When I started a creative agency, I had many business strategies. Some succeeded, others failed, and a few taught us what is best for our growth. To this day we still focus on serving the best for our clients, while being paid accordingly to ensure we can continue pushing our own personal creative limits. We produce for and work with our clients every day to ensure their success, though our partnerships remain separate.
As founder and creative director at Brand Müller, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of growth. There was a time a few years ago when me and my team took on the idea to pivot our business strategy. We saw the increased revenue our clients achieved through our market research, strategy building and creative output, which was and is always our goal. But as our portfolio grew along with our team and overhead fees, our clients did as well.
The movement toward increased agency costs had to result in adjusting who we worked with, and sometimes it hurt us deeply to pass up on a creative opportunity we knew we could help with profoundly. So how could we adjust our growth to assist those that could no longer afford our services, yet still scratched our creative itch? We thought… “what if we offered our services at a heavily discounted rate for a percentage of their company?” Could this actually work? Would it be smart to be part of businesses that we were passionate about? Or would we find it too difficult, after a project was finished, to maintain a serious impact in each additional business we worked with? These were all questions we thought about and debated heatedly.
In the end we totally resisted jumping on board with the idea. From a personal standpoint the opportunity risk seemed too high. If we were that passionate about a project and believed surely that it was worth spending our hours on, then we would–and still–do whatever it takes to make a difference. The costs we would normally apply should not matter and we still believe that. The opportunity to push our creative boundaries and help small businesses with our expertise is of greater value than what any dollar could provide. Beyond that, when a project of limitless creative opportunity is available, the team morale is worth so much more beyond an organization with a group of individuals. Which, in the end, will help our larger clients ten times over.
With that in mind I was greatly amused when I received a submission from Cosmin Harangus and Paul Chirila at FwdMarket. Upon first visiting their site, the team and me were quickly hit with a flashback of our past experiences. FwdMarket’s platform could be a strong outlet for freelancers, artists, marketers and anyone in general to succeed by simply utilizing with what they offer to clients already. We’re certainly happy to see it, and we truly hope for its success.
The first message we read when jumping on the FwdMarket site was one from web designer Sarah Lee, stating: “Would you share a percentage of your future product sales with Sarah for a kick ass design? No upfront payments required.” If the opportunity to gain a design at a minimal or no-cost can land you a handsome return, why wouldn’t this be a possibility for any business owner to take up? For obvious reasons, a business probably has longer-term aspirations of exponential growth that will make the upfront design fee seem like pennies in 5 or 10 years. But today, getting such a design–one that makes a difference and can increase the speed of growth for your business–would be foolish not to entertain. Wouldn’t you take that opportunity?
But beyond just sharing revenue on a project, FwdMarket is also a marketplace for people to connect and grow together. Members can establish lasting partnerships while working on what they know best, knowing that they are working together as a team with a mutual goal in mind. It eliminates the need to put money in an escrow account because you don’t trust the person you’re working with, or to learn all the aspects of the development cycle in order to build a successful product. You get paid a percentage of each sale made through the marketplace, like everyone else in your team.
The startup is a cross between BuildItWithMe’s and Envato’s marketplaces. While many sites connect designers with developers and vice-versa, FwdMarket is more up-to-date with today’s needs. As co-founder Cosmin tells us:
“We want people to connect with each other, but with a specific goal in mind, something measurable that benefits them both. We want to empower our users to get out of their one man shell and make their lives easier by exploring new possibilities. Ultimately we want to help people use their skills to earn a passive income to be able to follow their own path without the constraints of a 9-5 job or a money for time approach.”
The idea of finding someone to help grow a product due to a lack of personal skills is rooted from the founder’s own experiences of wanting to build a successful product. Back in December, Cosmin worked on-and-off to build his own Twitter Bootstrap theme. And while having strong programming skills, he and his team were lacking design experience to increase profits. So, they tried to connect with local designers and offered 50% of sales. The interest level to produce the work was high, and even a few exclaimed wanting to do this for some time with a developer.
However, life gets in the way, and a few months passed with no designs created. As a response to this problem, FwdMarket was created. It is the realization of their own need to have a place where people can connect with others, work together and sell the created product together online without any upfront payments or any other kind of risk.
As we mentioned previously, the usual objection to a shared revenue split from a business perspective is that one could hire someone from Dribbble or Elance. But that’s where FwdMarket does differentiate; it solves the problem of wanting to build something when its success cannot be estimated from the start, not to mention the worry of spending all your money on it. Cosmin goes on to tell us:
“With digital products the sooner you put it online the sooner it will sell, but you can only estimate to some degree what sales you will have, it depends a lot on how good it looks, how extensible it is and how well it is documented and maintained.
You need to work on it on and off, make sure you provide good customer support and that your partner has your back and understands that this is an investment on the long term, not something with fixed immediate gains.
Also if you manage to find more designers to help you with your ideas you could scale your business and not put all your eggs in one basket. Try to take the same approach with Elance or Dribbble and you would have to pay a lot just to get you started without any assurance that your ideas will catch on.
FwdMarket also gives you something that Elance does not. On Elance if you post a project and you hire a designer, that person will work for you because he/she wants your money to pay their bills, not because they believe in what you want to do. If you find a person interested in working with you on FwdMarket then it is not just you who believes that your project has merit and that you could both get a good income out of it. That person will have the same goal as you and that can make all the difference.”
FwdMarket is free to use by anyone who wants to collaborate on a project, and you are not forced to sell your product through their marketplace. You could just use their project management and collaboration features. However the only guarantee that revenue split is possible is from what is sold through the platform.
Currently, FwdMarket is still in beta, and the company expects to launch fully in October. If you’re a designer or developer that feels they can benefit greatly from a mutual partnership of growth with assured revenue splits without risk, we highly recommend jumping on board and signing up on their site.
As a freelancer many years ago, this service would have been a great opportunity to craft incredible projects and build a portfolio that actually could bring back large rewards, instead of the small savings from those odd end jobs that happen when you start out. Here’s hoping FwdMarket builds a community of successful designers and developers working together.