This last Friday I held the second video chat with members of the PPH community via Google Hangouts. Both hangouts were so successful (at least I felt so and gauging by the tweets from those who participated I think that is the general consensus) so we decided to regularize them. From now on, every Friday whoever wants to chat with me with no particular agenda, just to share their concerns, issues, delights and whatever else regarding PPH, please sign up on: http://pphgooglehangouts3.eventbrite.com/ (The time of the hangouts may vary depending on what time zone I’m in, but they will happen nonetheless.)
At this point, I should say a special thanks to all those who participated so far! A lot of great things came out of these hangouts, including the need to communicate certain things to the community, like the ones below.
What are the upcoming changes & fixes to the new site?
Following the launch of the new site there were a number of issues that quickly surfaced, thanks to the alertness of our users, which will be addressed and fixed over the next few weeks. I will highlight here which ones in particular so the community can rest assured that we are on it. As a side note it’s refreshing to see that the feedback is consistent at large, aside from some edge cases which we will try to accommodate as best we can.
- Optimisation of WorkStream Inbox: something we are working on, is making the Inbox a lot more usable. Users quickly flagged the need for a search feature, to be able to find a conversation easily (much like Gmail) and the ability to drill down into WorkStreams via Jobs. All this will be added within the next few weeks, together with the ‘report spam’ feature to quickly report spammers. We already acted fast and added smaller things our users requested like the ability to Accept or Decline a Proposal or have a Proposal ‘preview’ from the Inbox view.
- Homepage: a few people reported (rightly so) that the home page has a bias towards promoting our new product called ‘Hourlies’. This is correct as it’s a new product and we added a promo video on the homepage to give it some marketing boost. It will not stay there for ever. We are now working on a homepage that will synthesise all three ways for a Buyer to get started and reach Sellers quickly such as buying an Hourlie, contacting people via the Profiles search or posting a Job and getting Proposals. It is not our intention to favour one over the other. The three ways of getting your ‘Job Done’ are complementary and they are designed to be so. A Job post favours slightly more complex / larger Jobs where getting a custom Proposal is more fitting; Hourlies are great as a quickstart for a small promotional offer, with a view to carrying on with a custom Proposal afterwards; direct contact of people suits others who want something very specific and find a Profile that’s just what they want; or who are ‘online now’ and enable a speedy start.
- Portfolio in Profiles: This will be pushed up and opened out so that people can quickly see visuals of one’s Portfolio. The feedback we received that its ‘buried’ down below is justified and we are fixing it. I won’t go into why we did this, let’s just say it was a screw up and it’s being fixed now.
- General bugs and UI fixes: again thanks to the community that’s been very responsive and alert at reporting bugs. We are deploying fixes daily and we hope that within the next few weeks most, if not all, of the bugs will be fixed. Equally it’s refreshing to see that there haven’t been any major bugs on big issues like payments and balances. That all seems to have gone smoothly.
- Improve Jobs: simply by allowing people to distinguish Jobs they have already sent Proposals for, Jobs they have already visited / viewed as well as improving our search engine to allow search by ‘job_id’ or simply by entering the Buyer’s name. Also, like you asked, there will be a new page where Sellers will be able to see all Jobs they have been awarded and make all important actions from there.
- Other: there are other features that the community commented on and we are factoring a lot of them in and implementing them. They vary from things like Dashboard, and ‘saved searches’ feature…I cannot list all of them here but a lot of them will be done. The main ones mentioned are the ones above.
What’s the logic behind the new Levels: Rookie, Hero, Super Hero etc.?
A few people asked what the logic behind these levels is and expressed some initial discontent on the playfulness of the terminology.
The logic is this: levels depend on the combined economic activity of Buying and Selling. Why? Well the rationale is that money is money, so someone who spends money on the site should get an improved ‘rating’ than someone who doesn’t, as is someone who sells. About 30% of active Sellers on the site are also Buyers. So now someone who previously struggled to ‘break in’ and started going up the ranks can simply buy an Hourlie and start building their Profile and credibility.
