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Q&A| A Conversation With Andrew Askins, CEO of Krit
Krit is a team of developers and designers who work together to help freelancers to work with clients. The team is working to develop software tools that freelancers can use so that they can spend more time doing their jobs and less time focusing on other details. Carolina Money spoke with CEO Andrew Askins to find out more about the company.
Q: What inspired the creation of Krit?
A: We’re freelance designers and developers ourselves, so we always knew we wanted to solve real problems for other people like us. Because when you're solving problems in your field, you have a leg up because you already know the market and how to communicate. But our original idea was actually completely different from where we are today. We originally wanted to build an online community where freelance designers could share their works-in-progress and get feedback.
Once we got into the Tminus6 accelerator program (now called FiredUp), though, we were forced to stop building and get out and talk to potential customers. When we did that, we sort of stumbled across this much bigger problem. Working with clients sucks. Not always of course, but working and communicating with clients is really hard, especially if they're not creative or tech-savvy. And so we went back to the drawing board and we started thinking about the kinds of things we could build to make working with clients easier and more enjoyable. And that ultimately led us to where we are today.
Q: What exactly does Krit offer?
A: Krit is a unified suite of software tools built to help freelancers streamline their business, so they can spend more time doing what they love. Our first product, Ink, makes it incredibly simple to create a custom client contract, send it off and get it signed.
Like I said before, when we were getting started we were thinking about what kinds of tools we could build to make working with clients easier and more enjoyable. And we realized that a lot of the problems people were facing could be solved or at least helped by having a really solid contract in place at the beginning of a project. So with Ink we set out to make it as easy as possible to create a contract and get it signed.
Q: What future products do you plan on offering?
A: We’ve got several in the works, but the next product we're planning on rolling out is Pouch. Freelancers right now get paid 52 days late on average, which is completely insane. Pouch aims to solve that problem with a milestone based escrow service. Essentially, Pouch serves as the man-in-the-middle between freelancers and their clients. Clients pay for the project, in full, up front and the money gets held in Pouch, then once the freelancer completes the work they get paid automatically. If they don't finish the work, the client gets their money back. So both parties get an extra layer of protection and the freelancer gets paid faster.
We're hoping to start beta testing Pouch by the end of the summer and roll it out for everyone this fall.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most difficult challenge freelancers face?
A: There are tons of challenges facing freelancers today but they all stem from communication. Communication is hard, especially if you're working remotely, as so many freelancers today are. But there are a few easy things you can do to help.
Have a contract in place from the very beginning of the project. Often, just the act of putting something in writing will help you and your client think about situations you could run into later, and make sure you're prepared if and when they come up.
Always err on the side of transparency. If you're running late or an issue comes up, just talk to them about it. Most will be understanding and will work with you. And if it continues to be an issue, point them back to your contract.
Learn to write good emails (hint: shorter is almost always better). Like it or not, email isn't going away. Learn to use it to your advantage.
Q: What tools/skills should a freelancer have to be successful?
A: Ink of course! But really, one of the most important tools any freelancer should have in place is a rock solid contract. You can create 3 for free with Ink, or there are countless sites online where you can find free templates to get you started. We also love Slack and Trello for communicating with clients, and we use Quickbooks to manage our finances.
As for skills, the most important thing is being able to communicate with people. The easiest way to do this is just to empathize with your client. Think about what their priorities and needs are. Put yourself in their shoes. If you can do this, you should have no trouble.
Q: When I was reading through your blog, I saw that you all have gone through some changes. What helped the team stay motivated when things weren't working out and the going got tough?
A: We’ve definitely gone through lots of changes and lots of ups and downs. There are two things that have really helped us. The first is keeping your long-term goals or mission in mind. Sure, we've pivoted, we've scrapped huge chunks of code, we've redesigned our product (a lot), but our core mission hasn't changed. We set out to build products that solved real problems for freelancers like us. And at the end of the day, as long as we're still getting closer to doing that, then we're on the right track.
The second is just our incredible team. None of us had ever started a company before, and so we're all constantly learning and leaning on each other. Having founders you really trust, look up to, and can have fun with makes all the difference when times are tough.
Q: What advice would you give to a startup now that you have some time under your belt?
A: Start smaller. Whatever your idea, or your plans or your product, scale it back when you're just getting started. And then scale it back again. And keep doing this until you can't scale it back anymore. You're never going to be able to compete on the amount of features you can offer, and if you keep adding things to your product you'll never get anything out there. So find one thing and do that really well, better than anyone else out there, and worry about the rest later. It wasn't until we started focusing only on contracts that we really started to build momentum and feel like we were on to something.