The project Kreatify lives since about 10 months.
This post is a little diary about what I've done so far, what changed during the process and whats in for the future.
10th September 2012
I just finished a four year apprenticeship as a computer scientist and I was working 60% part time as a web/database designer back then. The other 40% I tried myself as a web design freelancer. After a few small web projects I did for friends and family members, the incoming projects started to drown and soon after, I hadn't any work left to do as a freelancer.
Friends tried to convince me that I should create business cards and advertise myself a little bit to gain new contracts. I printed the business cards. Until today I think I gave about 20 pieces away. Business cards and advertising myself for doing client work didn't work out for me. Something was holding me back as diving all in as a pure web design freelancer. The reason was, and still is, that I want more than just doing client work as a freelancer. I want to build a product and maybe live from it at some point in my life.
I knew that this product isn't just going pop out of nowhere and I still need to make some cash on the side. Traditional print advertising didn't work out for me because I didn't believe in it. I wanted something that smelled more like web design and so I decided I want to build something that not only helps me, but also others in the same industry. This was the day when I created a new Rails directory called creativepool, which was the working name for Kreatify, in my terminal.
13th December 2012
CreativePool was renamed to Kreatify. Domains were buyed. Heroku was setup. Kreatify was finally ready. 13th December was launch day. After developing line after line of code in the last three months I was ready to ship. Kreatify at that point was basically a more or less pure Sortfolio clone. The only difference was, that the platform language was German and it was exclusive for Swiss web designer. I started to reach out to potential customers, wrote about 200 emails and managed to achieve a customer base of about 50 agencies. The problem was, nobody was paying. I had build a freemium model were everyone could sign up and for 99$/month would get more value out of the service.
What went wrong you might ask?
Well I didn't create value for those customers. All web designers on Kreatify gave me positive feedback about the user experience and how it looked, they liked it. But they didn't want to pay and I knew why, but hadn't the influence to change it back then. The problem was that I didn't generate real value for them, they didn't gain any new contracts from Kreatify. On a bad day Kreatify had about 5-10 visitors per day back then, on a good day about 15-20. I thought I just needed to build something and people would come and use it. Well, I was wrong. I gained my customers no value and myself no value. Because, remember? I wanted to build something which also helps myself.
1st March 2013
I gave up my 60% part time job to work as a full time freelancer. In the last few weeks I hadn't the time to bring Kreatify to the next level. I started to write to online magazines and blogs, influential twitter accounts and so on. I soon realized that there weren't that much resources I could promote my content to because there simply aren't that much in Switzerland. Creating a Swiss only product for a niche with about 100 people didn't work out for me. In the mean time I builded new connections as a freelancer and started to take in new web design projects. In my free time I cleaned up the Kreatify code and made some small additions to the code. The Kreatify user base grew from 50 free to 90 free users. Traffic was still at the same level.
16th April 2013
Kreatify was going nowhere. Now I was left with two choices, do I open up Kreatify for other countries and more industries than just Switzerland and Web Design? Or do I try to make something else out of it? I decided myself for a combination of both options. I opened up the fake country borders and changed the industries to Design, Programming and Photography. The fact that I couldn't bring any traffic to the site made me think that I should change how users on Kreatify interact with each other. Because, they didn't. Kreatify at that point was just a web directory for web designers. But I wanted it to be more, I wanted that users can showcase their work and get feedback based on it. I wanted that users can showcase their projects to the world and with which creative person/agencies they worked on it. So I started to build.
18th June 2013
Two months are gone and the new Kreatify version is online. Users can now add more works, projects and add collaborators. All data was migrated from the old version to the new version. A major change was also that I removed the payed plan from Kreatify. The reason for this is that I didn't want to focus on cash until I could provide real value to my users. The time of build, measure, learn has begun. My first realization was, that something essential was still missing. Users would come back after I notified them about the launch but soon after didn't returned. They didn't interact with the new site. Which was the whole point of the rework of Kreatify. I started to inform myself about community building.
17th July 2013
One month later, users aren't more active than before. I've gained 8 more users but Kreatify learned some new features which could help potential user activity growth.
I added the following functionality to Kreatify to engage user activity:
- A user can comment other users work
- A user see incoming activities (when someone commented on their work or added them as a collaborator to a project)
- A user receives emails (when someone commented on their work or added them as a collaborator to a project)
I also localized Kreatify into English. This hopefully is going to help me to reach more users. And this is were I am today. What have I learned from the process?
Here is a list with things I would repeat, not repeat or would do in an other way:
- I would not start to build a platform without knowing if there is any user needs it would fulfil. The old Kreatify was targeted to bring work to web designers in Switzerland. Most of them are agencies which already have plenty of work and liked the work I did, but I didn't generate enough traffic to create real value to them.
- Build the audience first and then build the product. Start to write about your idea and see if anyone would be interested in using or paying for it.
- More ground work action, less coding. I'm a developer/designer by heart. I love coding, but I have definitely focused to much on coding than building my customer base. This needs some change. I need to focus more on generating values to my users than adding new features nobody ever uses.
- Building a marketplace is hard. It is like answering the question: "What was there in the beginning, the chicken or the egg?". What I mean with this is, I had to provide value to two different user bases. The old Kreatify had two because I had the designers who wanted to get hired and the people who would hire designers through Kreatify. In the future I'm focusing on one user group, the creative people who are already on my platform. This means I need to provide other value than contracts to them, like relationships.
- Evaluate what I've done. When I started to rework Kreatify to what it is today, I felt that this is the way it has to be. Maybe it is, but I'm not that sure anymore. During writing this post I saw a whole lot more other possibilities which could have been done with the old Kreatify. So writing evaluations like this down are helping me. I'm surely going to do this more often in the future.
So my next steps will be to focus more on building an audience and providing real value to them. But how can I provide value to them from the beginning? As I said in the above list, I need to do more ground work which happens outside of Kreatify. I think Kreatify is mostly about relationships. If you're a programmer and are looking for a designer, Kreatify can help you to find someone which matches your type and vice versa. So the next few days/weeks I'm going to concentrate on connecting people offline and online.
If you have any feedback for me, do not hesitate to write me an email. I would love to hear your opinion.
Thanks for reading and until next time.