How to Develop a Freelance Marketplace
Experts predict freelancers to represent about 80% of the global workforce by 2030. And in 2019, freelancers earned approximately 4.8% of the US GDP (which is almost $1 trillion). Hence, it’s safe to assume that the freelance industry is developing in a steady manner and freelance marketplace solutions are gaining more and more popularity these days. Below we discuss the main factors that determine the success of such apps and the main things to consider when developing one.
Why freelance marketplaces gain such popularity
In recent years, freelance marketplaces experienced significant growth due to the following factors:
- Democratization of services of different kinds with an aim to provide both service providers and consumers more options to choose from. The marketplaces these days follow AirBNB and Uber paths to disrupt traditional service delivery models.
- A great amount of agility and flexibility allows delivering services as a form of side income for providers or getting tailored services for consumers.
- Increased connectivity and such smartphone usage practices like on-demand location-based interactions, demand/supply comparison or online ratings transform the way services are provided.
- An enormous migration of many services to the remote model due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and this migration turned out to be a surprisingly good decision for many companies).
All these factors create profitable conditions for freelance marketplaces to bloom.
Unlike such giants as Airbnb or Uber, platforms for more traditional services (plumber ordering, cleaning services or coaching) are more localized in their nature and usually run in a specific country or an area.
The demand for such specific localized services leads to their emergence at a high pace and on a regular basis. Hence, if you think about creating your own freelance marketplace solution, today is probably the best time to do so
Oleg Ridchenko, VP Business Development, SoftTeco
Success factors for a freelance marketplace app development
Being in high demand today freelance marketplaces also experience high competition. Therefore, it is important to understand what factors determine the success of your digital product in order to minimize the risks when launching such products. The following factors our colleagues at SoftTeco consider the most important to take into account.
Demand awareness and marketing
While this factor may sound quite obvious, you shouldn’t underestimate its importance. Before starting to work on a freelance marketplace product, the most important questions that you need to answer are the capacity of the market, your target audience, and possible ways to approach the potential users.
Maybe your idea seems brilliant but in reality, there are too many similar solutions and the demand for them is low - you’ll need to consider such things beforehand.
Alexey Shevchik, Chief Executive Officer, SoftTeco
Obviously, it is a must to outline your marketing strategy in advance so you will be able to steadily build awareness and ensure that your product will be visible to users.
Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Another important factor that determines the future success of your product is its unique selling points. Needless to say, with valid USPs, your chances for success become much higher. Also, when thinking about the possible USPs, take some time to analyze the usability and usage scenarios of your product and whether they will be simple enough for new and existing users.
Besides USPs, there certainly should be a commonly expected set of features in place. The most successful freelance marketplaces share a common set of features and they are:
- User profile creation: a user profile should be comprehensive and contain not only a bio but also a portfolio, rates (for sellers), reviews, key skills, verification, etc.
- Advanced filtering of offered services/available jobs: a user should be able to quickly and easily find the needed service provider/buyer
- Various messaging options: chats, messages, audio/video calls if needed.
- Multiple payment options: make sure to offer numerous payment options (credit card, PayPal, etc.) for more convenient payments.
- Work time tracker: sometimes it might be a useful tool though it’s not obligatory.
- Detailed dashboard with recent activity history and information about current projects.
Unless you run a non-profit organization, the monetization strategy is one of the most important drivers for your business. When thinking about monetization, the following needs to be taken into consideration:
- How will you earn from running the software? Will it be a percentage cap, monthly/annual subscriptions, fees based on the number of orders taken, advertisement, sponsorship, or other options?
- What are the development and support costs? How much will it take to develop, launch, and maintain the product? What is the expected ROI?
Using a Readymade vs Building a Custom Solution
When it comes to freelance marketplace development, the biggest question to answer is whether you go with a ready-made solution or develop a software product from scratch. Each option has its pros and cons so we will overview them below.
