No matter what your tech or product, the core of your business is always people. And keeping your talented workforce happy and motivated should be at the top of your priorities.
When building a two-sided marketplace like Crew, this statement couldn’t be more true.
Our livelihood depends on your livelihood—on clients and talent being happy and trusting the work that needs to get done, will get done better than they could’ve imagined.
As the people sitting in the middle, we need to be aware of both the supply and demand side. And while it can be easy to slip into focusing more on the clients bringing projects into Crew, the Community team needs to make sure the other side—our super-talented devs and designers—are just as happy and looked after.
And that’s my job. I spend most my days talking with the amazing people in our community, making sure their profiles are updated and looking awesome, and answering any questions they have.
The one question we get the most? Where are the projects?
Here’s the first problem: We don’t control demand, but we control the supply.
Project submissions can be fickle at times with not enough coming in to keep our network busy and happy. Which leads to all sorts of issues, like good devs moving onto other projects.
And if we don’t have the best talent available for when a project comes in? It’s easy to imagine that the people we’re trying to attract don’t want anything to do with that.
It’s a delicate balance—a symbiotic one where the quality of our community depends on the quality of the projects coming in, which depends on the quality of the community, and on and on and on.
We make a promise not only to our clients bringing in projects that they’ll get access to high-quality, vetted devs and designers, but to our community as well, that they’ll get steady, meaningful work from reasonable clients.
It’s a chicken and egg problem that’s unique to a business like ours.
Here’s what I mean: If you look at other talent marketplaces, they focus in on a single problem that needs to be solved. Think about Uber. There’s only one skill they’re filling: driving.
For Crew, every single project has its own nuances and needs.
It’s why Craigslist, despite its not-so-great design, is so hard to disrupt. The problems it solves are so varied and diverse that creating a single competitor that does it any better would be more work than it’s worth.
So how do we go about maintaining a happy, motivated, and engaged network?
It’s still a work in progress, but here’s a few ways we’re doing it.
Using ratings to refine our network
Trust is at the core of the marketplace experience. And from the community’s standpoint, building trust needs to be an almost imperceptible task.
Think about Uber again.
Riders expect the drivers who don’t live up to Uber’s standards won’t even be an option. It’s why you rarely, if ever, see a driver with lower than a 4-star rating.
And drivers don’t want to pick up rude or aggressive passengers. When you’re dealing with a marketplace like this you can’t only let one side be in control of reviews.
In Crew, this is one of our issues. But like I mentioned before, it’s a bit more complex when you’re dealing with a multi-talented and varied workforce.
Currently, we use ratings internally to help match projects, but we want to expand that in the future.
Right now, it’s a pretty simple system, listing Dev’s as As, Bs, or Cs.
And while we’re still developing a clear process of how to rate our community members, here’s a basic look at what differentiates an A from a B:
- An ‘A’: is someone who probably worked for a large-scale company or startup. They’ve probably also been published or have a blog that generates a lot of interest. These are the little things that show they not only have great work, but also have a huge level of knowledge they’re willing and ready to share.
- A ‘B’: is someone that definitely is not a beginner. They have fantastic design or development chops, but they haven’t had the opportunity to work for larger companies or on bigger projects where they would hone their craft. That tiny extra bit of polish is missing. Also, from a client’s perspective, a ‘B’s rate may be more in line with what they think design or development should cost (which isn’t always right!)
And a ‘C’? Well, just like Uber, we’ve spent the last few years cleaning them out of our network.
Which means our network is currently saturated with amazing developers and designers with not enough projects to go around.
So the question then becomes, do we focus on quality over quantity?
Why not drill down and focus in on those who are winning project after project, are evangelizing Crew, and doing amazing work?
Additionally, we ask project owners to review the work they received by answering a few simple questions:
- Was the work delivered on time?
- Was the work completed within the original approved budget?
- Was your experience a positive one?
We want to keep this process as easy as possible and so each question is a simple yes or no.
Again, ratings are only used internally (for now) and allow us to quickly address problematic areas or downgrade a member if ratings are consistently negative and no improvements have been observed on their part.
Here’s a look at our aggregated ratings over the past few months:
See that dip over the last few months?
We’ve got a few suspicions as to what’s going on there, mostly to do with the fact that we changed our onboarding process recently and shifted away from phone calls with new devs and over to email. While this is easier, we suspect it might lead to lower comprehension of how the platform works, which means more disputes when projects don’t go as intended.
The better a working environment we can create, the more activity we can expect to see from our community.
On that end, we currently have an activity rate of 45%, which means less than half of our community is regularly working on projects. We want to hit 75% in the coming months so part of this may be just about trimming the network even further.
Skills tags, skills tags, skills tags
To get to that point, we need to really, really know who we’re working with. And our best weapon in our community arsenal? Skill tags.
Skill tags are what helps our Happiness Team match projects. They’re the easiest way for us to get a quick overall look at our community as a whole, what skills are in demand, and where we’re lacking.
And the more we know, the better.
We’ve been going through and refining our tags as much as possible.
Here’s an example:
We used to only have a single overarching ‘marketing’ tag. But as we received more detailed project submissions and got to know our devs better, we’ve broken that tag down into specific skills such as content marketing, SEO and digital marketing.
This not only helps us know who we’re working with better, but ensures that we’re matching the right person for the right job and making an enjoyable working environment.
But it’s not always easy.
When a dev first signs up in Crew, they’ll select the skill tags that apply to them. Some just check off everything and so we’ll jump in and verify that things are good.
When it’s time to break up, do it with numbers
The last, and final aspect of keeping the community happy, is the unfortunate necessity of letting people go.
We currently have a waitlist of over 15,000 applicants, so if a dev isn’t being an active part of the network, it’s hard to justify keeping them on board.
But like any relationship, breakups can be difficult. And the last thing we want is for it to turn into an emotional discussion. That’s why we’ve spent a long time working towards creating a process and defining metrics that we can use when it’s time to remove someone from the network.
It’s like building a case for court.
You don’t downgrade or upgrade someone without a reason and it’s necessary for the process to be accompanied by concrete facts that are presented in a diplomatic way.
This means you need to mention things like how many disputes they’ve been involved in and what the situation and outcomes were; if they’ve been actively using their invitation; how many times we’ve had to reach out in relation to communication issues; and so on.
It sounds formulaic, but every breakup is case-specific and curated—much like how the Community team operates across the board.
Building a talented network is one thing. Keeping them happy is a whole other world.
But we’re learning. We’re refining our process. And we’re finding the best way to not only provide the best possible work for whatever your project, but provide freelance creatives all over the world with challenging, enjoyable, and meaningful work.
Want to chat building a community? Find me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts!