Update: as of January 2016, HireGun is now Credo (GetCredo.com). Find us at our new home!
“Gun for hire” — One with special knowledge or expertise, as in business, law, or government, who is hired to resolve particularly difficult or complex problems.
Today is an exciting day for me. Ever since I founded HireGun at the beginning of 2013 from my then-apartment in Brooklyn, New York, I’ve felt that there was something more to it than what I was able to give it at the time.
The site was running but if I’m honest I was embarrassed by it. The formatting was terrible, the stock header hurt my eyes every time I saw it because I knew it was the stock header and I hadn’t changed it, and so much more. But I was exhausted from life, and so HireGun languished as it did a bit of revenue each month, but nothing special.
I’m finally working on HireGun like it deserves. We’re bringing transparency to the legitimate consulting industry by giving information back to the consumer (aka businesses looking for help) in what Rich Barton calls a Power To The People play.
Let me tell you the story and why I’m excited about it today.
Start Small and Ship It
At the end of 2012, I was in a crazy place. I was working extremely hard at Distilled, blogging on my personal site, consulting on the side to make a bit of extra money (and get some case studies and blog post inspiration), and near the end of January 2013 I met my wife Courtney. Life was busy.
Overloaded and stressed out, I went on vacation with my family for Christmas to Costa Rica, which is one of the most peaceful places I have been. I try to make time every year to unplug, and this was one of those trips. The Costa Rica trip gave me clarity on a lot of things, and one of those was that I was way too busy. I was receiving constant leads from people wanting to hire me for consulting, but I actually decided that for my own sanity I needed to stop freelance consulting completely for a while.
As I investigated where I could even send these leads, I realized that I needed to know what people were charging so that I knew the right place to send the leads. But sending leads, following up with both them and the consultant to make sure everyone was happy, and keeping everything straight was a lot of work, and I didn’t have much time. If people were willing to pay for leads, it would be worth my time to manage it all.
I also realized that businesses had a pain point in the process because all of my clients I was letting go were asking me for referrals. They had nowhere to go to make their own decisions and instead had to go through someone like me who might know someone that they should chat with, even though I didn’t know what others charged or what their specialties were either. While this was good for my ego, it was bad for businesses.
I contacted my friends at Wallaroo Media (hi guys!) and offered to sell them a lead for $50. They were more than happy to do so, and soon enough, I had $50 in the bank account so I bought hosting and the domain name hiregun.co. HireGun was born.
I continued to work on HireGun through that year, but it wasn’t until in between leaving my consultant job at Distilled in New York and starting my job in San Francisco with HotPads that I had two weeks of time to dedicate to it. I had never been good at downtime (and I’m still not), preferring instead to fill my time with projects of some sort. I dove into HireGun to try to further validate the model and the direction it should go.
Between numerous phone calls with consultants on the platform and other trusted friends, I felt more and more sure that HireGun was worthwhile to invest in. At the end of those two weeks, I wrote a post entitled “I Was An Entrepreneur for Two Weeks: Here’s What I Learned.” All of those lessons that I learned still hold true, but the ways I go about them (and frankly, my state of mind about it all, which was manic then and much more measured now) have changed over the last two years.
During that time, traffic increased markedly leading to the first thousand-visit month in HireGun’s existence. Leads also increased and more consultants signed more work, so I had some of the validation I needed.
The Next Two Years
The next two years were busy, stressful, and trying. We moved across the country, got married, got a dog, and dove into our careers. I experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I’ve had in my career. It’s fair to say that many of my rough edges were smoothed off as I learned a ton about myself, about others, about working within a system, and about pushing where I needed to push and learning to be patient.
During these two years, I learned:
- How to work well with designers
- The pros and cons of big vs small companies
- More ins and outs of email marketing and how to put together a cohesive strategy (that worked oh so well)
- How to organize a long-term strategy into actionable chunks and organize a team around it
- Strategies are not tactics and vice versa
- How to hire well (and not well)
- The roles of and difference between product, project, and program managers
- That I am not a good employee and that I am not happy unless I have a real voice at the table
During the two years, I built a marketing team from myself to 8, advocated for and helped hire a growth marketing team, and mentored a number of younger marketers throughout the brands.
I also got some valuable product experience, working across teams to prioritize issues and advocating for the ones that we needed to drive growth for the brand, which was after all my charge. While I may not have always done it in the most effective way in order to make friends, we did drive significant growth on many fronts.