A readymade SaaS platform
A ready-made SaaS platform is a product that was already developed by a provider and is available by a subscription fee on a monthly/annual basis.
In terms of freelance marketplaces, a SaaS platform offers a solution with an initial set of features that can be set up and customized as needed. The platform operators can set their own name, domain, and logo and configure the system for their future clients. The initial configuration usually involves such steps as setting up categories of services, pricing models, and design templates, and this significantly speeds up the process of the platform launch, hence, minimizing the initial costs.
The biggest drawback of SaaS systems is their low flexibility and high operation costs. Since a SaaS platform is a ready system with a certain set of functions, you can customize it only to the extent that the owners of the system allow. So if you want to implement some specific behavior, it may not be possible.
As for the operation costs, they will depend on the number of users (service providers and customers) that you intend to bring to the system. The operation costs are usually a percentage of the paid amount that can challenge the profitability of low-margin business models.
Building a custom solution
A custom freelance marketplace solution is made from scratch and in full correspondence with your requirements. The development of a custom solution is an option that many startups choose in order to make sure they will get the exact functionality that they envision in their system.
The biggest advantage of developing a custom platform is 100% flexibility in terms of its functionality, design, look and feel. The trick here is to know exactly what you need, which sometimes is not the case with some entrepreneurs - but you shouldn’t worry about that. In case you opt for a custom solution, the business analyst or a project manager of your development team will help you define the project requirements.
Another important advantage of custom development is Intellectual Property (IP). In the case of a custom platform, you 100% own the IP which is not the case with SaaS solutions.
The biggest drawback of custom development, however, is time-to-market and costs. To develop a system from scratch, you need to go through a full software development lifecycle (business analysis, implementation, and testing) and this takes quite a lot of time and resources.
But despite that, a custom solution is still a very preferable option, especially if you care about customization. Let’s discuss its development in more detail below.
Developing a custom freelance marketplace
If you decide to develop a custom solution, you have two options to choose from: greenfield development and ready product reuse.
Greenfield development means developing a new system mostly from scratch. In this case, you won’t have any restrictions or dependencies on the other components or systems architecture. Therefore, you will have to do a lot of decision-making: which programming languages and database to use, where to host the system, how to organize user registration flow, etc. You will also need to conduct an analysis phase which usually defines most of the screens and user flows of a system before you start the development.
Ready products reuse
This option is great when 1) there is a similar system which source code you can purchase and reuse or 2) when there is an open-source system with functionality similar to the one you need and which you can base your development on. A good example would be purchasing the source code of a successful plumber ordering system and modifying it for a home nursery care professionals matching portal (or vice versa) or finding an open-source solution with 60% of features overlap and adding business-specific features on top.
The product reuse approach can save you a significant amount of time and costs since many standard features will be already available. The customization of such systems implies the development of specific USPs that will put your product aside from competitors and bring the most value to customers, while the rest of the functionality can be left “as-is” with minimal branding modifications.
Alex Zubel, Head of Marketing, SoftTeco
The drawback of the Reuse development option is the time needed to learn the existing architecture and structure before you can develop the product further. Another drawback is its limited flexibility since you will need to work on the product within its current architecture.
However, this option is much less restrictive in customization than the SAAS one. With the Reuse approach, you can customize business-specific features as much as you need, but it can take more time than the Green Field development.
If the amount of custom features is about 20% of the entire functionality (which is most often the case) and the other 80% can be reused “as-is”, the Reuse approach will still save you a great deal of time and money, compared to the Green Field one.
Elena Bobrova, Head of Android Development, SoftTeco
We have summarized the pros and cons of the discussed approaches in the table below:
*Some IP restrictions might be imposed by open-source licenses or code ownership agreements.
As you can see, every option has its pros and cons and hence, the choice will depend heavily on the nature of the system, your target audience, budget, and customization needs. And if you have any questions or want to learn more about custom development options, we will be glad to answer them so feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.
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