As part of MURAL Imagine, MURAL Co-founder and CEO Mariano Suarez-Battan hosted a conversation with Dribbble CEO Zack Onisko and Creative Market CEO Chris Winn on creative collaboration within our current context.
Dribbble is a community for tens of millions of designers and creative professionals to showcase, promote, discover, and explore design. And Creative Market, a part of the Dribbble family, is a community that enables creators anywhere in the world to sell their designs to millions of buyers.
In this session, the trio discussed the recent shifts they’ve seen across the millions of creatives in their communities and shared their perspectives on the future of team and client collaboration.
Below you’ll find a recap of the session, a video replay of the livestream, and all the resources covered in the discussion.
While all three companies have been working as remote or hybrid teams for a while, things still changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mariano, Zack, and Chris discussed some of the positive changes that have come with the ubiquity of remote work — including people realizing they can do great work from anywhere and even be more efficient remotely. Not only that, but they’ve also observed a surge in creativity as we all work to solve new problems.
“I think the biggest change that we'll see in the next year or two is just the kind of globalization of workforces. What this pandemic has done is it's made remote a norm. And so now the advantages that Chris and I have had by being able to find talent anywhere now — all these other companies can now look broadly across all these geographies, and it's just going to change the dynamics. It's going to change economies. It's going to be really interesting.”
💡 Zack Onisko | CEO, Dribbble
Of course, there have been some negative changes during these times. People are stressed in their personal lives, often dealing with feelings of isolation and forgetting to step away from work and take time for themselves.
“People are actually working more, you know? You're by that screen all the time, and it's really important [to] go for the walk. Or, if you need a little break from Zoom, it's okay. Pick up the phone and talk to someone on the phone. You need those changes in context to kind of keep healthy. And that's what's going to keep you really creative.”
💡 Chris Winn | CEO, Creative Market
Since being remote was not new to the speakers, we asked how we can celebrate our teams and make this new way of working feel as normal as possible. They stressed finding ways to facilitate human connection, like:
• Over communicating to make sure everyone’s on the same page
• Managers consistently connecting with their teams one-on-one
• Making sure meetings are kept to a reasonable frequency
• Doubling down on having fun with one another and building relationships within (and across) teams
“We have to kind of facilitate that human connection that we used to have in the office… Being silly and having a sense of humor at work and not taking ourselves too seriously. You know, it really lowers people's guards and really allows people to be their authentic self.”
💡 Zack Onisko | CEO, Dribbble
“...Sometimes, you have that day where you are back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and it's tough to context switch from one Zoom meeting directly into another one. And it's okay to just take a beat, like take a pause, chat for a second, and then get into the agenda and give people a moment to breathe a little bit.”
💡 Chris Winn | CEO, Creative Market
And of course, we had to touch on the world of freelancing. We asked how teams can start working with freelancers and what they can do to make the relationship respectful and productive for both parties.
“So, I think the first step is: You need to get over the inherent fear of working with a freelancer. Right? So I think that's what we see with a lot of CEOs and a lot of business leaders. There's just this butt-in-seat mentality, right? You need these people, you need to see them working to feel like you're getting your money's worth for their salaries…And I think that what this time is changing … It's showing everyone that you can get great work done and you can trust great, talented people to do good work from anywhere in the world.”
💡 Zack Onisko | CEO, Dribbble
“There's definitely a bridge to build with contractors because, you know, the other side of that is the thing that you do get out of hiring in-house. It's why we build teams. You get a deeper discipline with your company and your product, and you get people that can go really deep with the knowledge of what you're building. You lose the depth when you go contract. And that's okay because it's such a leg up to be able to find talent anywhere in the world and onboard really quickly and get started…You've got to start with building trust. You've got to build the relationship…And so, if you can bridge that gap a little bit and meet each other as human beings, I think it makes that relationship go a lot better.”
💡 Chris Winn | CEO, Creative Market
To hear the full conversation filled with more tips, lessons learned, stories, and an audience Q&A, view the full session recording below.
💡 Learn more about MURAL in an upcoming demo webinar
🕒 For quick tips on remote work, check out our MURAL Minute YouTube series
▶️ Watch the latest MURAL Imagine playlists
💻 View the Dribbble website
💼 See the Freelance Projects for Designers available on Dribbble
💻 View the Creative Market website
🍎 Find Ready-to-Use Resources for Educators from Creative Market
This livestream was part of MURAL Imagine, a virtual, multi-week event in which we explore the future of imagination work and remote collaboration. If you're not already signed up, register now to get access to updates about all the upcoming content. 🪁
Mariano: [00:12:35] Hello, world. Good morning. Good evening. Good afternoon. My name is Mariano Suarez-Battan . I'm the CEO at MURAL and welcome to another session in MURAL Imagine. Over the last few months, we have been sharing on the power of imagination, visualizing our ideas, using methods for collaboration [00:13:00] and leading through facilitation. We've got focus on the need to make space for imagination and play time. We start with space because we need space and we need to explore, right? Understand problems, come up with possibilities. But how do you go from endless possibility to something real, something reactive, something tangible? How do you get clarity and alignment with your team on those visions and the possibilities?
We actually create something to get the power of imagination to work. And that's why today, I'm very happy to have two fine gentlemen, doing the business of connecting creativity to the world. So we have Zack on the East Coast. He's the CEO at Dribbble, a very famous global community of tens of millions of designers and creative professionals who showcase, promote, discover, and explore design.
