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Focus on your passion not your projects

Make more, manage less – this was our motto when we set out to tackle our users problem; the issue of managing business tasks as a freelancer. Our goal was to help freelancers streamline their business tasks so they could focus on what they love to do most, creating.​


A developer, a graphic designer and a user experience designer.

For this project I worked on a product team with a developer and a graphic designer. I conducted user interviews, ethnographic studies, and deep competitive research. Additionally, I created personas, priority matrices, user flows, wireframes, and all of the designs shown.

Concept Background

No outsourcing required

The freelance economy makes up approximately 36% of the US population and with the emergence of companies such as Fiverr and Upwork it’s expected to continue to grow. There are currently 56 million freelancers in the US alone, accounting for trillions of dollars of transactions within the US economy.  

As I set out to be a freelancer I ran across the problem that many other freelancers come across - I had no business acumen. I didn’t know how to manage my taxes or how to issue contracts to clients. Additionally, tracking multiple projects and clients without the help of a project manager proved difficult and time consuming.  

Conducting a deep competitive analysis revealed to us that there were good solutions out there. Businesses tackling this problem have recently been established and are starting to gain good traction and major investment funding. There was an apparent trend towards building solutions for freelancers as they are emerging as a more dominant part of the US economy.

However, during our research we identified that many of these solutions took more time than necessary to implement. For example, companies using a software called Drupal were hiring full time designers to make business proposals and contracts within the application. As designers, we felt we could make something that was more efficient and that managed the business more automatically. We wanted to create a solution that saved freelancers time and didn’t need outsourcing.


Respect thy neighbor

Because of limited resources, our research process for this project consisted almost entirely of user interviews and field research. We identified those in our social circles who were project managers, agency owners and freelancers. We felt these individuals would gain us great insight and direction into our initial designs. 

First, we conducted one-on-one interviews with these individuals. We asked them what, if any solutions they were using and how they felt about these solutions. We also asked them about problems they face day-to-day managing clients, finances and the like. We were able to gather vital information from these individuals.

Here is an example of some of the things we heard:

"I have only ever used one other CRM base and it was Dubsado - it was a great program, but there were different things about it I couldn't wrap my head around."
"Before I was using all different tools and services for things like contracts, invoicing, workflows and it was very difficult to keep up with."

In order to gain further fidelity, we also identified users who were using existing solutions and listened to what they had to say.

"I think (existing solution) can be a little complicated for the novice. I am familiar with automations and workflows so to me it's not a problem. If I wasn't, however, it may seem cumbersome and overwhelming."
"I will say though, if you don't set things up just right, the client or prospect may run into snags in the process."

In order to gain further fidelity, we also identified users who were using existing solutions and listened to what they had to say.

Persona creation

Finding creative freedom

At this point, we felt informed enough to start creating an early persona of our ideal user. We identified two groups of individuals that could benefit most from our design acumen, these were creative freelancers and project managers at small agencies. Research shows that there are about 2-3 million individuals that fit into this category, a good target audience.

ideate and Sketch

Cultivating a home to abide in

Priority Matrix:

From our existing research, we identified several areas where we could build a solution that would maximize the user experience. However, we did not want to be bogged down by the various possibilities, caught in a never ending development cycle. My philosophy has always been to build fast and fail fast. Using an assumptions matrix we were able to prioritize what features would be most valuable to our users and weigh that with the time it would take to build a solution. 

From our user research, we gathered that the most important thing for our application was creating a software that was easy to set up and easy to automate. Specifically, our users wanted something that would simulate what a real project manager would do. Ex: notify them of deadlines, communicate with clients, and remind them of overdue items.

We decided implementing a solution in this area would be most valuable and most time efficient. For developers it would take less time in the back-end to implement because there was limited logic needed compared to other solutions we were interested in implementing. For the business, we felt it would be the most valuable solution for our users because there were no other solutions out there for this particular problem. We felt this was the biggest gap for our users that we could bridge.

User Flows:

Taking these priorities we mapped out the user flows that would give our users the quickest and most efficient way to accomplish these tasks. This was narrowed to the project management side of our application.

However, one comment that we often heard was that it was vital that the system help them automate their tasks. We heard again and again how while they were using other applications they were unable to track the multiple tasks they were performing in different applications with different clients. There hopes and dreams for our new product was that it would streamline all of these things and even remind them if task had not yet been fulfilled, that way they could have ease of mind knowing this software will manage their business and instead focus on their craft

High-fidelity designs

Bringing fidelity to the designs

Taking these user flows we created sketches for each of the screens. I created a style guide that would guide the wireframes so we could build faster and test faster. This enabled us to quickly create higher fidelity prototypes from the beginning essentially skipping the lo-fidelity stage of our wireframes.

Personally, I find this valuable because in my experience, stakeholders and users get confused when they see low-fidelity designs. I feel this impacts the fidelity of early feedback and usability testing. Therefore, instead of low-fidelity wireframing, I prefer to create designs that communicate the look of the actual product and can still be easily modified. 

User Testing:​

Through user testing, test subjects gave us a unique perspective of our interface. The most significant changes we made were to the back-end of our initial prototype. Users were delighted by the ease of use of the new project management system we designed. Often we heard feedback that it was something they had been searching for and that it would make their jobs a lot simpler. They had been using systems that weren’t designed for their jobs and because of this there were many hurdles they had to overcome within the system. They were delighted to find something that would be easier to use. 

One comment that we often heard was that it was vital that the system integrate seamlessly with their existing softwares. Users communicated with us how they struggled to track their multiple tasks in different applications with different clients. Their hopes and dreams for our new product was that it would streamline all of these tasks in one central management software.

Take for example, a freelancer who is using InvoiceNinja to send invoices and Quickbooks to record their finances. Users wanted to know that SAMI could easily assimilate data from both of these applications and integrate it within their workflow. This would give them peace of mind knowing SAMI was completely managing their business. Instead they could take the time they would have spent managing business tasks and put it towards honing their craft.

next steps

Excited for what's to come

After gathering this feedback and redefining the backend of our application, prototypes were sent to development. During this time I have started to market the product with the goal of finding early beta test users. I created a website and attached it to Mailchimp to gather the emails of interested users. You can view it at
Next step for this product is to continue to develop our marketing strategy to find customers that need our solution. Once development is completed we will grant access to these early beta users and start gathering more information through interviews, surveys and analytic tools.


Build fast and fail fast

Something I learned from this process…find your MVP as quick as possible.  I feel we spent too much time brainstorming and sketching out a lot of the big picture ideas we had in the ideation stage. It would have been more effective and efficient to instead identify the core issues of our users and create an MVP for this initial product before starting to branch out and solve other problems. In the future I hope to refine the understanding phase of my process, I want to narrow the scope of the project from step one so we can quickly hone in and solve the problems that are most painful for the business and our users. 

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