Secondly, what we came across before was a lot of discontent by people for the fact that they had a big ‘zero’ on their profile showing that they had no earnings. Both, in cases where they were active Buyers and in cases where they were just new so rubbing it in their face helped no one and in fact makes it harder for them to onboard. So now instead we have bundled those with low economic activity into one category called Rookies… they may be pros outside of PPH but they are rookies on the site. It doesn’t mean they have zero earnings and even if they do it’s not shown publicly as not to put them down.
Equally this solves another issue which is that many people wanted to hide their earnings because of confidentiality reasons. This holds for people at the higher levels. So again, a ‘Super Hero’ now needn’t worry about that. They get the status they deserve.
On the point regarding the choice of working: this goes hand in hand with a general change in terminology across the entire site. We do not aspire to be another boring corporate site. We are changing the way people work, modernizing it, making it more social and more fun. And the language should (and does) reflect that.
As someone pointed out in the recent hangout, whatever terminology we chose we could not please everyone. Even if we chose more serious titles like ‘Expert’ that would create other problems: what’s to say a newbie isn’t an expert? The titles should therefore not be taken literally, and the best way to do that, we feel, is to make them playful (although surely some people may well feel that they genuinely are super heroes 🙂 ).
How have search rankings changed?
Not surprisingly some people commented that previously they were ranked at the top and now they are not. So they assumed the algorithm changed. The algorithm did not change. But, rather than rank people (with that algorithm) on an ‘all time’ basis, we do it on a rolling 30-day period. Again this is to avoid people who are at the top to remain at the top without being active. If someone has built up business via the site and carries on billing through the site they will be ranked high up… If they stop, its fair and square that the others don’t just chip away in the gap, but they leapfrog past them.
Are Hourlies the focus of the new site?
This was asked a few times. The answer is NO. As I say in the initial section above, Hourlies were created to complement another means of Buyer and Seller connecting and getting work done. Equally though, a lot of people are fixated on the means to the end. Job posts are a means to the end! If the new search and improved Profiles creates more matching between a Buyer and a Seller, and/or if Hourlies allow people to buy and get started fast, the result is the same if not better. Our goal is to bring more work opportunities to both Buyer and Seller. That’s what we are maximizing for.
So far, the metrics show that we have more work initiated between a Buyer and a Seller which is what matters. Whilst Job posts have slightly gone down as expected, awarded Jobs have gone up and on top of that we have seen a 20-30% increase in sales via Hourlies. All in all, so far we seem to have created more matching between Buyer and Seller
Are Hourlies meant to ‘cheapen’ the site to allow for lower value work ?
Not at all. We conversed around this in the last hangout and I made a point – which I think was well received – that Hourlies are in some ways no different to someone pitching for long term work. No one (including us) makes money on their first Job. The whole point is to engage in ongoing work. PPH has always been powered by that, with over 60% of awarded Jobs leading to follow on work. The same applies with Hourlies, with the difference that by making it smaller the ‘downside’ to both Buyer and Seller is just a lot smaller. If you lose two hours on an Hourlie which doesn’t lead to follow on, well you haven’t lost much, in fact you could well have spent longer pitching for business, or doing a ‘trial’ with someone. Hourlies monetize that trial for you… it formalizes it. So yes, it should be expected to see cheaper rates than normal on Hourlies as it’s a way for people to break in and get started. Much like one typically does initially to secure business…by offering a starting discount per se. Even large companies will offer an initial ‘promo’ period to secure a contract. The idea is to start small, start quickly and build up from there.
Getting started is simply the quickest and easiest way to build trust. And so far that is proving to be correct judging from some of the metrics: over 70% of Hourlies sold have led to follow on work, and in many cases via a new ‘customised’ Proposal via the WorkStream. Your ‘Hourlie’ rate does not need to be your per hour rate at all. Its your initial ‘try before you buy more’ rate.
Are we promoting moonlighters over full-time freelancers?