[00:14:00] And then we have Chris Winn, who is the CEO of Creative Market: the community that enables creators, really the same communities now, anywhere in the world to sell their designs to millions of buyers. Was that pretty good?
Zack Onisko: [00:14:18] Sounds good to me.
Chris Winn: [00:14:18] Good.
Mariano: [00:14:20] So guys, thanks for your time today. And I wanted to ask you a few questions and then everybody else is joining.
Please go ahead and add your questions. We have a team helping me feed those questions so that we can ask Zack and Chris any other further questions. But first things first guys: why does your community love your community and your services?
Zack Onisko: [00:14:48] Yeah, I can go first. You know, I think Dribbble is, has always been, a very special place and grown very organically. We just celebrated 11 years as a [00:15:00] company and we've never really focused on marketing. We've never purposely focused on growth. It's been something that's really grown to become a top 1,000 website in the world through word of mouth. And, you know, the way that's happened over the years; we really started with very small ambitions.
Our co-founder was a kind of a fame designer speaking at a lot of conferences a decade ago. And he's always peering over the shoulders of other speakers and asking, "Hey, what are you working on?" and that kind of sparked the vision of Dribbble; to build this platform for designers and creatives to share what they're working on.
And over the years it's evolved to become this platform for inspiration, right? So millions of people are coming to see what people are working on, what they're creating, what they're imagining; and it's just become this hub for inspiration. That's been a lot of fun to help build.
Mariano: [00:15:59] And [00:16:00] something that you helped build, any particular part of, of Dribbble that you recommend someone that is bored to see our faces, to go explore while we talk?
Zack Onisko: [00:16:09] Well, I mean, just go to the homepage: dribbble.com. There's three B's. Dribble with two B's, the domain wasn't available, so we went with this other one. But, no, I mean, you can get lost for hours and hours. There's millions and millions of shots and lots of beautiful work on the site.
Mariano: [00:16:26] There you go. And what about Creative Market, Chris?
Chris Winn: [00:16:30] Yeah. I mean the thing that we do; we're a platform for design assets. And here we are talking about collaboration and what our platform is all about is, you know, we've got these 30,000 shops, independent creators, over 200 countries making all of this really, really brilliant stuff and putting it on the platform. And where we come in, where Creative Market comes in, is giving all those people the tools [00:17:00] to find an audience, to find customers, to promote their work. That's where the collaboration comes in. So, just like Dribbble, we're community-backed. We've got a great community, and our job is to let those folks in the community just focus on creation so that we can focus on all the other things. The marketing and the tooling and the technology and data science and all the things that we do behind the scenes; and it's, you know, it's been really great.
I've been at Creative Market the last, you know, seven or so years and, similar story. We've just seen Creative Market grow and grow and grow over the years and it's been great.
Mariano: [00:17:45] Something that, that, that struck me about your background is that you started as a web engineer.
Chris Winn: [00:17:50] Yeah.
Mariano: [00:17:51] So how, how was that journey?
Chris Winn: [00:17:55] You know, I wanted to, at that point in my [00:18:00] career; the thing I was really focused on is I wanted to be with a really great team and I wanted to work on a great product. And I had actually, I was a Creative Market customer in the really, really, early days in the site and I loved it. It was great because. . . I will tell everyone a secret.
I'm not a great designer. That is not my strong suit. I've got a good, I think I've got a decent editorial eye, but I can't do what all these people on our platform do. And so Creative Market was like my dirty little secret, you know? I'd go on there and I'd buy some things and it would speed up my project. And I just thought it was great. And I reached out to the team and I said, "Keep doing what you're doing. This community, the platform: it matters. It really does make life easier." And you know, just started talking to the team a bit and like, 10 days later, I was here. [00:19:00] But yeah, it's been a great ride. But, again, it was always about, great team, great community, great product. That's what keeps us doing what we're doing.
Mariano: [00:19:11] And you mentioned, "I cannot do that." I always tell people that we can all sketch, we can all draw, we can all design; in the sense of coming up with a solution or a possibility. But it's through that, that we've got to craft the beautiful things that I see in your websites.
That's definitely not for everybody to do. There's professionals involved behind the scenes there. Yeah. So that is, you both run remote companies. Now you are a part of the family, as you mentioned in your blog post, Zack. And even though you are remaining, the two websites and companies somewhat separate, you probably are sharing with each other best practices, right? So what was the last thing that you learned from each other when running a remote company?
Zack Onisko: [00:20:02] You know, I think the interesting thing about just Chris and my leadership styles is, is I'm just a lot more, casual and Chris is just a much more mature professional, so I'm learning a ton from him. So that's been fun, since starting. But no, it's been great. Right? So both companies are doing really well, despite the macro situation and we're just staying heads down and focusing on our businesses. We have some really, really, exciting product roadmaps for each business. And, yeah, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Chris Winn: [00:20:47] Yeah. And I think, you know, from my perspective, Dribbble and Creative Market are interesting. Yeah, we're both fully remote companies. Creative Market actually started as a hybrid, though. We used to have an [00:21:00] office, you know. We always were predominantly remote, but we had that in-person office. And even me, my time at Creative Market, I was remote sometimes. I was in the office sometimes. And I think. . . I think it's useful. We've kind of seen it both ways; but also, Dribbble's got more experience doing it. Got more experience, really focused on remote.
