Boyhood, America in a Post- 9/11 World, and our Techno-Frenzied Future.

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the new Richard Linklater film,Boyhood. Boyhood is unique among films in that it was shot over the course of 12 years. The film starts in an America that was still contending with the post-9/11 world and continues through to the modern day. Boyhood is full of nostalgia — the soundtrack is excellent — and you’re likely to hear lots of “oooohs” and “aaahs” and “I had one of those…” while you’re in the theatre, but that is really just the beginning.

Similar to how The Wonder Years captured the 1960s in a beautiful way for my parents’ generation, Boyhood does this for Millennials. There are many themes and motifs in this film that resonated with me. Here is my analysis of a few of them:

Economic hardship — Life is expensive. From paying bills to putting kids through college, our world is expensive. You may have wanted to be a musician, but sometimes you’re forced to put those ambitions aside to take care of your family, as it is necessary to pay the bills. (At SkillBridge, we have certainly provided supplemental income for hundreds of consultants, and it is our hope to continue doing this for many years to come.)

Forgiveness — Moving on is a trait that is undervalued. It is necessary to forgive to move forward. As we see in this film, Ethan Hawke’s character goes from being a 30-year-old bum to a 40-year-old family man. Sometimes people make decisions based on timing, and these aren’t the right decisions, but people shouldn’t be punished forever for decisions they make when they are young.

Personal growth — Not everyone makes the right decisions when they are young. People become single parents, people fail to study subjects that are relevant to their careers, and more. These should all be considered learning experiences. You can go back to school to study the subject that interests you. You can raise your children to become fine people without a spouse. And you can pursue your passions, even when some people may discourage you from doing this.

America — Living in New York, I often forget about America’s natural beauty. America is vast. In such a large place, people have differing opinions on politics, religion, etc. This diversity of opinions, whether we agree with them or not, is what makes America interesting and sustainable in the long-run. The American Dream is still alive, and with hard work and dedication, it can still be achieved.

Family — Families grow, families shrink, and the dynamics of the American family in particular is changing. As we see through Patricia Arquette’s character and her significant relationships with three different men — none of which works out for her in the long run — relationships have become more transient, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fulfilling.

Immigration — America has long been a land of immigrants. Those who work hard, succeed. It may not be easy, but it is still possible. Nothing happens overnight. Life isn’t one big reality show.

Technology — For better or for worse, technology has grown to be an essential part of our lives. In some places within America, technology still lags. You needn’t be tethered to your iPhone for six hours per day, and there is still quite a bit of beauty in the world, but technology is improving so rapidly that we forget to make time for nature and the other wonderful things that our world offers us. Let us use technology for good, and not for evil.

Life is short — In one of the final scenes of this film, Patricia Arquette’s character starts to cry, as she realizes that she will now be an empty-nester, her kids grown up and moving out of her home. Of course Millennials tend to “return to the nest” at higher rates than previous generations, but this film really puts things in perspective. Enjoy your life, love the people who are close to you. Be thankful to your parents and the other adults who made you who you are.

If there’s one film you should see this summer — dare I say this year — it isBoyhood, as it encapsulates so many of the ethos that have guided our lives since the turn of the millennium.

It’s been a while. Things at SkillBridge have really been picking up…

I have so many thoughts, and not enough time to share all of them. Business at SkillBridge has been excellent, and we are in the process of growing our incredible team. Riding this startup roller coaster has surely been an adventure, and I promise you there will be more amazing things to come. Here are a bunch of recent articles that mention me, SkillBridge, or both:

1. Creating A Consulting Middle Ground 

2. The Most Sought After Job Applicants

3. The Sharing Economy Is A Win

4. SkillBridge is the Bridge to Global Talent

And a whole bunch of other articles that I have authored, primarily for Fast Company:

1. Will you be prepared when 40% of our workforce is contingent? 

2. Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Hire A PR Firm

3. Secrets To Hiring Great Interns

4. How To Make A B2B Company Less Boring

5. How White Collar Professionals Can Make The Sharing Economy Work

It’s been an incredibly busy (but fun!) summer here in New York City. Expect more updates soon.