A few people in the hangouts have commented that they are full-time freelancers via PPH who do all their work on PPH. That is exactly our mission and purpose as a business: to help everyone and anyone who seeks to work independently to get to that point, where they have enough business to just do this as a full time occupation. So the fact that we are innovating and creating ways for people to get started easier and faster (like Hourlies) is by no means going against that or trying to make that as the end itself. The end in mind is the same: people building up their business successfully and living their dream. Hourlies are just another way to get started that suits some use cases but not all.
What will happen to Forums?
As some people will have noticed the old forums are not linked anywhere on the site. There are two reasons for this: first, we simply ran out of time and had to keep the launch date for the new site fixed otherwise we ran the risk of just constantly postponing the launch. In ‘tech talk’, we had to launch with the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) and then carry on building and optimizing on top which is what we are doing now.
The second reason is that we want to fix the forums to do what we intended them to do. Which is two-fold: one, gather feedback from the community and two, be a place where users share learnings and help each other do better on the site.
To do this, we need to decouple the two purposes. Feedback is now scattered across a many-to-many conversation that’s spread thin and doesn’t allow us to quickly and easily filter out what are the big pain points that we need to fix. So we will be removing the feedback section from the forums and reverting back to using a 3rd party application (which ironically we had before and it worked much better in this respect) like Uservoice. These are tools built specifically with this purpose in mind and they deliver functionality like voting and auctioning statuses by administrators to keep the conversation focussed and allow the frequent / most desired features to quickly float to the top
This is in progress right now. In tandem with this we will be reverting back to having a Product Manager (Rahul for those who remember him) monitor and gauge the conversation. It’s clear from the past few months that having extra layers in between creates disconnect, so for the community to get the download straight from the teach / product team we will revert back to having a PM manage the conversation there.
The rest of the forums will be restructured to nurture sharing and learning with members of the community acting as formal moderators. If you are in the forums you can probably take a guess who the first candidates will be for this;)
Yes we do listen to feedback!
As a parenthesis I’d like to also mention what I mentioned in the last two hangouts: people who participate in the forums do tend to forget that this is by no means the only (or even the largest) touch point with PPH users. We have a very active Customer Support Team (which everyone I speak to applauds for being so responsive) which makes thousands of contacts with customers per week by phone and email and that’s always been a constant driver of feedback for us.
Secondly, we have feedback forms on all the pages, on the site, which thankfully users do actively use so we get a quick influx of feedback on every page when we launch something. As we did with this big launch. And then we have daily surveys, both across the journey on the site and following contact with Customer Support where people tell us how well we serve them and if they would recommend us to a friend. So we are not short of feedback! Also, you should know that we do look at the forums but until we sort the above out we are out of our depth to properly serve them. Which is one of the reasons – as I say above – they are not linked on the site
Why don’t we have more blog content?
Marketing in general has been a weakness of PPH, as noted multiple times by people saying ‘why haven’t I heard from you before’. Indeed in the last 12 months or so we have had our heads buried in this new product, initially in defining what it should be and what the experience should feel like and then building it. We now need to turn our attention to better marketing it.
With this new site we have now revamped our Blog as well and it’s our aim to add a lot more content that will tell the story of PPHers. We need your help for this. So if you have a great story, or any story for that matter – of how you started out as a freelancer, moonlighter or business owner – how you chipped away at it to get it off the ground and make it a success – we want to hear it. Please do send it to us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Equally if you have an idea of a blog post that you feel would be useful to the community – if it’s useful to you it may well be useful to others – like top 10 tips on how to do ‘xyz’ which is critical in setting up a business, again we want to hear it. Please send it to us.
Our stories often get featured in the Press as you will see if you go to the http://blog.peopleperhour.com/group/pressnews/ section of the blog, so even if it’s not something we publish on the blog we still want to hear your story!
Come hangout with me!
Finally I want to close off with what I opened up with. Which is an invitation to everyone to join one of the upcoming hangouts. Whatever your views, however active you are on the site, I’m interested to hear them. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s what these hangouts are for. So come join me! http://pphgooglehangouts3.eventbrite.com/