And so, we just bring slightly different perspectives to it. And I think that's really useful. It's not about right or wrong, but it helps us see the nuance. It helps us look at things in different directions and solve for it because we're - we're always solving for it. We're always thinking about it and talking about it and trying to get it right.
Mariano: [00:21:45] So, Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Zack Onisko: [00:21:47] I was going to say, it's just, it's just a very interesting time, right? So a year ago I was traveling around speaking at all these conferences all over the world and talking about, you know, the experience of running a [00:22:00] community with millions of users, with a small team under 50, that's scattered all over North America.
This is a very contrarian story, right? You know, I think people were catching on last year. Like, we'd see a lot more companies go remote - and now everybody's remote, right? And so it's the new world, like the next 12, 24 months. It's going to be really interesting to see how everyone evolves.
Mariano: [00:22:25] We met each other in Bali, one year ago, talking about the future of remote and you were one of the best talks in that. I remember also Andrea's from angel also had a great talk. What changed, though? Because again, we are remote now and things are accelerated, but we are also in the context of a global pandemic, right?
So it's not the pure remote. So what are the good things that we had with remote work before that you don't have anymore with a pandemic remote work?
Zack Onisko: [00:22:57] So I think there's just a lot of, [00:23:00] you know, trial by fire right now. So, in March, my sister's a data scientist at a large payments company, and she got me to hop on a call with 20 of her product managers.
And these folks are just freaking out because they're like, "Well, you know, we're just so used to reserving a conference room and everyone has to have a turn speaking around the table. And we're used to needing, you know, buy-in from twelve different people before we can move forward and get things done."
So, you know, it breaks that kind of corporate hierarchy, just inefficiency and people are realizing: "Oh, I can do this work from anywhere, even when we were fighting to get into a conference room before. People were still hopping on Zoom, we're still talking to each other on Slack."
So the technology is not changing. It's just your process and your behaviors that need to change. And through that change, your people are discovering that they can become much more [00:24:00] efficient by working remote. I think that's, you know, looking at a macro lens. I think the biggest change that we'll see, you know, in the next year or two is just the kind of globalization of workforces, right?
Where we had these hubs, like San Francisco and New York city, where people can barely afford rent because it was so impacted, right? So there's this war for localized talent. And you know, what this pandemic has done is it's made remote a norm. And so now the advantages that Chris and I have had by being able to find talent anywhere now; all these other companies can now look broadly across all these geographies and it's just going to change the dynamics. It's going to change economies. It's going to be really interesting.
Mariano: [00:24:54] But talent anywhere, Zack? Talent anywhere.
Zack Onisko: [00:25:00] Talent anywhere. For us, I will be honest. For us, we are time zone sensitive. So, we're pretty focused on hiring in North America and we have an entity in Canada and an entity in the U.S. We're exploring South America. But you know, we experimented a couple of years ago with hiring some developers in Europe and we got hung up because we had people on the front lines who were going to bed when the other team was waking up, and people were roadblocked for 24 hours.
And so we had to pull back on that strategy and kind of just focus on that kind of three hour gap, but it's working real well for us. I'm bullish that we will scale the team internationally, and overseas. It's just gonna take time. We're gonna have to figure out our processes as we grow.
But the exciting thing is there's a lot of really cool, remote, [00:26:00] focused companies that are popping up right now, right? Companies that are helping, you know, companies like ours. They're basically in the U.S. or Canada or wherever; provide payroll to workers, internationally without just calling them freelance.
Mariano: [00:26:17] Exactly. And by the way, I heard people from South America are pretty cool.
Zack Onisko: [00:26:21] Argentinians I have a fondness for.
Mariano: [00:26:28] And again, if I say that, you know, Argentina is another area. And all that Sophia from Argentina. So, and Chris, because something that there's a lot of positives on this, but there are some negatives, right? Like you had that moving band event, which I participated in one of them. It was really cool. You can not do that anymore, right? So let's go a little bit on the, on the negative side, Zack. And then Chris would bring us back to the positive side of remote, again. [00:27:00] But what's, what are the drawbacks of this situation with the pandemic?
Zack Onisko: [00:27:05] I mean, I feel guilty, you know, saying that we haven't been hit very hard. We have seen a significant hit to our higher-end business. But we've also seen, you know, our freelance and pro-designer facing business balloon, right? So I think we've been very lucky where, you know, other businesses haven't been that fortunate. For us, it was also, we didn't have to have that kind of speed into learning how to work remote, because we already had that built into our DNA. So, I mean, for Dribbble, it's been an easy progression, you know? I feel bad saying that, but we really haven't seen too many negatives from our side. No one on our team has been sick, so we've been very lucky.
Chris Winn: [00:28:01] Yeah. I mean, I don't know that I look at it as even positive and negative. I think remote is something you've just got to understand and you've got to take it for what it is, you know? And for Creative Market, and likewise, our community; we've been growing great this year and having some of our best months, because I think there's just such a surge in creativity and new projects for us as a remote company, you know? Likewise, we've been really lucky too, with the health of the team. And the thing that we said early on even, was: Let's recognize that, okay, sure. We were remote before all of this hit the world and we were remote the day after, but it's still different. People have a little more strain in their personal lives. The days feel different. And one thing that we tell our team all the time, [00:29:00] is, you know, "Still step away." I mean, I think that's another thing that's changed during the all-remote thing. People are actually working more, you know? You're by that screen all the time and it's really important. Go for the walk. Or, if you need a little break from Zoom, it's okay. Pick up the phone and talk to someone on the phone. You need those changes in context to kind of keep healthy. And that's what's going to keep you really creative, is if you go take those walks. So for us, remote is - there are good and bad to it - but it's just about understanding what they are, and building the company and the culture around all that nuance.
