Getting freelance help for business projects often feels more like dating than time-saving.
Businesses have to post an attractive task, pick a freelancer to do it (based on little information) and then hope it's a good match and that the work comes back at a decent quality.
If it's bad, they move onto the next one.
If they find the "one" who is a good fit, they will generally take the freelancer off the market to help work exclusively.
After all, that's how Konsus is building its own business to help workers save time by using freelancers. They've been posting job listings, and then poaching the ones who do the best.
"This work of going around of platforms saying 'I'm John from Russia and I'm great at PowerPoint, so please hire me' isn't a nice thing. And then people are not nice to you. You're going to get fired daily," said cofounder and CEO Fredrik Thomassen.
Instead, Konsus flips the model on its head. Businesses send a chat message or an email to ask for help on a project, and a project manager immediately delivers a quote and splits up the tasks among freelancers. No begging, dating, or firing on either side. And starting Thursday, the company is also launching an integration with Slack, so requesting a spiced up PowerPoint will be as easy as chatting with a coworker.
A problem with no solution for many workers
Thomassen learned the value of outsourcing some easy tasks from his days as a consultant. At McKinsey, they had a staff of freelancers that could help them take care of some of the essential but non-core tasks of doing their jobs overnight. A PowerPoint presentation could be sent off at the end of the day and a formatted version would be back in his inbox in the morning.
Leaving to build his own company, Thomassen soon realized that his days spent building a company meant nights handling excel spreadsheets and creating investor presentations.
"At 10 p.m., you can't really send a task to your employees because they're going to be super pissed," Thomassen said.
After messing around trying to hire folks on other platforms, he built his own network of freelancers, and soon realized his friends were looking for an affordable solution to cut down on office work too.
The problem is the freelancer market has been so broken, Thomassen said.
Meeting with his college friend Sondre Rasch for lunch in the parliament of Norway, where Rasch was working as a policy advisor, the pair realized that there was a larger need for quick and easy but quality work that benefited both the freelancer and business.
There were plenty of companies to get freelance labor, like Task Rabbit, or longer engineering work, like Gigster. But their idea for Konsus was to create a solution that any business can tap into and have round the clock support. Negotiating a contract for data entry shouldn't take longer than the time it would take to just enter it.
The company launched in Norway in August 2015 and has already signed up customers ranging from major enterprise clients like Telenord to small 10 person businesses looking for some extra help. The pair joined the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in January 2016 to introduce Konsus to the US after seeing 10% week-over-week growth after its launch. And unlike most startups that are eight months old, the pair claim it's already profitable.
"The problem we're solving is not just finding the freelancer, but also getting it done," Rasch said.
How Konsus works
To save businesses time, Konsus pre-screens and vets the freelancers to work on its platform, making it easy to find help immediately and not go through the back-and-forth hiring phase. For freelancers, it's a big boost to have a constant stream of tasks without having to invest time into responding and competing for job postings.
The company narrows down its freelance help to 10 core competencies, ranging from website and logo design to data entry. After spending hours scanning freelancer forums all over the web, these tasks accounted for 60% of contract volume, Thomassen said.
When a business chats Konsus a request, a project manager quotes the company a price and puts it into a pool of available tasks. The project manager will be someone from your country, but the task could be sent to freelancers around the world based on their skill set and availability.
"The language barrier can be high when working with freelancers globally. Communication difficulties do arise and we bridge that gap by having that project manager who you do have a common language with and who you can hold responsible, " Rasch said.
The project manager is also in charge of asking questions and breaking down the tasks into bits for freelancers.
While normally a business would have to post a task like a new website piece by piece on a freelance site, Konsus handles breaking it down and assembling the finished product. Logo design is dispatched to one specialist while copy writing is sent to another. The product manager then makes sure the quality is high and meets the standards before sending it back to the business — and all of this happens instantly since it's staffed around the clock.
"What we find is that very few real tasks when you think about it in the business world revolves around one very well-specified single task," Thomasssen said. "I think we've almost never seen a task which is simply one siloed specialized task that we can just complete directly."
Businesses can buy a package of 100 hours at a rate of $19/hour. For one-off tasks, it's bumped to $29/hour. The company doesn't vary pricing based on the freelancer or time of day or turnaround time. It's designed to be transparent and equal.
For the founders, making Konsus affordable comes at a peak time when e-labor or freelance work is on the rise, but there hasn't been any disruption to the traditional marketplace of posting job listings.
Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work.
"Previously contract work meant you were a beggar for work. Maybe sometimes people would be nice to you and give you some task. But now the power relationship is totally changing around, and if you're talented, you can tap into a service like Konsus and get work whenever you want," Thomassen said.
By cutting down on the time freelancers spend having to search, they can do work that's fitted to their skill set around the clock and increase profits just based on volume alone.
"Whether you're a single mom in the Philippines or a failed writer in Scandinavia living in the mountains, you can just open up your computer at any moment to start working on what you're good at and get paid the value of that product," Rasch said. "We think that kind of flexibility for those that want is better, and that's the future of work."