It’s almost hard to fathom. We live in a world where creatives are in demand like never before. Businesses of all sizes, from nascent startups to established industry leaders, need designers, writers, and videographers. They need people to create their ad campaigns, animate their ‘explainer’ videos, and record their jingles.
We should be in the golden age of the creative. But that’s not the case, is it? Instead, creative professionals — particularly those at the start of their careers — are treated like a commodity to be exploited. Just look at the prevalence of job adverts on Craigslist that are “for exposure,” and the near-stratospheric rise of Fiverr.
But the creatives are fighting back, and they’re doing it by playing the same game as sites like Fiverr, Freelancer, and UpWork.
“We’re the anti-Fiverr”
Stuart Logan is the the founder of Twine, based in Manchester, England. The fundamentals of how this service works should be familiar to anyone who has found work online. It’s a platform that connects freelancers working in the audio-visual space with businesses looking for creative work. Businesses post jobs, and freelancers pitch for them.
But don’t compare it to Upwork, or god forbid, Fiverr. “We’re like the anti-Fiverr,” Logan insisted.
“It’s all about audio-visual for us. So, that’s anything from graphic designers who create logos, to filmmakers who might make short adverts or explainer videos, to music producers who might make a soundtrack to something. Just anyone creating audio-visual content.”
Logan explained that while Twine is open to eventually expanding its platform to other creatives, like developers and writers, the company feels no need to leave its current niche. “There just aren’t any other good solutions for audiovisual creatives, and we really feel we can solve that,” he said.
Perhaps he’s right. The site has already built a thriving community, and over 200,000 freelancers have signed up.
“There are three big sells for creatives on the platform,” Logan said. Firstly, creatives can build their own portfolio, showcasing their talents to potential clients. “That’s perhaps why it isn’t a best fit for writers, as it’s really focused on audiovisual creatives. But it works really well for producers, designers, and filmmakers.”
The other two ‘sells’ focus on the marketplace aspect. Freelancers can rifle through paid project briefs to find their next gig. The site also allows the creation of “free project briefs. “These are basically collaboration requests,” Logan explained.
“So, a creative can go on there and say ‘Hey, I’m looking for a vocalist for a track I’m working on,’ and people would pitch in and get connected, and start working together. What this does is foster community, which is good because for a lot of freelancers, this can be a lonely job.”
Twine has also thought about the other end of the transaction. “We want to position ourselves as the platform for quality. There are a lot of platforms where it’s about getting shit done cheaply, whilst we want to get shit done right.”
“From the buyer’s perspective, we want to be the platform that gets better content for them, for whatever they want to achieve.”
To accomplish this, Twine has an unusual approach. Companies file job briefs, as is the case on Freelancer and Upwork. But Twine actually is involved in every step of the way. Once a brief is published, it manually filters low-quality proposals, so buyers only see the ones that are relevant and are likely to result in a successful outcome.
This prevents freelancers from taking a ‘shotgun’ approach, where they file proposal after proposal in the vain hope that one bites. “Unlike other platforms where you get dozens and dozens of pitches, we act like a barrier. For buyers, this is less overwhelming.”
Creatives also benefit from feedback on why their proposal was rejected. “For each pitch we don’t let through, we say why. This is easier than you’d think, because sometimes it’s as simple as the creative hasn’t filled out their portfolio, or the project isn’t relevant to their field, or they gave a one-sentence pitch.”
“We’ll get back to them and say ‘you need a stronger pitch next time,’ or ‘you haven’t filled in your portfolio.’ This feedback helps creatives improve their pitching, and hopefully helps them find success next time.”
Right now, Twine’s small team is able to cope with this. But as its community grows with its ambitions, it might be harder to keep up.
Onwards and upwards
Twine was founded in 2014. Back then it was a different company entirely, called Clowdy. Initially, Logan conceived this as a distribution platform for creatives, but in 2016 the company pivoted towards the current marketplace model.
Now, the company is in growth mode. Earlier this year, it closed a £400,000 (roughly $500,000) funding round. Investors include Herb Kim, founder of Thinking Digital, and board member of Tech North.
Freelancing can be a race to the bottom. This is as true for designers and writers as it is for software developers and videographers. There will always be those who want to pay the minimum possible for something. Those people are well-served by incumbent platforms.
But for freelancers who want to earn a living wage, and buyers who want to get a quality product, there’s now a viable alternative. That alternative is Twine.