Mariano: [00:29:42] And there really is. The thing that I'm missing is that I really want to celebrate with a whole new team. We generally will get together around December. That's not gonna happen this year, right? So I'm worried that some people are going to be feeling the backlash of say, [00:30:00] "Oh, remote. Is it extreme confinement?" In Buenos Aires, people are still in quarantine, for 20 days or something. So there, the worry I have is that they're going to associate remote equals jail time, almost; which is not really the principle. The principle of flexibility, more than extreme location, right?
Chris Winn: [00:30:22] I think, even if you're at a remote company, the human connection is still - it matters a lot. Creative Market, just dumb luck. We got lucky with our timing because we had just had an in-person team trip before the world changed. And so we had an opportunity to see one another, but I think our team feels that of, you know: "When are we going to get back together again?" And the honest answer is we don't know, because when we go back to doing those sort of in-person events, we want to make sure that people feel safe, that travel is safe, that we're doing it the right way. And it's hard to know when that's going to be, right now.
Mariano: [00:31:02] And Zack: what's your favorite recent team-building tactic?
Zack Onisko: [00:31:08] No, I mean, I'll piggyback on Chris. You know, we had in-person events twice a year. We have a design conference called Hang Time and that finances the costs to bring the entire team out to that city. And it's kind of rotating circuits. We did it in a different city every time and we had one planned in March, right? And so we had to cancel those plans when all this hit. We have it kind of tentatively planned for next March. Hopefully, that happens. But yeah, I think there's nothing like actually hanging out with the people you talk to every day on Zoom after not seeing them for six months, and then you get to, you know, hang out and have a meal. And we do this kind of "laptops down" week. We try not to do too much [00:32:00] work and really just hang out together as people. And, we go to museums, we go to different events, and that's just really important as a remote team.
And it's an investment that we have on our P&L and it's something that we'll keep doing as soon as it's safe to continue doing.
Mariano: [00:32:21] And Chris: any particular tactic that you guys have on this extreme remote work to do team building activities digitally?
Chris Winn: [00:32:29] Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of little things that we do all the time. A lot of doing remote right is in the details, you know? I think one thing that we think a lot about on the team is we hire very intentionally for people that are naturally collaborative. It's easy to kind of go into the hole and sort of separate from the team and just get really focused on your work. And sometimes you have to do that, by the way. That's important, too. [00:33:00] Again, it's not like, this is right and this is wrong. It's okay. It's both. And it's the mix of the two. But we really do encourage a lot of collaboration at Creative Market. We're very cross- disciplined.
So we look for engineers that are sort of empathetic and get excited by design. And we look for designers that, you know, they're really focused on their discipline; but they love what the engineers are doing or the marketing team or whatever. And so we look for people that are really deep in their disciplines, but also can work cross-functionally.
And I think that's the work that we do is a lot of how we connect to each other. It's a lot of where the, sort of the joy of working at Creative Market comes from. Because you know, you're working on something really important that's going to see the light of day and that's, you know, that's any company.
Mariano: [00:33:55] Alright, and get a good WIFI connection. [00:34:00] It's important, too. Zack, while we wait for Chris, you mentioned that you have a few days per week that there's no meetings. Is that right?
Zack Onisko: [00:34:08] We try. We observe Thursdays and Fridays for no meeting days and that's really just to give people time to go heads-down, unplug from Slack, if they need to. But to piggyback on what Chris is saying too, I think that one of the most important things of running a remote company is that we have to kind of facilitate that human connection that we, you know, we used to have in the office. Now, we're doing it digitally over Zoom, so there's different things that we do.
There's a couple things that we kind of doubled down on. One is communication. We almost overly-communicate, just to make sure that everyone's plugged in and no one's stuck on a lonely Island. Right? So we do things like every direct report has a one-on-one with their manager every week. We do a weekly team call where a lot of companies [00:35:00] will do monthly or quarterly team calls.
We do a weekly call and we run through the entire roadmap and, you know, there's redundancy in that, but also, the repetition just keeps people really, really plugged into what everyone's working on and why it's important. And then the other thing that we've doubled down on is just having fun as people, right? And so, you know, in the first half of that team call, it's updates we usually have some kind of open ended questions just to get conversation happening. You have the big, giant Brady Bunch screen, and you kind of just open it up and we just talk as people, right? And you kind of get that kind of "water cooler moment" as a team. And it really helps to bring people's bars down and really start to trust the other players in the team and get to know them and build relationships. And, the other thing is, you know, we also try to just be silly and fun in Slack; and we have all these different dog channels and movie channels and TV channels.
And we do things like a [00:36:00] book exchange or we send each other books we might want to share with the other person. So a bunch of stuff that we intentionally invest in the culture, just to try to build a healthy, fun, environment. So it's not work, work, work, all the time; but it's also getting to know the people you work with as people.
And then also, just being silly and having a sense of humor at work and not taking ourselves too seriously. You know, it really lowers people's guards and really allows people to be their authentic self instead of that fake professional persona that you see a lot in office environments.
