Ubika Dev entered the corporate world after getting a degree from IIM-Ahmedabad. She sampled various functions including strategy, finance, and even HR. As years passed by, the monotony of corporate life hit her and just as she was thinking about the direction her life should take, she bumped into her friend Kunal Modi.
Together Ubika and Kunal started InstaTaskers – a company that connects freelancers and businesses with an aim to bring professionalism in the freelance industry which is largely unorganised. As Ubika sums up,
“We believe that the 15 million (and growing) freelancers in India can be a great value-add to the startup and SMB sector in the country who are constantly struggling to find expert assistance. Since day zero, our aim has been to change the perception that freelancing in India is a doomed adventure.”
Excerpts from the Interview:
From strategizing for the most prominent construction company in the country (Lodha Group) to co-founding a startup on her own terms, she is an inspiration to all women who want to do things her own way. In this interview, she discusses the pros and cons of working independently and freelancing, in general.
How do you differentiate yourself from UpWork, considering they have the same model?
On platforms like Upwork, there’s no strict verification, and there’s no way to find out the quality of work that will be provided by freelancers. But on InstaTaskers we verify the profile, work samples, etc. so we can assure all our clients that the quality of work by our freelancers will be up to mark. We spend a lot of time verifying the freelancers. In fact, our conversion rate for freelancers, i.e. number of applicants we get onboard out of all the people who apply to become freelancers with us, is only 40%.
Do you have any policies that prohibit client and the tasker to interact outside platform?
No, we don’t have any such policies. We understand how important it is for clients and freelancers to speak with each other before working on a project. We allow users to choose any mode of communication; only the transaction of the project must be routed through us.
Tell us about the risks of being an aggregator between freelancers and clients.
As an aggregator, it is our responsibility to make sure that both – clients and freelancers – are happy with the services we provide. When things go sour (which actually hasn’t happened a lot with us) it becomes difficult to please both parties. As an aggregator, we risk being vulnerable to bad mouthing.
What are some things that freelancers must follow to generate potential leads and convert them?
I think creating a great profile is the key to getting more clients. Freelancers must make a professional profile and list out all the services they can provide. A great portfolio will always stand out and generate great leads.
Do you usually see freelancers not being able to convert potential leads?
Yes, a lot of freelancers and clients don’t end up working together. The fault lies at both ends. Freelancers usually don’t follow up and show lack of professionalism. While most times clients are unable to communicate their requirements clearly which becomes a hindrance for freelancers. For example, giving a one-line description for an IT project will always be insufficient. The client needs to provide all the details for the freelancer to provide quotations and chart out the deliverables. We usually put in a lot of effort in helping our clients understand their requirement and help them find the appropriate freelancer for the same.
In this age of freelancers and entrepreneurs, what challenges do you think this independent model of working brings?
I think productivity is the biggest challenge. When you start working independently, you need to manage your time and make sure that the number of hours that you are putting in is productive. It might seem that you are working for longer hours compared to your day job and not being productive enough.
The second most important challenge is generating business. Since you work on your own, there’s no time left to contact potential leads, and if you strive to get in touch with them, the work gets delayed.
Tell us some peripheral skills that all freelancers must learn or imbibe to get projects.
I think, as in any other industry, having soft skills is very important.
Communication skills are a must, no matter what your line of work is. Also, being professional regarding communication and getting the job done on time are highly valued skills.
What strategy should start-ups have for hiring freelancers and full-time employees?
Startups must employ all their resources for the core business. So strategizing and planning can be done in-house, but once the strategy is decided by the internal team, execution can be outsourced. For example, marketing and design plans must be decided internally as the team knows the product and TG the best. And once you decide on the strategy, you can outsource it to a freelancer or a small team to execute it.
How has your journey been as an entrepreneur?
It’s been an educational and transformational journey. I didn’t know anything about content writing, graphic designing, web development, or any other services. I learned everything on the go. The first year was more about executing and automating our website and involved a lot of planning and precession. The second year was about scaling up and building a team.
What are some of the issues you faced while scaling up?
According to our business model, the client has to pay the amount of the project to InstaTaskers before the freelancer starts working on it. We then lock that amount and only release the payment to the freelancer once the client tells us that the task is complete. In the beginning, convincing clients to work with us was challenging, but once they started working with us, they were pretty convinced and even recommended us to others.
What are some rules that entrepreneurs must remember?
All entrepreneurs must remember that persistence is the key. There’ll be times when things might not turn out the way you want. And it might feel you have met a dead end but persistence during such times is what it takes to survive in the market for a long time.
Name an entrepreneur who you look up to.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma is an inspiration for everyone. Though there are many other platforms, Paytm has been a revolution in this space.
What motivates you to work every day?
I spend a lot of time with my daughter on a daily basis. I don’t want to be an example of failure to her. Instead, I want to be an example of Inspiration to her. And that fear is what motivates me every single day.