The freelance workforce is growing rapidly, helped by the pandemic and a growing number of workers around the world taking advantage of the benefits of flexible and remote working.
But unlike small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who have long had access to a myriad of technology products to run their businesses, freelancers lack options when it comes to tools and resources for basic needs like as the creation of portfolios, customer management and issuance of invoices.
“All of the big tech products that offer business solutions were born out of the 90s era and focus on the departmental functions of SMEs. In other words, they serve a very particular vertical slice of what an SME does,” Albert Azis-Clauson, founder and CEO of UnderPinned, an online platform tool for freelancers, told PYMNTS in a recent interview.
He described three types of audience categories that UnderPinned could target – gig workers who are competitive on price through platforms, freelancers who are competitive on value through project-based work, and entrepreneurs who are long-term non-employees – and explained their decision to focus on the freelance segment.
“We focus on the midsection, [that is] value through project-based work. What we’re trying to do is create systems to help people build successful careers and businesses as freelancers,” he noted.
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Another solution missing in the freelance space is the ability to connect with other like-minded professionals, which Azis-Clauson says is essential to growing their business.
“The most valuable activity a freelancer can do is network – a freelancer’s professional network is the one single defining criterion upon which their success is based,” he said.
Since its launch in 2018, the company has been working to fill these gaps and has developed an end-to-end online management system to meet the needs of this growing workforce, providing horizontal solutions that enable self-employed to grow their business and develop their career. in a place.
Learn freelancing from the start
Azis-Clauson said the open banking initiative has also helped reduce the fees charged to UnderPinned users when making or receiving payments. While there are bugs that need to be fixed and aspects of the user experience that need improvement, his view was that the regulatory scheme “offers the most realistic scenario for having low-cost payments and more for business-to-business (B2B) transactions”.
As the company continues to grow and onboard new customers, he said the focus will be on optimizing business systems and effectively using data to reduce the amount of friction for customers. new users.
Other products on the way include creating dashboards for clients so they can build and manage their own freelance teams, as well as removing transaction fees and replacing them with a service that helps freelancers build , communicate and manage their talent strengths.
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To further extend its reach, the London-based company recently partnered with several London universities, including the London College of Communication and London Metropolitan University, to give over 22,000 students access to its online platform. and its business accelerator program.
For Aziz-Clauson, collaborating with academic institutions is a way to tackle the problem at the root and to ensure that in addition to people transitioning to self-employment, the growing number of individuals who choose to jumping straight into independent or project-based work after school are equipped with the right skills that will ultimately set them up for success.
“No one has ever left education or employment feeling competent to start an independent business – we just don’t teach people how to do that,” he noted.
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