The ad industry is filled with them, awards wouldn’t be won without them, and costs would soar if not for them. Freelancers; the fuel that keeps adland moving. It’s no secret that freelancers are a talented lot, and we’ve met a bunch who are pouring their skills into starting their own businesses.
Businesses that utilise new technologies, build products to make our lives easier, and change the way a traditional process is done. The diverse experience, adaptable flexibility and entrepreneurial drive of freelancers not only helps them pursue their ideas, but also brings them to life.
But launching a new business is never easy. Three guys from the creative and tech industry who managed it are the founders of YunoJuno – a platform through which talented freelancers and innovative employers can connect with each other in a direct, transparent and cost-effective way.
They built their entire product with input from the freelance community and employer network they aimed to serve. Four years on, their client base includes some of the most recognised companies in the industry.
Paying it forward with advice they wish they had access to when they started, YunoJuno and Campaign brought together freelancers attempting to make their start-ups a success, with a group of investment, marketing and legal experts, to talk about tackling key challenges, developing business plans and unleashing new opportunities.
Natalie Thumwood, ex-freelance creative producer; Dan Thumwood, Engineer, London
Describe Harrison Ovens in a few words.
What does success look like to you both?
What has been the most surprising thing for you?
N The most incredible thing is all the international interest Harrison has generated. We’re very proud of the Britishness of the brand and it really does seem to shine through.
D My background is engineering and Natalie’s is freelance creative production. It’s amazing how much she has soaked up over time about brand-building and strategy.
N We are symbiotic. Dan builds, but can’t market, and I certainly can’t weld metal!
What is your advice to others?
How has being a freelancer helped you?
We’ve had help with the logo design, photography, retouching – that’s how we got a well-developed brand early on. Someone suggested a magazine that might be interested in doing a piece on the Harrison (Uncrate), so we sent them a press release. By the time we got home we had a full inbox, mainly from the US. Then other influencers got hold of us from there.
You are never stable and secure as a freelancer, so it’s not a big deal to take that bigger step to start your own business. You have always had periods of stop-and-start, and transition. I think it makes it easier to make that bigger step.
What’s your next step?
D We’re planning a "Grand Tour" to Australia, Dubai and the US for promotion. We’re also exhibiting at Best of Britannia in October. I’m developing a small Japanese robata grill and a bespoke extraction hood.
N We’re moving down to Margate and buying a house with a shop-front and a cellar. We’re hoping to sell Harrison-branded bakeware and linens, as well as the ovens. The brand is potentially bigger than the product, so we’re brand-driven every step of the way.
Murat Korkmaz, freelance digital designer, London
In one sentence, what’s the big idea?
Where did the idea come from?
What’s been your biggest challenge?
But the competition is also good, because it proves that this is an emerging market and people are interested. When another voice-messaging app, with more than one million users globally was acquired by Spotify, it only spurred me on more.
Also, choosing the right people to work with is really hard; they need to be fully committed to the task.
What’s surprised you?
How has being a freelancer helped?
Yuno Juno has also helped by providing a relaxing and simple way of meeting investors and mentors. I’ve found mentors through [its] Make It [programme] to guide me through legal issues. I’ve learned a lot about ownership issues, so now I’m going to protect my ownership as far as I can.
What’s your next step?
Give a nugget of advice for others doing similar start-ups.
Hone your tech know-how. Graft to get the perfect design, user experience and functionality; the most important factors. If you’ve got a solid idea, don’t be scared. The market is saturated but think above the rest; really test your idea with friends and family and see if they like it. What my peers said was very important. I wouldn’t have pursued it otherwise.
Choosing the right people to work with is really hard. When an idea is fresh, nobody, apart from the creator, knows what it can achieve.
MAKE IT MENTORS
What advice would you give the entrepreneurs?
Be clear who your target customers are. Think about their needs, how your product or service will make their life easier – and talk in their language. With all the fabulous tech innovation going on, it’s all too easy to fall into functional tech-speak mumbo-jumbo.
Find your most vocal fans, and have them become evangelists for your product or service. With social, it’s now easier than ever to spread great word-of-mouth – and it’s completely free.
Don’t give up trying to get through – to that key potential partner, that journalist, or that dream target customer. Don’t take the lack of response for lack of interest. People are busy, persistence pays off – keep trying.
Olivier Van Calster
Former marketing director, eBay UK
Identify a narrow segment to launch into in order to prove scalable and organic growth. Once you have penetrated that segment and created a product and/or service that serves their requirements, you can broaden the target market you want to address.
Be able to explain what your company does in a concise way, as well as effectively communicate what problem you are solving and why yours is superior to existing solutions.
Always provide customers with the opportunity to give feedback so you can improve your product
or service, and communicate with your customers as often as possible.
Principal, Piton Capital
Most of the legal issues you face have been experienced by others before you – follow market practice to save time and costs. If a start-up has more than one founder, be clear what will happen if one leaves. Defining the consequences at an early stage allows co-founders to agree on a fair solution and avoid problems later.
A lot of early-stage companies use poor-quality template employment contracts. It makes sense to put
in place appropriate service agreements for founders and early employees.
Investors will also want to know that a tech start-up owns the IP rights on which it relies. Anyone involved in developing IP on its behalf should be required to assign the relevant rights to the company.
Associate, Taylor Wessing