Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network. This time, we're chatting to Albert Azis-Clauson and Jack Willams, founders of UnderPinned. Get to know them better below...
Tell us a little bit about UnderPinned – what gap did you see and what inspired you to take the leap and try to fill it?
After both of us started working as freelancers and helped start a small magazine for artists, we realised there was a problem with the way flexible work is handled in the UK. Currently, it’s a mess of non-compliance and swarms of young freelancers who don’t know how to market themselves or where to find the right products, services, and information.
So, we wanted to change that by helping them find work, do their work, and get paid at the end of it.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
Not enough people talk about the fear. When you’re making the choices that decide the future of the company, you don’t know what will come back to haunt you. You have people you are responsible for, and that can be daunting when you’re making decisions, big or small. All you can do is take action and surround yourself with the best people who will challenge you while also supporting you in the paths you choose to go down.
You not only have such a wide range of content in your online magazine but you are releasing it at such an impressive rate! How do you decide what you’re going to write about next? Where do you get inspiration from?
Honestly, the biggest question I ask myself before pitching or being pitched any content is “Would I want to read this?”
Finding content and content creators is relatively easy, but curating an interesting publication and finding a consistent and trustworthy voice takes time. What we know for sure is that we want to help people, and that’s the biggest inspiration for us.
The main aim of UnderPinned is to aid freelancers, giving them tools and information to help ensure they’re ‘never out of the loop’. Why do you think freelancers are such an important audience to interact with? And why is there such a demand for a platform such as yours?
All of the numbers from IPSE and the government point towards a future of flexible work. People are just generally so fed up with the usual 9–5 slog, and we don’t blame them.
The reason this platform is needed is because of the lack of collective muscle that exists for freelance workers. Right now there’s a huge number of freelancers in the UK, but not a lot that unites them.
What’s the most alarming thing anyone’s said to you in business?
We had someone laugh in our face when we told them our business plan very early days. That was scary.
Albert’s brother is also our biggest critic, and while all of his criticism has been more than fair, he also has said some things that probably aren’t appropriate for publication.
You also have a virtual office on your site, with sections such as portfolios and invoicing and contracts. What kind of support does this offer for people? And why do you believe it's so important for freelancers to have access to these tools?
We’ve found that most freelancers are interested in one basic process: finding work, doing the work, and getting paid.
All the other admin, marketing, and accounting is an extra job that takes time and detracts from a successful freelance career.
Our virtual office is designed to build all these extra jobs into one simple process. We help freelancers accurately market themselves to get better jobs, we help them manage their projects and we automate their contracts and invoicing systems to stop late payments and extra admin.
Since the start of your journey, what has been the most valuable piece of legal advice you've received?
Don’t trade shares in your company for food. Seriously. It’s complicated and not worth the paperwork.
We've noticed that you have a range of limited edition fashion utilities and stationery on your website – can you tell us more about these?
We’re currently in the process of working with Q Garments on a backpack specifically for creative freelancers. It has some pretty cool features and not ones you would expect.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
The sooner you identify what you can’t do and find the right people to do it for you, the easier the process is.
So many people try to wear all the hats in their business – and, while being able to multitask is important, it is equally important that you are able to recognise your weaknesses.
The most successful founders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are.
Lastly, what do you think the future holds for UnderPinned?
We have so many goals, and there’s so much potential for where we can go with this idea that it's really important to us that we stay realistic and stay grounded. I think that we will work on expanding our content while focusing in on what our customers need to succeed, and the community around the incredible people we get to work with.
And if you found this startup story inspiring, check out the rest of the Farillio blog to discover more!