Chris Winn: [00:36:36] Yeah. And just to piggyback on that, I mean, I think another thing, too, is just having good icebreakers for meetings. A lot of people, sometimes, you have that day where you are back-to-back-to-back-to-back and it's tough to context switch from one Zoom meeting directly into another one. And it's okay to just take a beat, like take a pause, chat for a second; [00:37:00] and then get into the agenda and give people a moment to breathe a little bit. But I agree with Zach about the "no meeting" thing. It is important. You've got to guard your time a little bit and keep an eye on how your Zoom battery is doing. It can get low.
And then you've got to walk away and change your scenery a little bit.
Mariano: [00:37:19] Zack used the word facilitate. Fun, right? So it cannot be just - and it happens, right - the water cooler. It needs to be a little guided. And then, of course, I get open-ended too, but making sure that the agenda includes that icebreaker. Which by the way, there's a lot of icebreakers.
We will run a MURAL where they sketch each other, or where would - dreaming a little bit - where would the next retreat will be whenever this is over. There is a little bit of fooling around, but also learning about each other, I think. What are you feeling? Or what was the biggest scare you had when [00:38:00] you were a kid?
So a lot of things that if you make time and you guide that conversation, it also helps the introverts a little more. Right? Because I mean, I see there's a trend in who shares more animated gifs in Slack versus not. So, you need to make room for the other.
Zack Onisko: [00:38:21] And on those team calls too, you can kind of say like, "Well, what do you think?" You know, to the introvert. And somebody speaks up on that when I call on them. I'm just like, you know, in class or whatever, but no; it is purposeful. Right? And I think that's one thing we've really doubled down on at Dribbble. And our Director of Operations has really led the charge in this, but we do a lot of just optional things that, you know, we'd have fun stuff.
I grew up in Silicon Valley and you know, there's like, yoga in the office, and so we've done remote yoga. We've done meditation as a group. Not everyone shows up, but we have [00:39:00] a movie club where we just talk. We all watched the same movie and then we talk about it afterwards. We've done, almost bi-weekly; we do an hour game where there's like a virtual role-playing game. And, you know, it's just something to break the mundaneness of "let's hit our KPIs," and let's just get to know each other as people. And that just really builds honest trust, you know? And it's created a really great culture for our business.
Mariano: [00:39:34] Nice. Let's switch gears a little bit because we've been talking a lot about your companies from within, but it's also true that there's a lot of people out there; more and more imagination workers, knowledge workers are freelancers, right? And they may or may not have the possibility to have a team and so on.
So how have you seen the world of freelancers change due to [00:40:00] COVID?
Zack Onisko: [00:40:02] I can take that one. We did a global survey at Dribbble in December, and the results are that 70% of our community had freelance in the last six months. So, even the people who had full-time jobs, in-house design teams, were still freelancing on their nights and weekends to keep their portfolio sharp and just keep their skills sharp.
And so that was already a massive community on Dribbble who are freelancing. And then in March, we started to see our pro-subscriptions really start to balloon. And happenstance, we launched a freelance board on Dribbble, in February. And so that allowed people looking for freelancers to be able to post for free.
And then with the pro-subscription, you get access to the board. And so we started to see that demand really grow, you know, as we've moved into these pandemic [00:41:00] months.
Chris Winn: [00:41:02] Yeah, at Creative Market, we've got really freelancers on both sides of the coin, right? We've got people, independent contractors, designers who are making all these great assets. And then we've got people on the other side who are creating with those assets and jumping ahead by leveraging all the great work that the community does. One thing that really changed dramatically in the last few months is our business is kind of strong throughout the week, gets a little bit quieter on the weekends.
And now weekends look like weekdays, almost. And we've seen a big uptick in all those projects getting created. So, I think it's a mix of more people doing freelance work, more people doing a side hustle, side projects. But then, I also think you just had a [00:42:00] lot of plans ripped up a few months ago; and people kind of starting anew, with what they were going to focus on this year. And that has actually led to just a lot of creative projects and a lot of opportunity for freelancers.
Mariano: [00:42:15] I need to start working with freelancers. Coach me on how to get started. I run a team inside a large company. I have this amazing idea with my team, but I need to start getting real. How do I work with a freelancer?
Zack Onisko: [00:42:34] So, I think the first step is: you need to get over the inherent fear of working with a freelancer. Right? So I think that's what we see with a lot of CEOs and a lot of business leaders. There's just this, there's just this button seat mentality, right? You need these people, you need to see them working to feel like you're getting your money's worth for their salaries there. [00:43:00] Their invoices. You know, Marissa Mayer famously, years ago, pulled back the remote policy at Yahoo because she really wanted to see everyone in the headquarters working.
And I think that what this time is changing is that it's showing everyone that you can get great work done and you can trust great talented people to do good work from anywhere in the world. And so I think that's step one, right? It's just getting over the fact that. . . The other thing, too, is it's much easier to find a great freelancer and get started right away, than hiring somebody full time.
Our hiring process is very rigorous and you interview with a dozen people and it's a commitment, right? Like, we want you to be on the team indefinitely. Forever, right? [00:44:00] That's the goal, at least; but when you're hiring a freelancer, it could be long term, it could be short term. Depends on the project. And it's very project-based. And so that gives an employer a lot of freedom to think about how to build a team of workers to help build the company and the vision that you're trying to create.
Chris Winn: [00:44:23] Yeah, I think there's definitely a bridge to build with contract because you know, the other side of that is the thing that you do get out of hiring in-house. It's why we build teams; you get a deeper discipline with your company and your product and you get people that can go really deep with the knowledge of what you're building. You lose the depth when you go contract. And that's okay because it's, it's such a leg up to be able to find talent anywhere in the world and onboard really quickly and get started.