Hiring MBA’s by the Hour | Inventing Work 2.0 with Skillbridge

I’m feeling very honored that Tim Wut wrote about me and SkillBridge in TechZulu:

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A few scenarios for us to consider:

You’re looking to grow the business and want to scale into new territory. You need to research the possibilities in a new landscape but your personal research has been well, a bit fruitless. Perhaps it’s time to raise a round of Venture Capital funding and want a pitch presentation a bit more composed than the dusty Keynote you put together last year for your friends and family round. All the while, you have product to maintain and a team to manage, but the very thought of hiring a VP or consulting firm makes you cringe.

We all need help sometimes – and building a business is, by no means, immune to that. Though growth/expansion/hustle can be accomplished through an immeasurable number of ways, the best way to fulfill these goals lies in an even more basic needto find good people. Well, not just good people, but intelligent, talented professionals who know what they’re doing.

Traditionally, these between a rock and hard place problems have been solved with a limited pool of expensive options – usually associated with long contracts and high billables for “MBA quality” work. For example, difficult solutions that speed and flexibility are also a priority.

Bridging the Gap and Redefining “Work”

Recently, we discovered an interesting NYC-based company who had a simple hypothesis: What if you could bring elite business consultant talent to the table without the traditional price and hurdles? What if you could combine the flexibility of outsourcing with the quality level of highly skilled strategists?

This idea, to “rent people with MBAs and other elite business consultants by the hour,” is what brings us here.

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Introducing SkillBridge

Today, we have Stephen Robert Morse, Head of Marketing and Communications atSkillBridge.co.

We discuss everything from outsourcing, MBA’s, and business, to the lessons learned in building their marketplace for connecting business professionals with the companies who need them.

Currently, their “marketplace for MBA’s and other skilled professionals” has more than 3,000 professionals with an impressive list of big name credentials. Professional brands like Bain, Barclays, Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton; MBA/academia like Columbia, Harvard, Wharton, etc. are reflected in their stable of on-demand, hourly paid consultants and freelancers for a number of business roles:

  • Market Research
  • Marketing & Branding
  • Investor Decks
  • Due Diligence
  • Training Materials
  • Financial Models

Company Founder, 31-year old Raj Jeyakumar, developed the concept after a nearly 7-year-long career in strategy and management consulting, topped with a volunteer trip, organized by the Gates Foundation to Kenya, where he created a marketplace for local farmers. Eventually, he went through the rigors of pursuing an MBA at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania – all the while, picking up freelance consulting work and employing his management/strategy skillset.

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SkillBridge was Built Out of Necessity

Jeyakumar, and his peers, found the process of finding freelance business consulting work to be incredibly inefficient. Thus, the idea behind creating a consulting marketplace was built out quickly, and a few months after launch, Stephen Robert Morse joined as SkillBridge’s first employee.

“I came on about six months after the website launched. Raj was the business guy, but my background was in tech and startups. Lightbox, Seamless, and Quirky to name a few.”

Stephen paints us a picture of why he got involved, and the importance of SkillBridge’s service.

Before SkillBridge, there wasn’t really a platform to provide work for white collar professionals on demand. Regardless of project difficulty, the process should be simple and easy. We wanted to create an easy way for businesses to access high quality, high talent, and elite professionals.

The other key here, Stephen explains, is confidentiality.

“Other platforms and freelancing sites lose the transparency aspect. You, as a user, will post a project, out there for the world to see, then ask for freelancers to bid their services. When you have big business decisions (management consulting, entering new markets, pricing sheets, etc.), confidentiality is a huge priority for SkillBridge.”

How It Works

An example:

“You put out a $50k project request. Then through the platform, we get in contact with the 20 best consultants who match your particular needs. We have algorithims in place to refine the matches. We send them the one page project scope, ask for the availability and timeline, then we offer the best candidate to client matches and you can set up interviews as needed.”

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Consulting: a Stagnant Industry in a Modern Age

We step back and take a glance at the consulting industry as a whole. It is a large, hulking, industry with modern needs and standards, but age-old underpinnings.

“The consulting business is something that’s remaind unchanged for nearly 100 years. Names like Accenture and Bain can charge billables of up to $20,000 a day to employ consultants that would just as easily work for $100 per hour, as long as it’s on their own terms.

