Helping SYP to Onboard a Full-time Freelancer in a more natural way and understanding all the emotional needs.

Team: Arielle Royston, Chao, Johny vino | Company: SYP Partners | Advisors: Roger, Criswell Lappin.

Problem

SYP’s internal talent team lacks a robust talent network of engaged full-time freelancers and, therefore, cannot easily find trusted resources when needed. How can we create a talent network so that SYP can easily hire freelancers when needed?

Typically SYP hires about 15 freelancers per month and spends money for the repetitive process.

Proposed Solution

Enhancements to SYP’s existing budding talent network, SYP&, that would prove more valuable to freelancers than any existing talent network on the market. Our enhancements included physical events and technology that would keep freelancers engaged and ensure they would be eager and excited to work with SYP whenever needed.

SYP has a strong company culture, and it was important that we highlight this culture at every touchpoint throughout the journey. Events should be surprising — in an endearing way — and demonstrate the company’s core values of doing great work and pushing the envelope in terms of effort and creativity. The technology we created should also follow suit and be cleanly and smartly designed, while also delivering innovative value.

SYDNEY

Target user

Our target users are experienced, full-time freelancers in New York who care about working on their terms and make 110–140k dollars a year.

Opportunities in both side

Initially we formed goal for Research

  • Understand drivers. Learn the pros and cons of being a freelancer.
  • Understand the freelancing process. Gain insights into 1) criteria and tools used to find matching projects; 2) how freelancers set rates and get paid, and 3) how freelancers manage their project pipeline.
  • Understand the environment. Learning about your competitors at work and the workplace.
  • Understand goals. Discover the needs and wish list tools that help the freelancers.

Need answer for this critical question

  1. How do we reduce friction in the process and increase the excitement of freelancers and give them a smooth first day?
  2. How can we support SYP with available freelancers?
  3. How can we create a talent network so that SYP can easily hire freelancers when needed?
  4. How can we help full-time freelancers who struggle to manage their admin work, maintain their network and find a relevant job?

Primary research

My teammate and I interviewed 15 full-time, creative freelancers and two talent team specialists at creative agencies. Ultimately, we leveraged concepts from the “5 Es” framework to synthesize our findings. We created the following USER JOURNEY MAP to document the freelancer’s experience.

Created by my teammate Arielle Royston

Freelancers experience the most pain when:

“….. the loneliness of freelancing sometimes hurts,…Its an icky feeling to go in somewhere and feel like a dummy on the first day… Anything companies give in advance is a bonus; I like to feel oriented … When I’m heading into some work, no one is avail for help/review.”

  1. Doing admin work — negotiating contracts, setting up meetings, etc. — leading up to a job;
  2. On-boarding to a company and project; and
  3. Mid-project when scope changes

On the SYP side

“No one really knows what SYP does, but prospective and new employees find out what the company is like once they talk to people working in it… We do all contract work for freelancers but no one is aware of those offers.”

We looked to understand the steps involved in hiring freelancers. Currently, there are only a few days to search, interview, and hire a freelancer from a small list of “trusted” freelancers. After a need appears, a time-consuming and monotonous process ensued. This system isn’t sustainable.

Secondary research

We also researched the (“gig”) economy more generally to understand the market size (it consists of ~57 million people) and the types of competitors that exist.

The matrix below demonstrates how products measure up in terms of helping a freelancer find work and manage his or her business. Our solution would aim to solve for the top, right space on the matrix below, where no competitors exist.

National:

We analyzed how the most notable companies solve this problem.

1. Crew connects people with an acclaimed freelance and developer.

2. Upwork forms a customized team that helps the freelancers and companies.

3. Human guides when there is an important project.

But none of these services help the freelancers to get personalized projects. At a national level, workingnotworking.com develops a community and supports companies, though it’s not personalized.

Local: The Spark-Freelancers union, Freelance Friday

But there is no incorporation of companies, which disconnects the freelancer with the corporations and leads to a lack of businesses.

Insight from research

Scoping the project

Understanding process

Current

This diagram typically explains the existing hiring process. It takes nearly 10 hours and $3000 to get one freelancer.

Our Goal

Monthly vetting for freelancers will reduce the time and money spent on screening and interviewing talent.

SYP takes care of the hiring process and helps the freelancer to run their business efficiently.

Ideation Process

We started our ideation process in parallel with research with 30 features to resolve the needs of freelancers and companies. Then we narrowed down to 5 functions for MVP.

