The first article in this series – Find Your Next Freelance Gig – cited the powerful lure of entrepreneurship attracting young innovators despite a tough economic climate and a challenging funding environment. Freelance offerings continue to grow, however, in number, variety, and imaginativeness. For example, one of the platforms introduced here, Unitaskr, has a very large platform of members, who are primarily university students in the UK and US. Big numbers, short durations. In contrast, Shakers and Sweav are smaller, more finely curated, platforms of established and experienced professionals. But, all three are experiencing success, and considering how, when, and where to expand.
These platforms represent the hard-won wisdom of “there are riches in niches.” Unitaskr focuses on student employment. Shakers offers an elite community of tech experts, and high service levels, to its Spanish clients. And Sweav primarily serves the Dutch PE, VC, investment and asset management industry. As we wrote earlier, the platforms featured here are “planting their flag on interesting niche markets and drawing applause for their creativity.” It’s a pleasure to introduce readers to some of the interesting new talent marketplaces that are showing up around the world.
- Unitaskr, based in the UK, is a unique take on student freelance employment. Its broadly in the same category as Parker Dewey, a US based platform that connects students with micro-internships in enterprise companies, or Techintern, a Canadian marketplace focused on tech focused students seeking internships or part-time work. But, Unitaskr, built by Joe Black and Oliver Jacobs, and kicked off in 2015, connects students with employers across the UK and now in the US. It currently has over 300,000 members and supports 30,000 businesses, from startups to large scale enterprises like Red Bull, Uber Eats, NHS and Spotify, and a dozen global Unicorn businesses. Business clients of Unitaskr pay a subscription fee for access to the student platform which includes about 40% entering students, 50% who are between 18-25 years of age, and 10% who are recent graduates. Overall, about 55% of student workers have gigs that are career relevant, for example, supporting students in building early career experience as a photographer or supporting budding journalists through work on a company’s blogsphere. The remainder find the platform a useful source of additional income that may not be career relevant, but provides important financial support at a challenging time. Unitaskr supports its student freelancers through free courseware offered through the platform, and by enabling them to select “tags” that notify them when specific opportunities are posted on the site. Where to from here at Unitaskr? Having created a platform with high popularity among students, enjoying significant growth in membership, now providing career education as well as work and financial opportunity, Black and Jacobs are focused on expanding well beyond the UK and US markets. The see the potential to go global in offering students around the world an opportunity to freelance.
- Shakers is a growing platform operating in Spain and adding to its recent successes. The company was established less than three years ago by colleagues CEO Héctor Mata, Jaime Castillo, and Adrián de Pedro. It has grown revenue impressively each year since its founding. Like Unitaskr, Shakers has remained laser focused on its category: top tech professionals. The platform now boasts a population of 400 highly curated experts. As Jaime Castillo explains it, “We’re obsessed with sharing success with our freelancers. We’ve kept the platform small to give our talent more high quality project opportunities. And our shift to all tech was an important step for us.” Shakers sees the future as bright, and expects to grow significantly; it has grown a number of significant enterprise client relationships, and now works with over 800 client organizations. Over time, more of its clients are larger companies and agencies, although startups are still an important part of their client roster. Next up for Shakers. They are in the process of raising funding to support their growth. Careful to protect the success they’ve achieved to date, the Shakers leadership team describes themselves as thoughtful and disciplined in deciding how and where to expand both in service and product offering, and in geography. Southern Europe and markets in Latam are both beckoning.
- Sweav is a third platform worth knowing. Founders Joeri Schouten and Thijmen Kaster have created an active and engaged Netherlands-based platform of independent management consultants. The way Schouten tells it, “We have a very simple vision of what a consulting company could be. We wanted to maximize what we liked about consulting, and drop what we didn’t.” Consequently, Sweav was envisioned as a relatively small and intimate community; it has 200 consultants. It’s a young community as well, and yet the group has exacting inclusion standards: five years at a top strategy firm, or equivalent time in PE or M&A. As a result of its high standards, it has grown nicely with over 60% of talent gaining work through Sweav, a level that is far better than typical. These days a key focus for Sweav is working with PE portfolio companies, and mid-sized corporations. Sweav keeps its strong roster by providing interesting work and beyond typical consulting projects. In fact, a good deal of platform work is interim assignments in areas like strategy, M&A, and due diligence associated with investments or with acquisitions. In addition, Sweav invests in its community, through a “cool” shared and open working space in the middle of Amsterdam, regular events that bring the community together, and active knowledge sharing. Like Unitaskr and Shakers, Sweav is also thinking about its next geographic moves. They feel confident they have a repeatable recipe for success in other consulting markets like London, New York, and other major EU markets.
Watch out for more editions of “Find Your Next Freelance Gig” and don’t forget to check out the first edition:
Viva la Revolution!
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