“Make money online” or “Find work online.” These headlines grab a lot of attention, and for good reason: many of us are online to find work and earn a living. However, what these promising words often leave out is reality – the truth that mostly crummy opportunities await and that professionals must deal with a lot of hidden nonsense to win clients.
Pay to have complete access to profiles. Pay the middleman when projects get done. Spend time fighting for work without any certainty that worker and client are a good fit. The platforms for finding work online (at least for proven professionals) are for the birds. There should be a better way.
And there is. It’s called ProfectMarket
A perfect market for the pros. There’s really nothing else like it available. ProfectMarket is a marketplace that connects professionals and clients, and does everything right.
Focused on high-end professionals (web developers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.), ProfectMarket is open to everyone. Information is visible to everyone. There are no fees to join or to pay out when two parties agree to work together. What’s more, the platform matches buyers and sellers efficiently through a system of recommendations and ratings that actually matter.
ProfectMarket appeared on KillerStartups not long ago, and we knew the startup was on to something great. We had the good fortune to catch up with founder Neil Sandhu and to have him tell us more about what sets ProfectMarket apart and why he decided to build the company on his own:
So, let’s hear in your own words what ProfectMarket is about…
ProfectMarket is a new online marketplace that connects professionals and clients.ProfectMarket is focused on sophisticated, high-end professional work in the U.S. Customers of ProfectMarket include lawyers, finance professionals, marketing professionals, engineers, doctors, software/web developers, and others – and businesses and individuals in need of hiring a professional for a specific project/task.
While online professional marketplaces exist, ProfectMarket’s marketplace is unique. At ProfectMarket, we believe that the eBay model does not work well for professional services because professionals, unlike products, are not fungible. A potential client is interested in the level of service that a service provider will provide on a particular project, and not just in the cost of services rendered. In addition, the level of service that a professional will provide on a particular project often cannot be discerned by some sort of generic, unsophisticated ratings measure based on the professional’s past performance (which could be with respect to a project in the same general category of a prospective client’s project, but require a far different skill set).
ProfectMarket’s system provides the client with useful information as to the best professionals to hire for the client’s particular project. Our proprietary algorithms ensure that prospective clients are matched with the most-qualified professionals for their projects. Recommenders are incentivized to recommend the best professionals (and to provide accurate recommendations) by monetary rewards, and the algorithms reward accurate recommendations and ratings, while ensuring that only accurate recommendations are counted.
How did your professional background lead you to creating ProfectMarket? What where your first steps in building the business?
I am a lawyer, with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in Economics and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law (go Hoos!). I previously founded HireTrade (about 7 or so years ago), an online marketplace that was similar in some respects to ProfectMarket, in that it connected contract attorneys with law firms in need of contract attorneys.
ProfectMarket targets a variety of different professions (and is also meant for use by professionals employed in firms and businesses, so that these professionals can find work with new clients). The overall proprietary system used by ProfectMarket is different and far superior to the initial concept we were using with HireTrade – and, we believe, is superior to any other system in existence, because it combines the best of personal referrals with the power and reach of the Internet to create a dynamic, open marketplace for professional services.
So, ProfectMarket sort of is a re-launch of HireTrade. For HIreTrade, I relied on outside web developers to do the work for me. I found that process frustrating, as the end product created by the developer often didn’t match my own internal vision. It took many iterations (and, as a result, cost a lot of money) to keep getting closer to what I wanted. Nevertheless, it never was quite what I wanted. I found it hard to convey a vision in words that needed to then be transformed to code by a third party.
Since we shut down HireTrade, I learned how to code on my own and did all the web development work for ProfectMarket myself. While I am a lawyer by profession, I was always strong in math and science in school, and find the logical world of math and science, where there is often only one correct answer, a refreshing change from the legal world. I found the process of learning how to code to be fun, and then applying that skill to build a product to be rewarding. Now that I know how to code, I am able to get the product exactly how I want it out the door quickly and far less expensively. And I can go from concept to actual implementation quickly and effortlessly, without having to relay my vision to a third party where it often gets lost in translation.
My experience as a lawyer obviously was one of the main drivers behind the launch of both HireTrade and ProfectMarket. I knew there had to be a better, more efficient way for clients to find the best lawyers and for the best lawyers to find more clients. My economics background also comes into play, especially in regards to the underlying system of rating professionals. One of our ratings that we ask both recommenders and clients to use is a rating of the professional’s value per hour worked, in terms of dollars, regardless of the actual fee earned. Aggregating these ratings (and also adjusting and weighting ratings depending on the accuracy of the rater) results in a system whereby a professional will have an average Hourly Value Rating, which represents the average dollar value provided per hour worked – a useful metric for comparing professionals.