We’ve found our marketplace appeals to consultants who love their work, but hate their jobs: Whether it’s the traveling, or working for clients they don’t like. To us, it’s about producing quality matches and allowing professionals to opt into jobs they’re interested in.”

Traditional hiring methods can equate to a month or longer of searching, qualifying, and hiring. Consulting projects, on SkillBridge, Stephen notes, can be submitted, answered, and candidates interviewed, qualified, and hired within 48 hours’ time.

Beyond Temporary Matchmaking

Past a simple marketplace, SkillBridge has yielded worthwhile results for career changers and those seeking flexible work lifestyles. Perhaps, professionals who are looking to get into specific industries, or most interesting: Stay-at-home parents who used to be management consultants, and MBA students looking to pick up work to fund expensive tuitions.

The profile fits accordingly for professionals who can spare 20-30 hours a week (not the traditional 50-60) to produce high level work. And in some cases, as Stephen reports, consultants have gone on to secure full time jobs for their contract employers – like the story of Anna Johnson, a Harvard Business School grad who was hired bySkillbridge as an HR contractor who helped her client create manuals for a fledgling startup’s HR team.

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A Changing Work Landscape

To date, SkillBridge has grown quickly with over 300 projects under its belt, and more coming in at a steady pace – all in 9-10 months of a baseline MVP launch, and a major site redesign in February.

“We want to validate the need for intermediate-priced consulting services, mainly in helping small businesses grow to the next level. It’s geared towards companies who don’t necessarily have budgets to hire McKinsey or Bain.”

We discuss the landscape at large, and some of the shifts they’ve been seeing in the space.

The try before you buy model has been a huge value on both sides. For the consultant (and they’ve all been there), when they walk into the first day on the job at a company and think to themselves {oh no}. For clients, they want to make sure they’re hiring for a position that is necessary to improve their bottom line.”

Company-side, control of the scope and timing of their projects is essential. In answering my question of what kind of companies are using their service, Stephen and his team have found the list to include private equity and venture capital firms, and large startups who are past the bootstrap level – like, say, Warby Parker in its earlier days.

Companies at this size often prefer to hire consultants for things that are not core to their businesses, with an emphasis on growth and scale.

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Lessons Learned

As a relatively young company, SkillBridge has seen its fair share of familiar startup bumps along the way. From one client who sent checks late to unreasonable project scopes – the team has gone the route of prioritizing customer service for its consultants and customers.

“To maintain quality, we’ve used review and scoring systems that take into account every part of the hiring process, from answering postings and interviewing, to verifying LinkedIn profiles and work portfolios. It’s an arduous process, but until we’re a huge company with a sterling reputation, we need to focus on customer service.

The lesson that we’ve learned is that there are talented people out there who are motivated not solely by money, but by engagement and meaning in their work. People are willing to work for less money when they know their work has a high impact.”

And with that, we close our interview with Stephen Robert Morse of SkillBridge. For more information on their services, be sure to visit their website to learn more!

Tired Of Hustling As A Freelancer? These Companies Will Find Gigs For You (For Free!)

An excellent piece, on me, from Forbes:

If you are ever in need of empathy for your plight as a freelancer or contractor, you should talk to Stephen Robert Morse.

As Head of Marketing, Communications, and Advertising at SkillBridge, a company that links independent contractors to companies searching for help on a specific project, he’s been studying the flaws of freelancing as we know it.

“Right now the system is broken,” he says. “If you are a consultant you spend 50 to 70 percent of your time hustling for work, and 25 percent of your time actually doing the work.”

If you’ve worked for yourself, you know exactly what he is talking about. The days spent emailing everyone you know (and don’t know) asking whether they have any work for you. The parties spent focusing on collecting business cards, rather than enjoying the music and cocktails. The hours spent dreaming up the most revolutionary, dynamic business ideas that a client may or may not want. And because it is a numbers game – for every one assignment you get, you have to pitch many, many more – there is no rest for the weary.

Then there is the fact that so much of succeeding as a freelancer is who you know, not how skilled you are. “People say, ‘I need to hire a consultant,’” explains Morse. “So they turn to their business partner and say, ‘Hey, do you know anyone who is a writer?’ And the other guy says, ‘Yeah, my buddy is. Let’s bring him in.’ That’s not going to get you the best work.”

