Maximising customer relationships by hiring freelancers
Rounded is the only accounting program built specifically for Australian freelancers and sole traders. The built for purpose app is a favourite finance managing software for freelancers and micro-business owners alike through ease of use, task automation and providing all the financial insights and data that freelancers need in an easy to follow format.
Rounded’s commitment to freelancers goes beyond their Service-as-a-Software (SaaS) capabilities. The company prides itself on increasing business literacy within the freelance industry by offering high quality educational content across an extensive blog library, social media short form content, and event program. This approach helps build trust with novice and seasoned freelancers and sole traders alike by helping freelancers run more efficient and profitable businesses.
Exploring the symbiotic relationship between Rounded and their growing customer base
As a self-funded startup, Rounded turned to freelance talent to reduce the cost and risk involved in hiring at the crucial early stages. Now an integral fabric woven into Rounded’s success, approximately forty percent of Rounded’s talent pool is freelance, and from the Rounded customer base. Such a move creates the opportunity for greater loyalty and continually addressing the needs of the audience by working closely with freelancers to shape the Rounded product and marketing.
Recruitment is also simpler under this model. Rounded enjoys a substantial source of accessible talented professionals, many of whom have pro-actively offered their services to Rounded. Freelancers who work with Rounded extend this network through referring work to their friends and colleagues because of the positive working environment.
The importance of workplace flexibility
Aware of their consumer audiences’ barriers to more traditional employment models, Rounded consciously designed their working framework to support flexibility, choice and autonomy as mainstays of project delivery. Rounded works with freelancers on retainer for ongoing regular work and a project-based model for specialised works as required.
Rounded creates a freelance-friendly culture by ensuring that there is no discernible difference between the experience of fulltime staff and those who work as freelancers on a retainer or project-by-project basis.
“At Rounded, we respecting your talent comes down to respecting their time and involving them in planning and scoping discussions. it also means paying invoices on time! We want the freelancers on our team to be motivated to deliver their best and highest quality work, so we strive to be a good client they want to work for,” explained Oliver Garside, Rounded’s Co-founder.
Managing a fully remote team means staying on the ball. Online tools such as Slack and GSuite create the conditions necessary for collaboration and sharing. Rounded works with freelancers at their own pace. Freelancers do not have specific requirements in terms of contact hours or expectations that may inhibit the freelancer’s ability to work at a timetable that suits.
To ensure a balance between this flexibility and the needs of a busy startup, deadlines and project milestones are transparent and planned well before delivery. Online communication via Slack plays an important role in keeping teams connected. Retainer freelancers attend regular weekly meetings with pre-defined agendas so to ensure consistency and quality of work, track individual performance and output, and manage expectations. Ad-hoc projects have the occasional meeting on Slack but a strong brief, transparent milestones and deadlines and solid online communication support most of the work.
The choice to create a strong culture and allow for flexibility and transparency while providing a helping hand on the grassroots level and through supporting freelance initiatives has helped build a reputation of a company that values the industry it serves.
That doesn’t mean they have not learned lessons along the way.
“Overall, we’ve enjoyed success using freelancers. Like all recruitment, we have had some unsatisfactory experiences. Some because the person chosen was not up to scratch. But also, some responsibility lies with our choices as a company, too. In the early days, our own expectations about budget and timescales may have been unrealistic. However, over the years, we have learned to manage our own expectations more effectively. These methods have worked well for us in the main as we have not yet had to recruit at scale. This allowed us to build 1:1 relationship with the freelancers we’ve worked with. We have never had an external process or need to attract freelancers to work at Rounded. We have managed it via building relationships and being opportunistic. Often, when we have met or introduced someone talented, we’ve brought them on to the team,” explained Oliver.
Onboarding is part of Rounded’s success
For businesses considering utilising freelance talent now or in the future, Oliver had this to say, “We have learned there is always an acclimatisation process and time needed for freelance team members to get up to speed. The best freelancers do this quickly and efficiently. As a business, we can help shorten the process by investing our time to make sure the freelancer clearly understands what outcomes we expect and that they have the tools, resources, and access to us to get up to speed ASAP.”
Supporting freelancers to feel a part of the organisation is also central to the Rounded model. All Rounded team members go through a full onboarding process and orientation that includes an introduction to the company culture, environment, and systems relevant to their role. This includes introducing new freelancers to other team members via Slack and providing appropriate internal documentation and support.
The relationship is far more collaborative than most. They encourage contributions and the discussion of ideas, internal procedures, and the sharing of company wins as a team. All team members are invited to All Hands meetings and are privy to wider company information and metrics. This helps create a culture that removes the hierarchy between freelancer and full-time employees while fostering an inclusive, open-door policy.
Socialising is also important. When freelancers are in the same geographical location, Rounded encourages face-to-face meetings (where appropriate and safe). Rounded provides a social budget for get-togethers.
“We try to promote the spirit of ownership and togetherness across the team – especially important when the team are largely remote and in different time zones. Some team members have also benefitted from professional development initiatives, including training courses and new tools of trade where required,” said Oliver.
The proof is in the results
Beyond general enthusiasm for the company and talent retention, this model appears to work well for Rounded.
“Overall, the freelancers we have on our team have made a considerable impact to our organisation. They’ve bought specialist skills we didn’t have, enthusiasm and energy, external perspective and different ideas. We’ve tried many things and completed many projects over the years.”
Some of Rounded’s highlights include:
- Building an SEO and content strategy from scratch, which included:
o Increase of organic blog traffic by 200%
- Starting a newsletter:
o Up to 7k+ subscribers in 12 months
- A complete overhaul of our marketing tech stack
o Building custom tracking and a paid growth strategy.
As a popular cloud-based tool and favourite among Australian freelancers, Rounded is growing both in audience and in capacity for giving back to the community it both employs and serves.
“Our belief is that a bended workforce of traditionally employed and remote and freelance talent will ensure Rounded can continue to be flexible, adaptable and benefit from the diversity of ideas a blended approach encourages,” said Oliver.
To harness freelance talent for your startup organisation and integrate their services with style into your company’s workflow, contact the Freelance Jungle.
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