Author: Irfan Rahman
BBEcosystem is a professional networking site designed, built and operated specifically for the freelance ecosystem. The name 'BBEcosystem' is an amalgamation of two concepts, which build up the basis for the site:
'Black book' - A tool used by professionals to store business contacts (individuals & organizations), sometimes found in rolodex form.
'Ecosystem' - a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
We're creating an environment that enables members of the freelance ecosystem to meet, collaborate and form lasting relationships - all without the intervention of 'middle men' recruiters.
In terms of our role, just think of us as mother nature setting sensible perimeters to allow the ecosystem to grow and flourish.
How does it work?
When freelancers sign-up, if they pass our vetting procedures, we initiate Phase 1 of our process. We look at where the freelancer has been trained and auto-connect them to all of their alumni from that firm (in a particular region) immediately. This means, when they sign-in for the first time, they'll have an active network ready and waiting. It also means over time the network will continue to organically grow, as more freelancers from the same firm sign-up. For instance, if a freelancer acquired the consulting toolkit through Boston Consulting Group (London), we'll auto-connect them to all Boston Consulting Group freelancers in the U.K (for free) - an instant, organically growing network - done!
Phase 2 of our process centres on a freelancers sector focus and assigns them to curated sector groups based on their experience. We control and manage every group, allowing curation to remain central to the site. If you were not trained in a professional services firm, these groups will serve as your community to launch your platform from.
Phase 3 is matching employers and freelancers which is done via the 'projects' tab from within the site.
During beta the site is only available to freelance strategy/management consultants, however, we'll be opening it up to other communities in due course.
Does BBEcosystem accept all freelancers?
During the beta testing and version 1 release, we'll only be allowing membership to freelancers with the consulting tool-kit (gained through consulting or industry experience). We hope to expand into new 'professional' verticals soon after that. BBEcosystem is a site for freelance 'professionals', not 'gig' workers. There are numerous other platforms (e.g. Upwork) to access the 'gig' economy.
We taking vetting applications seriously, which is why we hand vet every application to ensure it meets the quality standards we expect. We also vet to ensure individuals have relevant experience so that we can attach them to the correct 'communities'.
So your 'BBEco' connections will never match LinkedIn or Xing, but the relevance and depth of each relationship will (hopefully), in time, be far more meaningful.
"We're firm believers in the principle that it's not how many people you know, it's all about who you know."
Sounds cool, why did you start it?
We believe freelancing is the future! That's why we're building infrastructure to help with the shift of professionals wanting to establish lasting careers as freelancers. By creating strong project pipelines, multiple client relationships and a 'community' of fellow freelancers, we believe freelancing can become a long-term career option, not just something professionals sample for 1-2 years in between jobs. When freelancing is done right, it's a fantastic career option, allowing professionals to prize back control of work-life balance, project selection and downtime.
What's wrong with the current freelancing model?
Employers paying excessive fees when hiring, freelancers lacking suitable networking opportunities, project matching being a game of pot luck that the right freelancers & employers are members of the same platform or agency - just some of the many 'pain points' members of the freelance ecosystem face on a day to day basis. The fact is, at the moment there doesn't exist a space for freelancers to establish relationships with employers and fellow freelancers in a transparent and curated way. Recruitment agencies and project platforms only focus on 'project matching' and large professional networking platforms, like LinkedIn, lack curation or an easy way to build a curated freelance network.
We are first and foremost a community for members of the freelance ecosystem, not just another platform promising a revolutionary new 'project matching' system.
What makes you different to professional networking sites like LinkedIn or Xing?
By designing a professional networking site specifically for freelancers we've taken away many of the major 'pain points' freelances & employers face using sites like LinkedIn and Xing. We think these professional networking sites serve an important purpose - however, when they were designed, the freelancing space was still in its infancy. They can feel clunky and somewhat hit and miss when it comes to networking or hiring freelancers.
Here's some of the main features of BBEco we've integrated to fix these 'pain points' versus traditional professional networking sites:
- Instant network - we'll auto-connect you to any other freelancers within your geography who shares the similar experience to yourself (i.e. if they've gone to the same consultancy, law or banking firm). Freelancing can be lonely with few reliable sources providing information on what it means to hire or work as a freelancer. Hopefully, this instant network allows you to create some useful relationships and kick-start your freelancing career. For hiring managers, we think it's a bit ridiculous you have to pay excessive recruitment fees only to end up hiring an alumnus of yours (that's why we admit you into a group with all alumnus freelancers in your geography).