Luckily for freelancers and independent contractors, there is a batch of startups trying to rectify these problems. They are creating virtual, merit-based systems that connect talent to companies that are looking for it. All you have to do is sign up, put your best face forward, and let them find work for you from their database of clients.

With Morse’s help I created a guide to these startups and how you can succeed in the new system they’ve created.

Choosing your company. While all of these companies have the same mission of creating a marketplace of talent for clients, they have important differences. Some are only looking for specific types of freelancers. MBA & Company and HourlyNerd, for example, only want candidates with MBAs, while Contently wants journalists. They also vary in what type of work they want to provide clients. SkillBridge brands itself as an alternative to Bain or McKinsey, a place where clients can find management consultants for specific projects. Contently works for brands looking for storytellers. So it’s important to do research to find out which company you should sign up for. (At the same time, you shouldn’t be afraid to sign up for more than one since it increases the chances of finding good work. “You have to be in it to win it,” says Morse.)

How to sign up. 

These websites need a lot of freelancers; the bigger the talent pool, the better people they can find for their clients. So they make it super easy to sign up. SkillBridge and MBA & Company. allow you to register through LinkedIn. oDesk asks how to upload a resume as well as write a quick summary about yourself. I’ve signed up for many of these sites and none take more than half an hour. And the best part: no fees! (The client pays a cut to the matchmaker.)

How to get the best assignments. 

Signing up doesn’t guarantee work by any means. In fact, it’s pretty competitive to get a gig (SkillBridge, for example, has 3000 consultants in its database but only 300 jobs… not a great ratio.) So you have to make your profile stand out. Most of these sites use an algorithm to suggest potential candidates to a client. The trick is to use as many key words as possible in your profile (Or LinkedIn profile if that’s the source of the information) that can be picked up by the computer. “If you’ve worked in different areas and different places, list them,” says Morse. “If you know different languages, list them. Every project is different and the more keywords you have, the more matches you will get.”

How to keep getting good assignments.

 After you complete work for a client they are asked to review you and recommend you to others. It’s key, therefore, to do a really good job on your first few assignments.  “Everyone gets rated from 1 to 10,” explains Morse. “If they are rated 8 or higher we will happily put them forward for other projects. If they aren’t rated 8 or higher we will find other people to do the work in the future.” In addition to impressing clients, you can also impress assigning editors (it’s not just an algorithm that assigns projects; there are also people who look through the talent to find the best matches) with your diligence and top-notch work. Most people, after all, rather hire tried and tested talent than a risky newbie.

Let the benefits roll in!

Morse says that if freelancers present themselves properly, they can make a living off the work they receive from SkillBridge. MBA & Company advertises that contractors, on average, receive 8,000 GBP per project, a hefty sum considering many are short term or can be done in conjunction with other assignments. I was definitely paying rent on money I made from oDesk assignments in my early freelance years. On top of high earning potential, many of these companies are offering additional benefits to freelancers. Within the year SkillBridge will be offering health insurance to its contractors. Contently runs a networking program for freelance journalists where you can meet editors and other writers. HourlyNerd offers best practice guides and business assistants for consultants who need professional guidance.

And as Morse says, all of these startups are still relatively new (most have popped up in the past few years) and will keep finding new ways to better serve freelancers. “The system is pretty f-ing good now,” he says about SkillBridge “But it’s going to get much better.”

With all the vitrol in the universe, I hate you Verizon Wireless!

verizon_is_evil

UPDATE: This must be a sick f*ckin joke. I was sent a second replacement iPhone 5 today (March 28) and it doesn’t even charge properly.

 

With all the vitrol in the universe, I hate you Verizon Wireless! (And Apple, you are a close second.) Here’s the situation:

I have been stuck on my parents’ family plan going on 15 years now. This is the predicament that many-a-Millennial find ourselves in: We’re committed to something our parents’ chose for us when we were merely teenagers.

I had the iPhone 4s from Verizon for over 2 years. Then, when it came time to upgrade to Apple ioS 7, everything started NOT WORKING. The wifi didn’t work, the phone started acting slowly, and apps started crashing left and right.

I went to the Verizon store. They said “Don’t pay to upgrade now. Wait until the iPhone 6 comes out. Try to upgrade to ioS 7.1.”

I went home, upgraded to 7.1, and the phone still didn’t work. In fact, it got worse after the upgrade.

