Inside the Anthillz: The Team’s Blog

Get the inside story straight from the horse’s, ahem, ant’s mouth.

What’s in a “reputation”?

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One of our Anthillz users, Alexis Siemons, just published an article about the word “reputation”. As someone who thinks about this often, I think her analysis is really enlightening.

One notable quote from her post:

A “reputation” is made up of the judgment of others that is based on our actions in several places. This adds an element of honesty to a “reputation” as it can be built over time and in various scenarios. That being said, a true “reputation” is one that is echoed amongst various individuals…

Check out the full article here: Got a “reputation”?

Leave us a comment–What does “reputation” mean to you?


Written by Joe

August 5, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Watercooler

Interview with Randy Schmidt, creator of iSepta and rockstar freelancer

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Randy is a very well known Philadelphia Freelancer who specializes in developing Ruby on Rails (RoR) applications and has founded umlatte, a web-app consulting company. He is most well known for the iSepta application which he co-developed. Randy is also very active in the local RoR community called Philly on Rails.

Randy, could you tell us how you took the plunge from being a structural engineer to becoming a rockstar freelancer?

I’m not sure I would call myself a rockstar freelancer, but while I was working as a structural engineer, I was doing some freelance web development on the side. I was also proposing some web apps to help solve some of the problems I saw around me. I was able to start a knowledge base that used MediaWiki and created a web-based sign-out sheet that would help everybody quickly know what people were up to.

That sign-out sheet is currently being rebuilt as a service called “up2app“.

After a while, I got really frustrated that the company wasn’t taking advantage of my motivation to make things better, so I quit and went out on my own.

How did your family react when you left a stable job and went the independent route?

My wife was extremely supportive and I wouldn’t have quit my job without her support. The hardest part was figuring out how parents and the in-laws were going to react. I had a feeling that they would read “freelancing” as “unemployed”. To my surprise, my dad was very supportive right away and was excited about the whole thing. The in-laws were a little different, they didn’t say much but I think they were waiting for us to ask for money.

A year later, I think they are comfortable now that I haven’t asked for any money :-). It also helped that we had a little nest egg so I didn’t have to make money right away to pay the mortgage.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about freelancing?

This may be kind of weird, but I don’t think I have received much advice from people until recently. I’m currently working to build a more complete business around what I do. Through that, a friend of mine has really pushed me to figure out exactly what I want to do.

I can change this as I move forward, but it gives me a direction to go in and then the direction can be adjusted going forward.

Who are your heroes?

Everybody at Independence “Indy” Hall, and of course… Buzz Lightyear.

Can you tell us what a typical day is like in the life of Randy Schmidt?

The routine lately has been to wake up to my alarm around 8 AM and then proceed to hit snooze way too many times. I then get up, take a shower, get dressed and head to the office (across the hall).

I then try to process my inbox until have 0 emails, following up or adding tasks to Highrise so I don’t have to think about them. I then realize it’s noon and I haven’t done anything billable yet so I try to keep my head down and work all afternoon.

Sometime in the evening I stop working and either spend some time with the wife or work on fun projects. I have been trying to limit how many times I deal with email to try to stay focused. I often turn off all forms of communication for hours at a time to keep the distractions to a minimum.

What are the strains of being an independent worker?

I think many independent workers realize after a while that doing everything yourself isn’t very efficient. One of those areas is cultivating business and trying to get work done at the same time.

It’s very hard to deal with the random access communication and focus on current projects. I’m working to build a small team where one of the key players is a business development/business guy that will handle clients up until signing a contract and getting to work.

Have you ever fired a client?

I’ve come close a few times but not yet. I’ve only been doing this for a year so I am only now getting to the point where I can pick and choose. Hopefully we can do more picking and choosing in the future as the quality of our work speaks for itself. I am really pushing to move to the point where we are working with our clients, helping them refine their vision, instead of just building whatever they say.

With iSepta’s success, how does it feel to be a celebrity?

Haha… I’m not sure I would call myself a celebrity, but it has been awesome and frustrating at the same time. Awesome because it helps to validate some of the ideas and projects we are working on… people actually like what we are doing. On the other hand, it is frustrating trying to keep up with it all and still get some work done.

After iSepta, do you have another killer app up your sleeve?

Jason, Chris and I are currently working with a couple startups helping them get to version 1 of their vision in a short period of time, 4 weeks. There are a lot of business people out there that have ideas, but don’t know who to hire or how to get to version 1 fast. The idea is we work with them through a few 4-week-long iterations and eventually help them find developers as they grow their business. I really believe startups should not outsource their own product, but then again someone shouldn’t have to hire a team before they know the idea will work.

The three of us are also evaluating some of our own ideas and trying to apply some of the same principals. Figure out which ones are most likely to make money or benefit society, and then execute to get to version 1 as fast as possible.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Wow, this is a hard one. Things move so fast that it’s hard to predict where I’ll be. I want to be working part time to help clients realize their ideas as well as build some of our own products.

Check out Randy’s Blog | See Randy’s Anthillz Profile

Written by bquinlan3

July 29, 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Interviews, Watercooler

Alex Hillman of IndyHall joins Anthillz

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We’re thrilled to announce that one of our heroes, Alex Hillman, is joining the Anthillz team as Community Advocate.