We envision a marketplace for professional services that is close to a perfect market, in the economic sense of the term “perfect market”, in that it is a transparent, efficient market for buyers and sellers of professional services. We also think our marketplace is the best marketplace for professionals, hence the name ProfectMarket (which combines “pro” and “perfect”), and the two meanings of a “perfect market” for professionals – i.e., both a perfect market in the economic sense and perfect in the sense of it being the best market for professionals.
Why should professionals turn to ProfectMarket to find work rather than use classifieds or rely on existing networks such as LinkedIn?
Existing online marketplaces do a poor job of connecting businesses and individuals with the best professionals for their particular needs. Static classifieds do an even worse job, as prospective clients have no way of knowing what type of service to expect from the professional. LinkedIn is a great service for professional networking, and to find out a little more about a professional (in fact, most professionals on ProfectMarket are also on LinkedIn), but it is not a marketplace that connects professionals with clients looking to hire professionals for a specific project. Nor does LinkedIn have any mechanism for prospective clients to gauge how good a fit the professional will be for their particular project.
Who do you see as your competitors then, and why will ProfectMarket become the preferred solution in the end?
To some extent, we compete with freelance marketplaces such as eLance, guru.com, etc., or smaller marketplaces like ExpertBids. However, we target the market for sophisticated, high-end professionals in the U.S., as opposed to eLance and guru. Also, unlike many of these marketplaces, our marketplace is open and 100% free to use. We don’t hide some of the professional information and attempt to serve as a middleman to choose what we feel is the best match in terms of professionals and clients.
Jeffrey I. Carton – on ProfectMarket
Our system is an open marketplace, which uses the wisdom of the crowd to help the client find the best professionals for their particular project. But the client has complete control over actually choosing the professional(s) to hire, and both clients and professionals can freely communicate with one another prior to starting a project. Our system encourages contact and free exchange of information.
What are some of the biggest challenges you wrestle with while trying to grow your company? How do you approach these challenges?
As a small startup, we find that the biggest challenge is just getting the word out about our new service. With a limited marketing budget, we have relied primarily on social networking to help spread the word that we are live, we are different, and that professionals and those in need of professional services should check us out, especially since we are totally free. And by free, unlike some other marketplaces, we don’t merely mean free to sign up and then we plan to take a cut out of your fees – we don’t take any fees or commissions from either the professional or the client.
Since ProfectMarket is free, how do you plan to make money?
We intend for ProfectMarket to always be a free, open, transparent market for professional services. So, we never expect to take any sort of cut from professionals or clients. In fact, as we get underway, we don’t anticipate any revenue generation in the short term. Over the long term, we may eventually run non-intrusive and relevant ads (a la Google) and/or allow professionals to feature their profiles and/or clients to feature the projects with things like premium listings. However, anything we do that eventually generates revenue will be measured, nonintrusive, and actually something that adds to the user experience, without taking away from the efficiency of the marketplace.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs starting out on a new business?
Yes. While it sounds cliched, follow your passion and don’t get discouraged by the naysayers. Also, to the extent you can, learn how to build your product yourself rather than relying on third parties, or at least develop enough competency to have a thorough understanding of how the product is built.
How do you see your company in 5 years?
I see ProfectMarket continually iterating, but the hope and goal today is that we have laid the foundation for an open, transparent, efficient market for professional services. Of course, it is never easy to predict how a technology or website will evolve over 5 years. We intend to respond to our customers and stay nimble, so we don’t know exactly where we will be in 5 years at this point.
When are you most satisfied as an entrepreneur?
I don’t think I’m ever satisfied. Like many entrepreneurs, I feel like I can always improve on things. I find the process of building something that serves a need in the marketplace to be rewarding though. And I don’t like just thinking about ideas, but enjoy the actual implementation of initial concepts into an actual business.
Is there anything else about yourself or ProfectMarket that hasn’t been touched on that you want to be sure is mentioned?
We haven’t touched much on the fact that our recommendation/ratings system allows anybody to recommend professionals for a particular project. So, even if you are not a professional or in need of professional services, if you know of an outstanding professional, you should encourage that professional to sign up and create a profile on our site and you can then recommend that professional for specific projects on the site.
The best recommenders (in terms of providing accurate recommendations, and recommending professionals that the client finds have done an outstanding job) will be rewarded monetarily. So, ProfectMarket is not just for professionals and those in need of professional services, it is for anyone (who likes money).
Fantastic. Thank you for your time, and best of luck to you.