I then visited a different Verizon store, where I was told, “Yes, we have had tons of problems with the iPhone 4S and ioS 7. We’re going to replace this phone with an iPhone 5.”

So I gave them my details, and a replacement  iPhone 5 arrived at my office yesterday. It turns out the thing doesn’t work at all. I can’t make phone calls, and when I have been able to make a few phone calls, the person on the other end hasn’t listened to me. The phone is used and scratched up on the exterior – not how I would keep my phone, and not what I expect a phone that was kept immaculately to be replaced with.

I have not been able to speak to important clients all day (as I was at a conference), as the phone didn’t work properly. It is a super annoying situation, made worse when you realize that to a large corporation like Verizon, you are worth less than nothing, even if your family has used their services for 18+ years, paying them every goddamn month.

The Verizon staff — both at the store and on the phone (after waiting on hold for 30 minutes!!) — weren’t  helpful at all, despite oodles of kindness to them. Of course, they’re ostensibly following a horrid corporate policy.

I will venture to the Apple store tomorrow, hoping to clear things up with what I think is a better organization. We’ll see.

If that doesn’t work, I’m heading to a conference a few blocks away from Verizon Wireless HQ in New York City tomorrow morning. You can bottom dollar I will be meeting with the upper echelons of their organization if I am forced to go there. Watch out, Verizon. You messed with the wrong dude.

UPDATE: I went to the Apple Store where the staff was kind of but not really helpful. They told me they’d give me a new phone for $269, which doesn’t make sense since I pay $10 a month for insurance from Verizon, and they literally just sent me a new phone 24 hours earlier. Furthermore, the phone that Verizon sent me was first used on November 18, 2012 — more than a year ago — and was thus out of warranty from Apple. I loathe this world.

 

The most rewarding part of the work we’re doing at SkillBridge: Helping Fellow Startups Succeed

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Last week, Raj, SkillBridge’s CEO, moderated a panel at General Assembly for the group Suits to Silicon Alley that was called “Pivot: From Corporate to Startups.” There was a sell-out audience, which reminded me, again, that startups are America’s greatest buzzword, but also the key to America’s economic future. (I mean, who really wants to be wearing a suit to work every day anyway?)

The current entrepreneurship renaissance is amazing. I’ve now worked at four startups and started two companies of my own, and I am still amazed by the ecosystem that I have watched develop during the past 8 years. Yes, there are tons of “want-repreneurs” out there, dreamers really, who won’t ever sell a single product or launch any of their ideas, but there are also many entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas, visions, and execution strategies.

I now think of the startup space like Hollywood: You have tons of “actors” and “directors” running around, but at the end of the day, how many of these “actors” and “directors” will never ever make it, for lack of talent or lack of hustle? Of course, the answer is most of them. But that’s okay, because failure is a learning experience, except it’s one that doesn’t pay as well, admittedly, as a corporate job on Wall Street.

I’m happy to see that the values of entrepreneurship, earning money based on selling legal things, and individualism are the key tenets of this entrepreneurship movement. And that’s where SkillBridge comes in to help: With thousands upon thousands of new companies that have formed in America during the past few years, many of them lack funding to make full-time hires in strategic roles. Having a strategy expert on your team on a full time basis is expensive, and most companies can’t afford to hire someone in a role like this. But by using SkillBridge, you can bring in an expert to help you for one week, one month, or even longer, which could be the difference between success and failure in your industry.

When startups use SkillBridge’s services, I feel like we’re truly making a difference. For example, the founders of All Day Power Play hired one of our consultants, Rachel, to help them create a business plan. I spoke with Rachel who felt that she really made a difference by plugging in the gaps in the founders’ knowledge.

And when I spoke with Rick, All Day Power Play’s co-founder, who Rachel worked with, he said “She’s smart, and easy to work with. She understands all of the players in our field. She approached each of us in a manner that we were comfortable with. We’re three different personalities, so she had to handle three different people. And she did that very skillfully.” I am sure that Rachel made a very positive difference that enabled this startup to launch with ease.