- Curation - it's not about how many people you know, it's about who you know. We vet by hand every application to join the community with irrelevant membership applications turned away. We're focused on building a meaningful ecosystem for you. Curation also allows you to have far more targeted discussions with fellow freelancers / a cleaner hiring processes, with far more pertinent applications.
- Freelance focus - Everything on the site from profile fields to availability tabs has been created with freelancers in mind.
- Personal Blog space - BBEco members have the ability to create personal blog content and share it with a curated community of others members of the freelance ecosystem - become known as an expert in your field through the content you create & share. Personal blog content also allows you to stand out from the crowd when it comes to building relationships with clients. As the numbers of people freelancing increases, the importance of differentiating yourself from the pack has become integral. When you apply to projects or client 'black books' on the site - employers will be able to see your blog content, providing additional criteria for them to assess your fit for their firm and projects.
- Focus on relationships, not projects - We allow hiring managers/HR teams and freelancers to connect all year round (even when there isn't a specific project). Why? Because it means that when you have a project need that does arise, we want you to have a curated 'black book' of pre-existing freelance relationships to tap into. Even when there isn't a project need, you can still access your black book for advice and support.
- Unify your freelance connections into one place - No more excel lists! Organizations can maintain all their freelance connections in one dedicated group.
- Freelancer Availability tab - keep any and all relevant contacts updated on your availability (especially useful to keep hiring managers in the loop about when you're next available for new projects
- Opportunities to collaborate - we've created a set of features with a focus on collaboration - shared documents, powerful real-time chat functionality etc.
"We never want our members to feel like just another number on a recruitment database"
What makes you different to traditional recruitment agencies/project platforms?
- Same level of curation at a fraction of the cost - the only way agencies/project platforms often justify their fees is the level of curation they provide. Does curation really warrant excessive fees? Yes, time is a precious commodity for hiring managers/HR teams, however, that doesn't justify the ongoing fee structures adopted by the majority of freelancing businesses (i.e. 30% of day rate on an ongoing basis). We bring that level curation at a fraction of the cost (approx. saving over 90& per year across 3 freelance hires).
- More than just a recruitment channel - we want our members to build meaningful relationships with hiring managers and fellow freelancers. Network, socialize, find work - we want BBEco to be more than just another freelance recruitment channel. We've integrated a number of features to aid collaboration for our members - shared docs, power chat functionality, shared interest groups.
- Real-time collaboration - our powerful chat functionality allows freelancers, hiring managers and HR teams to communicate in real time. Communicate directly to your community in public and private groups. No more endless e-mail chains during the onboarding process and mid-project. Have a question, need a quick response - send an instant message via the platform.
- Evolving network - we want freelancers to be free to connect and collaborate with each other. Each time you log in, your personal ecosystem will have evolved with new people joining the community and being automatically connected to you (assuming you share relevant professional experience). Build up a network of fellow freelancers to tap up for knowledge or skills expertise, share project opportunities or simply to grab a Friday beer with.
- Personal blog space - we've created a dedicated space for each freelance member to create and share content relevant to them. Write, comment, bookmark other freelancers articles for later reading. With our obsession for curation, we're confident your personal ecosystem will be a relevant audience for which to discuss the topics which matter to you most.
- Higher average day rates - eliminating the recruitment spend per project enables a larger portion of the day rate to go straight to the freelancer, which means that opportunities on BBEco on average carry a higher day rate than the industry average. Don't believe us - just look at the active needs tab. Conversely, employers can pay less per project/keep freelancers for longer with the elimination of the recruitment spend.
- Keep your black book wherever you go - we want every member to have a black book, which means that whenever you move to a new role or geography, your personal freelance ecosystem travels with you. If you're moving to a new sector/geography, you can start to tailor your black book for the next adventure!
- Think global, not local - are you looking to hire in a new geography or are you a freelancer moving to a new country? No problem, have a ready built network ready and waiting to tap into. Similarly, if you're working on a project that requires some local knowledge or expertise, tap into your network to find out what you need to all at the tap of a button.