Alex is the co-founder of Indy Hall, a thriving coworking community in Philadelphia, and is a thought leader in the freelancing movement. He’s been a dear friend and mentor to Anthillz, someone we turn to for indispensable advice.

Given how important he’s been to us, we couldn’t be more excited to have Alex officially on board.  He is as excited about it as we are.

In his role as Community Advocate, we will depend on Alex to:

  1. Bring the community’s voice into every decision we make.
  2. Help lead a community-driven design process.
  3. Help us build the most relevant, useful freelancing platform we can.

As a community, we hope you will ultimately design Alex’s role. Say hello to Alex and let him know what you’d like him to do.

Written by Blake Jennelle

July 25, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Team

It’s here – Meet the new Anthillz!

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We’ve taken a new direction with Anthillz, and this post reflects a previous focus.
Click here to learn about what we’re currently working on

Top freelancers: We’d like to introduce you to the new Anthillz.

We took the best of what we had—our freelancer profiles—and focused on making these even more powerful.

If you already have a profile, you’ve been upgraded automatically.

If you’re good, why keep your reputation a secret?

We’re all for modesty, but not when it comes to your career.

If you work hard, you deserve a reputation that works as hard as you do.

  • Build a reputation that precedes you—Share testimonials from your clients and peers with the world.
  • Meet better clients—Attract the attention of top employers, who come to Anthillz looking for quality.
  • Take your network to the next level—Use Anthillz to find potential teammates, referrals, and people you can trust for subcontracting.

For employers, meet the best of the best

If you’re looking for seasoned talent and are willing to pay a little more for it, try searching our network.

  • Top talent at your fingertips—We attract top freelancers who care deeply about their reputation.
  • Get the inside story before you hire—Read reviews from past clients before you make a hire.
  • Use the power of accountability—Know that you can leave feedback for anyone you hire, so you can make sure you get their best work.

Keep the feedback coming

Like our freelancers, we’re constantly looking to improve.

Tell us what you’d like to see, and what we can do better.

Written by Joe

July 17, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Posted in The Archive

The challenge of differentiating yourself as a freelancer

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Steve Snell at Freelance Switch wrote a great article yesterday about how to differentiate yourself as a freelancer. In our experience, this is one of the hardest parts about being a freelancer.

He started the article with a quote we say often here at Anthillz “One of the biggest struggles for many freelancers is finding a way to stand out from the crowd of others providing similar services”.

We’ve found your reputation (which Steve calls your “brand”) can be your best differentiator.  This is the thinking behind the major update we just released today–to help you showcase your reputation and build your brand.

We’re always looking to hear about how you use reputation to stand out.  And how we can help you use it better.

Written by Joe

July 17, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Watercooler

Exciting News: Major update on the way

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We’ve taken a new direction with Anthillz, and this post reflects a previous focus.
Click here to learn about what we’re currently working on

In response to your feedback, we’ve been working hard on an exciting update to the Anthillz platform. Now that it’s almost complete, we’d like to break the news.

New Features – to be released next week

  • Slick new freelancer profiles — We’ve redesigned the freelancer profiles to be more persuasive, with client reviews front-and-center. Click here for a screenshot.
  • More detailed freelancer reviews — We’ve shifted our emphasis from numerical ratings to written reviews, so that it’s easier to get to know each freelancer.
  • ID verification no longer required — Now anyone can create a public profile.
  • See any profile without logging in — All profiles are now publicly visible, without logging in.
  • Easier to recruit and contact freelancers — Employers no longer need to login or create an account to send a message to freelancers they might like to hire.  As always, we do not share freelancers’ e-mail addresses.
  • Job board removed — We want to encourage employers to contact freelancers directly, rather than waiting for freelancers to contact them. This also allows us to focus on showcasing freelancers, rather than showcasing jobs.
  • All profiles will be upgraded automatically, so you don’t need to do anything extra.

Here’s a Sneak Preview

Take a look at a sample profile. If you already have a profile, it will upgraded automatically.

Click here to enlarge

Feedback? Questions?

Your feedback helped us get here, so keep it coming. Anything else you’d like to see? Questions?

Leave us feedback or write a comment here on the blog.

Written by Joe

July 11, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Posted in The Archive

What startups can learn from freelancers: The Lost Art of Bootstrapping

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Startup entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from freelancers when it comes to starting a business.

When freelancers set out on their own, they know there’s only one way to raise money: to provide value to clients and charge them for it. Freelancers don’t have any illusions about someone else bankrolling their business for them.

Not so among startup entrepreneurs. The first thing we do after coming up with The Next Great Idea(tm) is to search for a windfall from VCs and angel investors. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

I thought so at first, but after months of pursuing venture capital in vain, I remembered something from my days as a freelancer. I remembered The Lost Art of Bootstrapping–the art of building your business organically and raising money from the people who will happily fund your business: your customers!

Once we embraced this attitude, Anthillz was off to the races. It’s a great feeling when you begin to control our own destiny.

For more about bootstrapping, check out this video:

“Bootstrap or Bust: How to Stop Complaining and Start Controlling Your Startup Destiny.”

I gave this talk last week at an amazing event called Ignite Philly, a local, grassroots version of TED Conference.

Written by Blake Jennelle

June 17, 2008 at 1:17 am

Posted in Entrepreneurship