At SkillBridge, we have helped startups at all stages of their development, including those with significant funding already closed, like designer eyeglasses maker Warby Parker. If you’re thinking about starting a company, and need to find the right person to bounce ideas off of, to help you find your niche, or to list out competitors, I can’t tell you enough how satisfying it is to have a professional management consultant help you with these efforts. I am sure that the money you invest in hiring a SkillBridge consultant will pay off, as he/she will set you on a path toward success from the get-go.

Alright entrepreneurs, here’s my promise to you: Give us a chance, and SkillBridge consultants help you succeed. Now, the rest is up to you.

The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need To Improving Your Life Because Of The Freelance Economy!

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At SkillBridge, we are certainly working at the heart of the freelance economy: For nearly a year, we have provided white-collar workers with freelance business consulting jobs that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to find. We have enabled individual consultants to win, as they no longer need to be associated with a firm to work at jobs that are of high-quality and well-paid.

There are many other amazing companies out there that are using freelancers to help people. Together, we’re all focused on disintermediating old school companies and dysfunctional/bureaucratic organizations so that individuals can directly connect with the people and services they want. Whether you work at a small business or a large one, your life is going to become much more efficient in the coming years.

Without further ado, here’s SkillBridge’s Ultimate Guide To The Modern Freelance Economy, and please let us know in the comments section if you have more examples, as this will be a regularly updated list:

Hire Great Engineers:

TopTal – Founded 2010. Connects start-ups, businesses, and organizations to a growing network of the best developers in the world.

AirPair – Founded 2013. Connects companies to Software Developers they can book and pay 1 hour at a time.

Use Peer to Peer Taxi-Like Services:

Lyft – Founded 2007, as Zimride. A mobile app for friendly, affordable rides at the tap of a button.

Uber - Founded 2009. Connects you with a driver at the tap of a button.

Summon (formerly Instacab) – Founded 2012. Mobile application that matches customers needing transportation with a taxi driver or a community driver who is willing to provide a ride.

Hailo – Founded 2010. Free smartphone app that puts people two taps away from a licensed taxi, and lets cabbies get more passengers when they want them.

Sidecar – Founded 2012. Smartphone app matches everyday people in their own car with people nearby for shared rides.

Accomplish Your Small Tasks:

Mechanical Turk –  Founded 2007. A marketplace for work by Amazon.com.

TaskRabbit – Founded 2008. Matches people who need tasks done with runners — aka “rabbits” — willing to do them, for a price.

Fiverr – Founded 2010. The place for people to share things they’re willing to do for $5.

Freelancer – Founded 2009. Outsourcing & crowdsourcing marketplace for small business.

oDesk – Founded 2005. An online workplace that enables businesses to find, hire, manage, and pay talented independent professionals via the Internet.

Elance – Founded 1998. Connects the world through work

Hire Workers:

WorkMarket – Founded 2010. Where workers and companies come together and manage work.

Get Your House Cleaned And Your Handy Men (and Women):

Zaarly – Founded 2011. Find and hire the best house cleaners, handymen, and lawn-care staff.

HomeJoy – Founded 2012. Get your place professionally cleaned for just $20 per hr.

Design Your Life:

Behance – Founded 2006. Showcase and discover the latest work from top online portfolios by creative professionals across industries.

99 Designs – Founded 2008. The #1 marketplace for graphic design, including logo design, web design and other design contests.

Made – Founded 2013. An invite-only marketplace that matches top freelance creatives with the people who want to hire them.

Hire Journalists and Acquire Content For Your News Org Or Brand:

NewsCred – Founded 2008. Pairing cutting-edge technology with world-class content, we transform brands into storytellers.

Contently – Founded 2010. Empowering journalists and brands to engage audiences with compelling content.

Get an Education:

SkillShare – Founded 2010. Teach as a freelancer. A community marketplace for classes.

Invent Cool Things:

Quirky – Founded 2009. Invent as a freelancer. If you have product ideas, bring them to Quirky.

Hire Your Legal Services:

Rocket Lawyer – Founded 2008. Make legal services accessible.

UpCounsel – Founded 2012. The easiest way to get legal services.

LawDingo – Founded 2012. Talk to lawyers. Find lawyers online.

And yes, in 2013, business consulting also became a freelance economy sub-genre whenSkillBridge was born (originally spelled SkylBridge, ha!). We’re proud to be a part of it, and we look forward to connecting you with the world’s best business consultants.