can and must change," Lars thought.
The idea: online platform for clients and freelancers
He talked about it with Noel, who specializes in open source software. They came up with the idea of creating an online platform where clients and freelancers could find each other. But it had to be more than a gathering place. "We want to be able to link high-quality professionals to clients who are looking for good professionals for projects. And clients must be able to select and contact candidates themselves. Mediators are therefore not welcome. That would be quite an intensive process and the step to really go for it 100% was not an easy one. "But if you really believe in something - and we did - then you have to give it a chance," says Lars.
The start: hard work from an attic room
But how? Such a platform is not there overnight, of course. "We believed so much in this opportunity that we dared to take risks. That meant quitting our jobs, accepting little or no income for the first period and simply working very hard. The three of us (including 1 developer) started from an attic room in our current office building. Only after a year did we hire our first intern and then our first employee. That was of course very exciting, because then you want to be able to guarantee continuity."
After months of construction, the first version of the platform went live in 2013, with initially only mortgage professionals. "100 professionals we had. And the platform changed quite a lot that first period, and is still evolving. By listening carefully to both freelancers and clients, we are discovering more and more where the common needs lie. From the beginning, we have been of the opinion that a client should be able to hire freelancers without paying margins, but we only completely moved away from that this year. After all, the market also has to understand and be ready for it. We really want to change and improve the market. That takes time and persuasion". Meanwhile, Jellow is a successful platform with more than 24,000 registered freelancers and about 1,500 clients using it.
Get rid of the traditional revenue model
So no margins. But then how does Jellow make money? "Clients pay us a fixed low monthly fee. For this they have access to the profiles of all registered freelancers, they can write unlimited assignments, hire unlimited freelancers without margin and work on their own freelance pool. If desired, we help clients share assignments and build a good freelance pool," Lars explains. "And of course, this is ultimately much more advantageous than hiring through an intermediary, where you often pay an (opaque) margin over the freelancer's hourly rate."
Freelancers pay nothing to create a profile. "But", says Lars' "we do then expect freelancers to fill out their profile completely and properly, and to deal nicely with clients". If you're a freelancer registered on Jellow, you shouldn't expect an awful lot of assignments to come along. "And that makes sense," says Lars. "Clients select a number of freelancers who fit the job perfectly, and they contact them. So the moment you are approached by a client, there is a significant chance that you will actually get the job.
Jellow & marketing
"The name Jellow is a nod to the Yellow Pages of old," says Lars. "In addition, yellow is also the color of innovation AND we were told by a study that colors and animals in a brand name stick best. We were immediately excited about this name! For marketing activities we regularly use specialized milling contractors - after all, we know enough of them!
Future employment market
What the future looks like for Jellow? "Bright," Lars thinks. "I think the contract form, which is currently still leading in job placement, is going to become secondary. Clients are going to cooperate more and more and see what they can do for each other. The labor market is becoming increasingly flexible and our platform responds to this perfectly. In any case, our clients are very happy with us!".
Tips for other entrepreneurs
"Of course, not everything goes smoothly with us either," Lars says. "But the art of good entrepreneurship is making choices, strategizing on them and then sticking to them. Stick to the plan. Do you find out that something really doesn't seem to be working? Then you have to dare to stop and make new choices." "What we learned in the beginning, for example, is that we don't have to say 'yes' to everything. In the start-up phase, for example, we were very often on the road telling our story to potential major clients. Cost way too much time. Now we ask them to come to us. Costs us less time and we are sure they are serious and don't 'just' want to be inspired. Was pretty exciting to approach it this way, but it works! Last but not least, gather good people around you and then take good care of them. Give them responsibility. The biggest compliment we received recently is that it is so special that every member of our team is so intrinsically motivated. They really support our philosophy. And that makes us so strong!"