Power To The People
Rich Barton, the founder of Expedia, Zillow, and Glassdoor, has built a career out of launching businesses that adhere to the mantra of Power To The People, where he finds opaque industries where the embedded powers-that-be hold all of the information that consumers need. Consumers are frustrated and have a subpar experience.
When Rich launched Expedia inside Microsoft, it was to disrupt the travel business and let consumers see how much flights and travel cost and to then make their own decisions instead of calling a travel agent to help them book a trip.
When Rich and Lloyd Frink (his cofounder) launched Zillow, it was to bring transparency to the real estate market by putting a price on every rooftop in America. Through the Zestimate, built by Dr. Stan Humphries in its initial incarnation, you can see how much your and your neighbor’s house is worth. You can also see how much that house down the street sold for. The consumer has a place to start their conversation with their real estate agent.
When Rich launched Glassdoor, it brought and continues to bring transparency across salaries, companies, and public figures within companies. When you go to Glassdoor, you can see how well current and past employees rate the company, the pros and cons, as well as salary ranges (which are incredibly helpful in negotiations) and even how well employees would rate the CEOs.
Fundamentally, HireGun is a power to the people business. I want to take the information that has so long been held from the knowledge of businesses and give it to them so that they can make the smartest decisions for their business.
What Is HireGun?
At its core:
HireGun connects businesses with the best online marketing consultants available anywhere in the world.
I’m not just saying this. I’ve personally invited most of the consultants and agencies who are on HireGun to be there. I’ve also not included some who asked because I was not able to personally vet them. Eventually I’ll open it up wider while still preserving quality, but for now it’s a curated list of only the best.
What’s Launching Today
Today I am excited to launch a few very exciting things that are meant to add transparency to HireGun and the consulting industry. These are:
- Consultant and agency profiles. Previously you could only send an inquiry to me (you can still do that, by the way) to get matched up. Now, you can do your own research and directly contact the consultants or agencies that you want to discuss your project with.
- Along with these profiles, you can now see exactly how much each agency or consultant charges per hour as well as what their monthly engagement minimum amount is. This information has never before been made public (to my knowledge) in the online marketing consulting world, and we are doing it because I believe that every business looking for a consultant should have all of the information they need to make the right decisions for their business, and that includes price.
- Consultant/agency search. While not game changing in and of itself, through using my own product I realized that it was hard to find the right consultant or agency. Businesses can filter by the types of work they need and their budget, and from those filters they’ll be shown only the consultants and agencies that fit their needs specifically.
Isn’t The Space Already Crowded?
Yes, the consulting portal space is becomingly increasingly crowded both by well-funded startups and under-the-radar businesses that are printing money.
So why am I doing it? I have many competitive advantages that can allow HireGun to serve this underserved market. It’s a two-sided problem where:
- Businesses who need more than a developer to build a tool but less than the highest-cost marketing agency in the world currently have nowhere to go. They start their search at the top, but when they are turned away they have nowhere to go to find a consultant or small agency who takes their level of work but also provides an awesome experience and quality marketing.
- Following that, there are many small agencies and consultants that are so busy running their businesses and working with clients that they don’t have the time or budget to be traveling to conferences all the time to speak, or writing blog posts and doing outreach. The online marketing industry hates on “expert roundups” and “interviews”, but then we also tell businesses and consultants to be blogging (and it works when your content is good). These consultants and agencies need more qualified leads.
To get HireGun started:
- I have leveraged my personal network (and they are building their businesses with HireGun leads as you read this), and I know what it takes to make a successful consulting engagement work.
- I know the pain points of both businesses and consultants, so I am uniquely positioned to provide the right solution to both sides.
- I’ve had years of experience working for a portal and understand both the supply and demand sides.
- I have years of growth marketing experience and know how to build a growth engine that works.
Where HireGun Is Going
I have a lot of ideas for the next features to build into HireGun to make the lives of both businesses and consultants/agencies easier, so watch for these in the coming months. I’m a one man band over here right now, so some features may take longer to get out than others, but my goals are to:
- Add features around transparency that help businesses better vet consultants and agencies other than hearing them at conferences or getting a referral from a friend to talk to them.
- Add features to help eliminate some pain points between businesses and their consultants even after the contract is signed and work has started.
- More resources in the vein of How To Structure A Consulting Engagement and How To Hire A Growth Team to help companies make smarter decisions around working with consultants and hiring their own in-house teams.
Just The Beginning
This is just the beginning for HireGun. I can’t believe how far it has come in even the last 6 weeks since I’ve had time to dedicate to it, and I’m incredibly excited for the future versions and features that I already have planned.
*We are on ProductHunt on 11/12 here. Join in the conversation!