blur Group CEO Philip Letts explains how designers and developers can benefit from his skills exchange service that enables them to pitch online for international business
.net: How can web designers and developers benefit from using blur Group?
Philip Letts: They benefit at all stages of the Exchange process. First of all, they're part of a community of peers – that's expert designers, developers and agencies. Then the big bit – the new business opportunities manifested as briefs on the Exchange. Only those who are signed up can see and pitch for these briefs. They're of significant values, with significant customers – so it's not just about new opportunities, but new opportunities that you'd be very unlikely to encounter through your usual word-of-mouth referrals and local new business generation. Then the cloud-based platform means that you pitch for these projects online, and you're given your own dashboard to check the progress of your pitches. There's an Exchange Support team who can provide you with guidance to make sure you hit the needs of the customer, and who will answer any questions – so you're not pitching into a void! And if you are shortlisted and then selected, you have a dedicated online workspace for the project right through to completion, so you really could be working on a project for a company in Boston, MA when you're from Boston, Lincolnshire. The final part of the process is that we manage the invoicing and payment to you – so those days of chasing up clients are over! You don't start work until the first part of the payment is received. So, to sum up – a new way of working, new business and lots of hassle taken away.
.net: How do you vet your creative people?
PL: The Exchange Support team mentioned above vets all the online applications: you'll be asked to complete standard questions, link to your portfolio or website and talk about clients you've worked with. And if you've not gone through this vetting process and joined the Exchange, then you won't be able to pitch because our projects are 'closed'. For the professional designer or developer this simply means that they're dealing with serious projects – this isn't for the amateur or the clever kid – it's businesses wanting expert sourcing.
.net: How does your pitching process work?
PL: Very simply, the pitch is done online. Once you've reviewed the brief and checked out any details, you simply send your pitch. It's normally a mix of relevant credentials (no death by case study), your approach and outline concepts/moodboards/scamps. If you're a designer who doesn't want to do any concept work up front, then you can just pitch your credentials. What we don't make part of the pitch process is any finished work – the work starts when the payment commences. A pitch deadline is set for a project brief: after this the Exchange Support team will shortlist the best fits and there'll be a pitch review with the customer who will review and rank online. This streamlines the approach to the customer, but also means that the designer knows quickly whether they're in contention.
.net: Tell us about your project management role.
PL: We manage the whole process on the platform from brief to pitch to project kickoff to delivery and payment. The technology streamlines, the people ensure the smooth-running of everything on time and on budget. We're about to introduce project timelines so that customers and experts can monitor the progress once the project has kicked off.
.net: What kinds of projects have you managed?
PL: We have agencies from all over the world, and ranging in size from micro- to mid-sized. They've delivered websites for well-known brands as well as smaller companies – our website will give you an idea of who we've worked with. One thing we're always keen to stress is that the process is ours, but the projects are between the customer and the expert. It's their work not ours, which is why we don't show casework. We're providing the platform to make all this happen from the perspective of both users of the Exchange.