But I think that the [00:45:00] bridge that you have to build though, when you do that, is you have to start with empathy. You've got to start with building trust. You've got to build the relationship. I think a lot of the time when people think contract work, they're just like, okay, I have a project.
I am going to hand this person, this project, and they will do the work. And so much of collaboration and pulling off a really, really great project; like have it go great, is building a relationship, building a bit of context. It's talking about the challenges and the unanswered questions and getting a feel for it.
And, you know, that's what you get over time naturally with an internal team. And so if you can bridge that gap a little bit, and meet each other as human beings, I think it makes that relationship go a lot better.
Zack Onisko: [00:45:49] One hundred percent.
Mariano: [00:45:51] Would you bring in, let's say that you want to create a custom UI for a new product that you want to explore, and [00:46:00] you want a very good illustrator. For example, would you recommend bringing them into the early stages of the project versus handing them over: "Hey, build me this." Have you seen any stories where an illustrator, for example, generates impact in the early stages of a project?
Zack Onisko: [00:46:18] I think it depends on the project, right? And so there's some projects; I think for illustration, that's easier to hand off of like: Okay, here's the vision. Here's the scope of what we're trying to do. And this is the visual that we want to help to illustrate the narrative that we're communicating. That's almost the easier handoff. And that could be less close to the other players in the team. But I think for product work, if you're bringing in somebody who's going to help out with animation or help out with something that's more core to the user experience, then you want to have that person [00:47:00] closer in the fold.
And just the communication has to be really, really tight or somebody will go off the rails and build something that's. . . Yeah. As a freelancer, you hate that, right? The client, doesn't like what I may have. Well, the client probably did a bad job of communicating what they're after. So, it's really all about communication in collaboration and these relationships; and it does vary project to project.
And with drivel,
Mariano: [00:47:29] I mean, it's portfolios. We are thinking, in a way, you're hiring a talented person to help you with something. And that's the freelance part, but when it comes to build versus buy, Chris, what have you seen? Like, good success stories of folks that went into Creative Market and I mean, just like, bought off the shelf, let's call it.
Chris Winn: [00:47:56] I mean it happens all the time. [00:48:00] I think a lot about this with design. When you're designing something, what are you really doing? Like, it's not just about an individual little detail. It's about the composition, right?
Like that's how we think a lot about it with our customers. We have all these people who are making just beautiful fonts. Fonts that take a really long time to build and do right, because there's so many little, little details that go into it. We have all these people that make these raw materials.
Then on the other side of that, we have people using those raw materials to make something new; derivative work, right? A composition; and that's design, too. So what we see with Creative Market is we've got a lot of people who are DIY like me, almost a decade ago, building a website and needing a little bit of help.
We've got people [00:49:00] who are amateur designers trying to level up their skills. How did they do this? How did they make this thing? I want to be as good as this. Then all the way up, we've got professional designers, who, maybe they actually could do it. They could make that same thing that got put on Creative Market, but they're building something bigger. They're building the composition. So they're trying to get to their goal a little faster and they need a little help along the way. So we see this really wide spectrum of creativity. And the thing that we focus on is: How do we help those people do what they're doing faster?
We even see shops on Creative Market buy from Creative Market, to then make new assets to sell on Creative Market and it's great. It really is. I think design has just gotten much more accessible over the years and that's a really, really good thing.
Mariano: [00:49:59] Zack, you had [00:50:00] mentioned a story with a font. Can you share that one?
Zack Onisko: [00:50:05] One of the Creative Market's co-founders. I love this story. He made a handwriting font of his own handwriting, right? I mean, he kinda threw it up onto Creative Market as a joke and it was $2 or whatever. He didn't think anyone would ever buy it. Fast forward six months. Starbucks had used it in a national campaign. It's on billboards. His handwriting is on the coffee cups. It's like, everywhere, so that's a great example, right? Of kind of build versus buy. It's like that. Whoever was the art director in that campaign: "Let's get this font. That's great. It looks very authentic."
So another great analogy to Creative Market is it's like building a home, right? There's going to be building materials. You're going to go to Home Depot and buy off the shelf and use [00:51:00] that to construct the building. There's going to be things that you're going to custom-make from scratch because you have this facade that is in your head that you need to have look a certain way. And so you're going to do that with your hands.
Mariano: [00:51:16] Yeah, true. I mean, you don't want to innovate on everything, right? Sometimes I need speed.
Zack Onisko: [00:51:21] Eight hours in the day; well there's 24 hours in a day, but you know. It's quick.
Mariano: [00:51:28] Alright. So guys, I want to switch a little bit to pick up some questions from the audience. I have one from Jen Rogers, which is pretty cool, which is: "How have you been recognizing coworkers, the members, their reports, are doing great work?"
Zack Onisko: [00:51:49] Yeah. I mean, we've been using Bonusly for years. I know Chris' team does as well. That's been a lot of fun. So, Bonusly is a Slack [00:52:00] plugin and it allows us every month, every team member gets an allotment of, for us it's Dribbb points, and you kind of can award those points to a teammate who has made your day, or helps you with a project. Then, you can collect these points and you either cash and then redistribute them to other teammates, or you can get gift cards, you can donate those, regain as cash and donate them to your favorite charity.
