Written by Seamus Kelleher.
For businesses, hiring freelancers for clear-cut projects is quicker and cheaper than hiring somebody full-time. For specialists, freelancing allows them to make money while setting their own schedule and strengthening their resume with several short-term projects. However, freelancing can also come with drawbacks. As booking freelancers becomes more convenient, competition for projects increases, prices drop and quality of work can suffer. Cincinnati, Ohio’s Meelance built a unique freelance platform that balances booking convenience with quality, affordable results.
“Most existing sites allow freelancers to set their own price, which might seem like a good thing for everyone, but it’s not. As more people sign up to freelance, they have to drop their prices tremendously just to remain competitive for projects,” said Sam Malik, co-founder and CEO of Meelance. “If you charge $5, you may only put $3 in your pocket after the site takes commission and other fees. That doesn’t inspire much effort from the freelancer, and can lead to poor quality work for the companies.”
Meelance designed its platform with the goal of delivering higher quality freelance work than existing competitors while improving user experience. The founders say Meelance differentiates itself from competitors such as Freelancer and Upwork in a couple of ways. Businesses must choose from a preset list of project packages with set prices, eliminating the auction-style system that can drive down the quality of work. Meelance also features a project management hub where users can manage deadlines, review deliverables, provide feedback and make payments.
Malik, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Cincinnati, graduated from the prestigious and rigorous Founder Institute (FI)’s Cincinnati chapter. FI is one of the three original Silicon Valley startup accelerators and now operates in over 150 cities across six continents, emphasizing the benefits of remaining local to develop flourishing startup communities. Through FI, Malik met his co-founder and CTO John Bentley.
“John and I entered the Institute with separate ideas that ended up merging to form Meelance. John is 45 and I’m 19. I joke that we could not be more different, but I really couldn’t see it being any better,” said Malik. “John’s a top-notch developer who’s also familiar with the shortcomings in freelancing. His skills as a developer and mine as a designer make for a great pair. We’re the only two who teamed up to form a company together. I think we knew right away that we were a great fit.”
The Meelance team has taken advantage of additional resources across the state, operating from their offices at Cintrifuse in Cincinnati during the week and Innovate New Albany in Columbus on weekends, both regional partners of Ohio Third Frontier. The 19-year-old entrepreneur’s motor never stops running, so he’s also established connections at additional Ohio Third Frontier partners including Rev1 Ventures in Columbus, as well as The Brandery, CincyTech and Queen City Angels in Cincinnati. Malik says those connections are valuable now, and potentially down the road.
“We’re still really focused on developing the technology, such as adding more project management features to the platform. But we’re also making many important connections. When it comes time to seek investors, we don’t want to be starting from square one,” said Malik. “When you talk about the startup ‘community’ in Ohio, it’s real and we’ve felt it. Having a support system like that is invaluable to us.”