A purpose-driven business or bust.

Here’s a statement I hear more often these days:

“Cool platform (dudes), you’re really disrupting the recruitment industry.”

Man, I hate that statement.

I hate it mainly because of what it says of how I’ve failed to communicate appropriately what it is we’re actually trying to do here at YunoJuno.

So a few months ago, my co-founders and I decided to better articulate our vision for YJ — for us, for the people in our company, and for the community of freelancers and employers/clients who continually drive what we build and how we operate.

This isn’t meant to be a long post because the true test of anything I write is more about the doing than it is about the saying but I do want to extrapolate a little on our thought processes to getting to a place we’re excited about. This is because over the past 5/6 years of building YunoJuno, we’ve benefited a lot from other startups/founders/brands who have shared their own honest journeys in forming their particular stance on a matter. So there was never going to be a scenario where we wouldn’t pay it forward ourselves with the following work.

A (brief) intro to YunoJuno…

YunoJuno began its life as a freelance marketplace specifically for the creative and tech sector. Founded in London, now also in New York, in the last five years we’ve continued to build on both our product and proposition — meaning we now handle the end-to-end process of finding the perfect freelancer, managing freelancers through an organisation and then also make sure freelancers get paid on time and can be easily found again to be booked on the next perfect brief. All this has meant that there are now five times more freelancers in a YunoJuno booking than through any traditional recruitment providers within the creative sector in our launch city of London. Not bad going (if i say so myself) for peeps that knew more about the creative process and building things than about recruitment.

But this post is about where we’re going so I’ll stop the introduction there. A more pictorial/irreverant snapshot of the journey so far can be found here: https://www.yunojuno.com/ldn/story/

Be something

At some point in every startup — after giving up semi-respectable careers, self-funding an idea that “seemed like a good idea at the time”, and multiple days of questioning your own self-worth — you have to ask yourself “why are we doing this?” and “what is it that we are trying to create?”.

How we chose to answer those question formed the basis of how we articulated our vision, mission and the big idea we want to attach ourselves to.

Our Vision for YunoJuno

We know the world is moving freelance. We know that the way in which professionals of any kind choose to work will be very different in five years time and unrecognisable in 20. So if the world is going to be freelance, we want to point YunoJuno towards the future reality and not the current trend.

So our vision for YunoJuno is to be “the best workplace in the world”.

These six words, distill why we keep going and what a perfect YunoJuno looks like — whether you’re a freelancer working for someone, working by yourself, or with others. Whatever your particular persuasion (and you may not even have a single preference but rather find yourself in each of these scenarios in a calendar year), we want to make sure the things we are building, and how we operate, facilitate the best environment possible for our community.

Every month, for the last 60 months, we’ve seen more briefs, more bookings and more people in YunoJuno-enabled work. And this shows no sign of letting up. So at some point,

YJ becomes less about the connection and more about what the connection enables — the ability to simply focus on the work in the best environment possible.

When we first started the company, our dream was to empower to our freelance community and their employers a direct and transparent route to connect with each other. To us, that just simply made sense. We wanted to power not only the shift towards freelancing but facilitate a new reality by which a freelancer didn’t have to feel like ‘going freelance’ was a jump into the unknown or characterised by the things you had to give up in order to obtain independence. Our community can then focus on the best work experiences possible — whether that be for someone, with others, or by themselves.

Why should an experienced designer or strategist or developer give up the assurance of getting paid on time simply because he/she wanted to have more control on the projects they did? Why should an employer of freelancers feel like finding the perfect person is the dark arts? And once that connection happens, why can’t the experience be one where both party’s feel like winners and as a result, the thing that is really in focus is the actual work?

For us, that’s the best workplace in the world.

Do something

A moment of clarity for us in this process was not needing to mash vision and mission together. And the separation of the two was in fact a liberating exercise. A vision, as we now will never forget thanks to matching neck tattoos, is a ‘seeing’ term. It speaks to the place or a thing we want to be — ie. ‘the best workplace in the world’. But a mission, on the other hand, is geared towards doing. The how part of achieving our vision.

So for us, the doing is to unlock the true potential of freelance. That’s our mission for this crazy business.

We believe that freelancing is more than just a route to a higher rate card.

To think of it this way is to reduce the concept to mercenary-like exchanges. Yet for every one freelancer we meet looking for a monetary uptick, we meet 50 who take this path as a very purposeful vocational choice — to control where they work and on what, to build on their career in a dynamic way, and ultimately furthering their craft.

But that’s only one half what we mean unlocking freelancing’s true potential. The other half is the reason why our mission statement says “freelance” as opposed to “freelancer”. The freelance industry is both supply and demand. So our drive to unlocking the freelancing’s true potential must consider the other half of the equation — the clients/employers on YunoJuno who hire these brilliant freelancers.

The other advantage of separating our vision and mission is the ability it gives us to now get into the weeds — to properly detail the things that we believe will actually unlock a better reality for both freelancers and clients. Some of these addendum’s might evolve over time, some might be less relevant because of a future need that we can’t see just yet. But we’re ok with that. Here’s some examples of our current broad brush strokes:

“Unlock the true potential of freelance …by removing all points of friction for freelancers and employers.”
“Unlock the true potential of freelance …through user-centred technology.”
“Unlock the true potential of freelance …powered by intelligent data and market insights”
“…with world class service.”
“…adding value to our community wherever we can.”

Stand for something

Coming from the world of advertising and branded communication, it kinda felt like a little heretical if we didn’t also have a strap line by which we could attach this brand we are building. Something that truly defines what we stood for as a company.

There was only ever one word we were going to use here.

We stand for FREEDOM.

For us, this one word distills the very reason for starting YunoJuno and the thing that keeps us going. It’s also purposefully not ‘tech’ and intentionally human. It speaks to what we want for our community — for freelancers and clients alike.

We didn’t set out on this journey to simply be a transactional website or a product that ‘senior management’ mandated because they saw the benefits to a bottom line. We set out to create something that delivered a better experience for everyone involved — from the freelance art director or developer employed on a top secret pitch or bringing an idea to life; to the internal resourcing team looking to put the best people on the job. A recent trend we’re seeing on YunoJuno are freelancers who become employers of other freelancers to build their own offering to market — ie. YJ empowering a new level of entrepreneurship. This stuff gives us a real pep in our step.

If by using YunoJuno, some part of your life is more free than when you weren’t using it — what an incredible thing of value to deliver to our community.

All of the above why I hate the term “disrupting the recruitment industry”. Recruitment is only one slice of the pie and we have a much bigger appetite.

Two other words that drive me to self-harm is “gig” & “economy”. They’re this generation’s “turn-key solution” — but that’s showing my age and for another post.