You can put them in your PayPal account and it's real cash. So that's been a really fun service that we've used. Then we also do, every week in our all hands that I mentioned, we do shout-outs. So, the first thing we talk about is we celebrate our people and someone on the team will write a couple of paragraphs on someone on the team who's doing a fantastic job and gives them that recognition in front of the whole team. [00:53:00] So, I mean, there's a bunch of examples that we do, but, it's really important.
Mariano: [00:53:05] What works for you, Chris?
Chris Winn: [00:53:07] We do a lot of the same things. Bonusly; we do weekly - you have a shout out section in this weekly email - that we've been sending lately. Having all hands, make sure to highlight people's work. The other thing that we focus on a lot, you know, direct feedback. Feedback's a gift, and those are the really special moments where we're in that creative process and we're talking about how to make an idea a little bit stronger. Because, at the early phases of a project, if we're building something, some new feature for the website; the early stages, the ideas are more brittle and they require more debate, and more feedback. And the best feeling in the world is when you create something and the people around you and you [00:54:00] make it better and make it stronger because when you get to the end of the project, you can look back and you can see the evolution of how something got better. And so, we do a lot of the same recognition and we give people praise, but we also give them feedback, because that's something that they can - we can - all build confidence for ourselves when we actually live the experience of getting a little better at something, and not even just in projects. We really encourage the team to get comfortable presenting, get comfortable on Zoom; and we make sure that they get really good feedback. And I invite the feedback, too. I'm on Zoom all the time. I'm talking all the time. We're all growing in different ways and trying to improve. So, that's a really big part of our culture, is the feedback. Not to be negative, but actually to pull people forward.
Mariano: [00:54:57] One thing that we try to do, we have [00:55:00] a kudos ongoing channel, not just on the all hands, and we try to attach them to values. Right? So, I'm celebrating such and such because of XYZ. Right? So it gets a little more context, also. And one subtle thing that I've been trying to do that's really hard is look at people in there (Zoom screen) . Yeah. I need to do this.
Zack Onisko: [00:55:29] Pick up your phone and let me know.
Mariano: [00:55:33] Not, like the disrespectful parts, the subtle thing about looking you in the eye, which is really hard because I want to see you in the eye, really because you're here, not there, right? So it's awkward, but subtle things are hard because we're talking to people through a screen, right?
Chris Winn: [00:55:50] You're so right. The other subtle thing that happens all the time on Zoom is when people mute, right? If you're in a room [00:56:00] with someone physically there's little stutters, little social cues that you're about to speak.
Those are social cues to people that someone else wants to insert themselves into the conversation and hearing all of those subtle things helps you. "Oh, Hey, you wanted to say something. What were you about to say?" When people mute, all of that can fade away, especially if we've got so many people on Zoom and you can't see all the boxes.
And every so often, we try to experiment and we tell everyone to unmute. We want to hear you. We want to hear the mess because we want to bring you into the conversation. It kind of breaks sometimes, because there's kids or there's the dog or whatever. And if you've got enough people, it's actually a really bad idea and it fails quickly.
But, I hope that we can kind of figure that out. I guess it's the, there's the raise hand button. That's the closest thing.
Mariano: [00:56:51] But, yeah, I mean, I wish that the video and audio guys would start doing something where they not auto mute, but auto [00:57:00] lower down the microphone. And then all hands is even worse, right? So like, let's celebrate it. Let's go down in here at least, like not mute, but like lower the volume of it. I wish that would be a feature.
Zack Onisko: [00:57:17] I'm super impressed with Zoom. Now, when I get - sorry, Google - but I would get these Google meetings, it's just such night and day of just product quality. I'm just like, let's just switch over to my Zoom.
Mariano: [00:57:35] So you mentioned feedback, right? Chris, you were like making time to do it properly. Anything on onboarding remote folks, freelancers? Do you guys, when you work yourselves with freelancers, do you bring them into your [00:58:00] work stack? I mean, how do you onboard employees and freelancers? Any tips?
Chris Winn: [00:58:07] Yeah, I mean, that's a whole other conference, right? There's a lot. You know, when we've done contract work in the past, we really try to treat them. . . You would, we integrate them. We're really big on integration. We want them to feel part of the team, we want them to soak up not only what the goals of the project are, but also how we work, how we communicate. So, we want to level that playing field whenever we work external, you know? We don't do it a lot. I want to be really honest about that.
We've got an in-house team and we really focus on that team, but we have done contract work in the past, and we're going to do more of that this year. And I do think it's all about leveling the playing field. When we bring people to the team, I think [00:59:00] the headline would be, you've got to start at the top. Why are we here? What are we doing? Then, you've got to get them the tools to do meaningful work as quickly as possible. So we really try to get you onto a product team as soon as possible so that you're getting in reps not only on work. Like, we have vetted that you've got the discipline skills to do your job, but what you really want to wrap and build muscle around is again: collaboration and communicating with the team. And also to establish upfront, you know, our feedback culture is really important here. We're going to give you feedback. Expect it, and it's not because we're critical, it's because we care a lot. We're really invested in you and we want to all grow professionally and get better. And, if you've set the expectation upfront, it gives you the license and the agency to actually do it, because they're not caught off guard by it. I [01:00:00] think a lot of onboarding, right? So much of it is in those first couple of weeks. There's so many things to get right early and then they're kind of on autopilot after that. As long as you're encouraging the good and maybe just checking a few of the things that feel a little off, it goes really smoothly after that. But I think if you don't focus early on it, you can really lose a lot of ground.