Frameworks used to narrow down the focus

5E DIAGRAM: The outline of the user journey of the freelancer was created to get the scheme of the project.

Ten Types of Innovation: The framework paves a way to identify new, innovative opportunities beyond the product.

Left: 5E diagram | Right: Ten types of innovation

Rough Prototype stage

Paper testing

Before building a digital prototype, we have tested with a paper prototype with the general users, which helped us to gain quick insights.

Whiteboard Sketching

Initial concept

Our initial concept included creating a mobile application with features such as a job assistant to manage the moving pieces of a freelancer’s life, an instagram-like story feed to demonstrate company culture, a directory and messaging center, and an events manager.

We landed on these concepts after a white-boarding session where we explored features that could solve the user’s toughest pain points. We wanted to create technology founded on solving un-met needs of the freelancer so that they would be inclined to use the app and then remain engaged in the community.

Adding context and user testing.

We presented the above concepts to SYP, and while they were intrigued, they thought we needed to focus on how to introduce the freelancers to the community (i.e. create a community on-boarding experience). We sent out surveys to understand great on-boarding experiences in the world to help craft an on-boarding event that would act as the initial touchpoint in which freelancers meet community members as a community member.

From there, we crafted an event experience and tested this with users along with rough prototypes of our application to understand whether freelancers would find this combination valuable. The goal moving forward was to focus our app and create a more narrow MVP as we had too many feature ideas.

1. SYP Freelancers

Interviewing with SYP freelancers gave us valuable insights about the support process.

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2. Outside Freelancers

We appraised our product with a freelancer, who uses more of other community apps. She has given the feedback on the uniqueness of our app and the fundamental things that are missing.

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3. SYP Talent team

From the SYP HR team, we got to understand more about the journey and troubles of the freelancers.

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Feedback: All the main critiques of the product are are listed so we can improve quality.

  1. Leaderboard is unnecessary
  2. Too many features
  3. Looks clean but more distracting navigation
  4. I feel it’s not helpful

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

  1. The MVP includes an effective on-boarding event from members to on-board the community.

SYP was concerned about how to communicate the value of the community to new members. Ensuring members feels the value and remain engaged is important. The best way to do this is show the value through an initiation event that highlights the core value of SYP&: putting the freelancer first.

2. The MVP also includes Sydney, a mobile application that helps freelancer manage jobs and admin work.

Sydney offers personalized assistance to the freelancer. The app knows exactly where the freelancer is in the job lifecycle and can remain two steps ahead of that freelancer in managing the the moving pieces of his or her life.

Microcopy

We created a content map to ensure the Freelancer received relevant content experiences at each phase of his or her lifecycle, although this would be customized to the Freelancer’s role and job of the moment. From there, we created screens for the app.

  1. There are highlighted screens that depict KEY FEATURES OF SYDNEY.
  2. There is a CONTENT MAP that depicts the types of content that a freelancer would see at each job lifecycle stage. The speciifc content would be customized based on the freelancer’s job and experience.
  3. There is a FUTURE MVP SITEMAP with finalized designs leveraging our visual designer’s styling.

Prototypes

SYDNEY is an end-to-end solution for freelancers to stay connected to the community.

1. Registration

Personalized freelancer signup process to match you with the right company.

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2. Welcome

The apps currently used by are more digitized. The initial onboarding questions are given related to their compatibility with SYP.

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3. New Job and Contract

There was an obstacle in scheduling an interview with the freelancer and SYP. But through Sydney, the process is seamless.

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4. Onboarding

The onboarding that companies currently have is a monotonous system for both the HR team and the freelancer. But all the necessary details are given through Sydney app. They can go to the office directly and start working.

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5.Mid-Project

If a freelancer gets stuck in the middle of a project, they do not know who to ask for help. Sydney will connect you to the right person automatically.

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Branding

We made the SYP& branding pop with multiple colors and with pink as the central color.

Motions

Business Model

The hiring process of freelancers costs around half a million dollars every year. Our MVP costs less than one-year’s expense.

Approximate

Impact predicted

Some excel calulations

SYP partners with other companies and talent networks in the city. A proposed subscription model was launched where SYP pays for every matching job. We predict that SYP will start earning after the first year.

Approximate

Next steps

  • How to scale this solution
  • Connecting a scattered network
  • Finance Integration.

Thanks to Corey Waldin for revising drafts of this post. 🙏





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