Zack Onisko: [01:00:28] It's a challenging question, right? Cause I think that working with freelancers versus with your in-house team, there's always going to be a line in the sand, legally, right? So there's a classification, you can get in a lot of hot water. and so, you know, our, our people ops team has been really good about setting those boundaries.
And, you know, like Chris is saying, we want to make sure that communication and collaboration is as close as possible; but there are [01:01:00] things that we just can't do. We can't bring a contractor into our Bonusly because they're an independent contractor. They're a separate business.
Right. But you know, I think it's tricky as much as we want to do perks and rewards for consultants, a lot of the freelancers we're working with also have five other clients they're working with. And so the relationship just isn't the same.
Mariano: [01:01:27] Well there are companies, as you said, working on getting the legal pipes sorted so that you feel more as a team. I think there's a last one, which is relevant also to you guys. "In sharing your services, talking about hiring freelancers: any tips that you can give other folks in selling their services [01:02:00] or their assets, Chris? I mean, anything to become great at using Dribbble to promote yourself or using Creative Market to promote your assets."
Chris Winn: [01:02:11] Yeah. I'll say for Creative Market real quick: be authentic, be yourself, make something really great. I mean, it really is that simple, you know. What our platform does is make sure that you have an audience. That's the other part of it; is finding an audience, finding people that love it.
But I think there's so much to talk about with it that it really is as simple as make something that is great. And "great," just to define great a little bit, but it's useful. I mean, that's the thing about Creative Market's assets. They help solve something. They're functional. They're useful. They're also aesthetically beautiful, right? And so, if you can pull on both sides of that and make something really wonderful and then share a bit about yourself. You know, talk about your story. People [01:03:00] want to know the person behind the work, and it's really important. And if you can be open to people and tell that story as long as you're mixed with a great platform like Creative Market, that's not to plug us, but I love us and I'm biased. As long as you're on the right platform, we can help take care of the rest and just help you focus on being a really creative person that loves talking about your work and helping people get creative projects done.
Mariano: [01:03:30] But isn't there anything around, like asking your happy customers to rate you? Because there has to be something with the algorithm.
Chris Winn: [01:03:39] I think the important thing today, not even just on Creative Market, but at large; it's more important than ever that you go out and you talk about your work.
This is the influencer economy; however you want to talk about it, but it's really important that you show and tell; [01:04:00] that you speak to your audience in a really authentic way. And it can be as simple as just showing your process. It's something I love. I love seeing the end result and I love seeing the work, but I love understanding how something got made.
Cause I'm just blown away by it. I can't do it. There's other things I'm good at, but I'm just blown away by people's process and we've got creators on the platform I'm thinking of. One of our creators, Ian Bernard; right now, he puts these videos on Instagram and it's just him and his iPad. And in like a sped-up motion, he's just showing you how he does all this brilliant stuff. And I think creating content, to put yourself out there a little bit and give your audience a little bit of a behind-the-scenes view; I think that's way more important than it's ever been. And I don't think that trend is [01:05:00] going away.
Zack Onisko: [01:05:02] Some of the other things for Creative Market too, it was just quality, right? You know, not to give you too much credit, Chris; you guys invested a lot in the platform and just allow people looking for assets to just see what is the thing they're buying. Right? You can preview the fonts. You can see what's inside the zip. You can kind of get all this preview of what the file is going to look like after you buy it. That's why I love that part of Creative Market and that's what separates Creative Market from a lot of other asset sites; is that you really get a sense of quality in Creative Market. It's just kind of light years ahead of a lot of other places. Something for Dribbble; I'll just say that we're a platform for designers to share that work. And with tens of millions of people visiting the site; if you want exposure, if you want to build a name for yourself and connect with [01:06:00] other designers, other peers, build your followers. Get likes, this sort of thing, and just kind of get exposure in the platform. It's just, having a strong cadence, right? Just building that muscle memory to share your work often and regularly.
Mariano: [01:06:16] Something that I was talking with John Maeda about four or five years ago; he was curious about MURALbecause he said, "Oh, I like the idea that you can
provide smell." I was like, "What?" And the metaphoric thing, I was like, well, it can show who was there when the things were decided on. Like when we're in a room, we can smell each other. Also, yeah; so more of the back story of the actual, the conclusion, which is the thing, right? The thing that we put out there. But there's reasons why we decided that and Chris, I would argue that there's even things that happen before the actual creation, which is the understanding of problems.
So [01:07:00] then something that I've been thinking was like: Okay, I need to work with each of you to plug in MURAL so that we can have the history of the why behind the actual asset, right? Or the actual UI. So homework on my end - a little bit to pitch you guys on that.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for showing up today and sharing some ideas and, and creativemarket.com in particular. Chris, we didn't share this, but there's an education part, right, that you meant you wanted to share.
Chris Winn: [01:07:32] Yeah. If you head to the homepage: creativemarket.com, we've got a new "finds" page. We built this page for educators once COVID hit, because everyone's got to put together new content. We hand-curated all of this brilliant stuff. It works with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint; other tools that teachers use. We're going to be doing more of that for other folks in other fields. So, checkout "finds" on creativemarket.com. Thanks for letting me plug that.
Mariano: [01:07:59] And Dribbble. Dribbble with three B's and just enjoy it because it's fun to just like, explore, explore, explore; and then once you see it , say hello to a freelancer today, if you're on the buyer side.
Thank you, guys.
Zack Onisko: [01:08:19] Thank you.