illustration by Nicole Album for Worklife
If you’re a freelancer, small business owner, or just a generally creative person hoping to make some money doing what you love, you’re probably used to shifting into many roles in one day, from office manager to web developer to finance guru to marketing specialist. But the time it takes to handle all of those tasks can take away hours you spend actually creating and building like you want to.
Thankfully, a new crop of start-ups are springing up to directly assist the millions of Americans who have moved to contractor status or head their own companies.
At Worklife, our mission is to invest in companies making life and work easier for creatives, whether that’s when building a website, managing or splitting finances with partners, or creating new sources of income from product lines to online content sales.
Here are 8 new companies we’re excited about for those operating solo or with a small team. The time and effort they can save you may be a game changer.
Launching a striking and easy-to-use website is usually Task No. 1 for anyone creating their own company or marketing their creative services. While Wordpress is probably the most well-known CMS, in recent years, Webflow has received increasing attention because it allows you to build a responsive, custom, and visually stunning site using no code whatsoever. While larger companies like Rakuten, Michael Kors, and Dell also use Webflow sites, its bread and butter is serving smaller operations.
There are a ton of examples of impressive Webflow sites that look like they took $100,000 budgets and intensive coding — but didn’t. One of the best is this one from Wannabe, an online store selling action figure collectibles. Created by designers Niccolo' Mirando and Jordan Machado, the experience scrolling the shop is seamless and “merges Japanese cinema with 70s Italian cinema” perfectly.
Then, there’s this gem from DONÜTS, designed by Toronto-based Will Robinson, who wanted to create a fun and bold look for an equally fun and bold brand.
And what may be our favorite: this site takes you into an immersive experience learning, or remembering, the story behind the The Goonies.It’s hard to believe a site with such a striking design was done without code, allowing visitors to relive the classic ‘80s flick with images, audio, and video.
2. Split and Manage Money: Stir
We’re living in the era of collabs — where makers and founders often team up to see a business idea through. And the reality is that if you’re a contractor, you might be juggling multiple projects, each with several channels of income and many players involved. This can get complicated fast and require you to spend hours reviewing invoices, receipts and spreadsheets to keep things in order. That's where Stir can make your life less stressful.
This start-up operates as a financial studio that allows you to manage all things money related in one place: you can split revenue with partners, mange metrics, transfer funds, automate paperwork for tax time, and see what money you’re bringing in from multiple sources like Patreon, Twitch, Shopify, Subtack, etc all in one place.
The company also often drops new tools for creators, like Presubscribe, which allows people to sign up and pledge their support — even saying how much they would pay — to give you a sense of how much support you’ll garner before you launch a new project. Stir also is known to spice things up with its members, recently blindly matching those on the platform to team up on releasing exclusive face masks.
Stir is a favorite tool for Youtubers like Airrack and Liza Koshy, musicians like Peter Hollens, vloggers like Casey Neistat, along with podcasters, producers, editors, and other creative fields sourcing money from many places. Do yourself a favor: get rid of Excel and let Stir help you out.
3. Network Better: Lunchclub
LinkedIn re-invented networking in a digital era, but LunchClub is taking it leaps further to help people form more meaningful connections. Founded in 2018 by Vlad Novakovski and Scott Wu, the company uses AI to analyze your network, skills, goals and personality to match you with people that you could benefit professionally from meeting. Essentially, it’s like a dating app, but for business. Lunchclub’s chief marketing officer Chelsea Cain Maclin even came from Bumble.
The founders are striving for an algorithm that matches you with friendly, relevant people open to conversations. Whether you’re looking for a co-founder, seeking investors, are in search of a new job, need to brainstorm with peers or just want to meet interesting people, Lunchclub’s algorithm will offer you people to meet virtually on a daily basis . You can decide if you’re interested in sending an invite to connect via video call with one of its suggestions and then, if so, schedule everything through the site.
The use of Lunchclub skyrocketed during the pandemic, as IRL networking meetings came to a halt and the company offered people to keep meeting with people virtually. These casual conversations are easy to schedule throughout the week — it’s a good way to step outside of your work and learn from others, make connections, and grow community.
4. Launch your own DTC brand in weeks: Pietra
Launching a product is an enormous feat. At least, it used to be. Pietra is a new start-up making it easier than ever for makers to get their dream direct-to-consumer lines out without needing huge amounts of capital or certain insider connections. The site operates as a global marketplace that matches creators with product designers, manufacturers, and warehouse companies to launch lines in several buckets of products, including clothing, candles, coffee, jewelry, fragrances, and more. Customers can also browse Pietra profiles to find makers to buy from directly.
Overall, the company is trying to lower the barrier to entry so that more people can test out and succeed in selling direct to consumer products. It’s perfect for anyone who alrady has a community of followers — that’s why Pietra partnered with influencers such as Victoria Brito, a well-known model, dancer, queer activist and self-proclaimed Sneakerhead, to launch lines for their fans. Brito created an eight-piece collection on Pietra dedicated to her love of all things sneakers and sold out quickly.
But Pietra isn’t just for those with massive followers — any creative person who has a community behind them or is committed to building one should look into the company. Ronak Trivedi, Pietra's co-founder and CEO, wants to make sure people without startup capital or existing manufacturing relationships can bring a product line to life in a matter of weeks.
The company launched a fellowship to assist 20 Black entrepreneurs in breaking into the jewelry and beauty industry, giving each $1,000, assistance getting started, and access to mentors. Their work should be launching soon.
5: Collaborate on any website, even ones that aren't yours: Bubbles
Most contractors aren’t sitting side-by-side in an office with everyone they’re working with — that was true even before the pandemic sent more people into remote work — but it’s even more true today. For people who are collaborating across time zones, projects, and teams, Bubbles offers a new tool to communicate more effectively.
The idea: start conversations by commenting on anything you see on your screen.
Designing a website? Looking at a data point? Reviewing photos or video? No matter what task you’re focused on at any given moment, with Bubbles’ Chrome extension, you can click anywhere on your screen and start talking — by chat or audio — with others about what they think.
6. Get paid today, no more net 30/60/90: Archie
One of the biggest bottlenecks for freelancers is delayed payment — paying contractors is a notoriously drawn out process, with the usual range anywhere from 30-60 days after project completion, and sometimes much longer. As a contractor, having secured and guaranteed income delivered at a certain time is a huge benefit.
Archie is out to solve this problem and help companies do just that: pay freelancers immediately for their work, with no delay. The company is working with animators, architects, makeup artists and all types of creative projected-based workers.
Archie is still in beta, but you can sign up to be invited to try out the platform now (tell them Worklife sent you) and keep up-to-date about when it’s launching.
7: Build and sell your own course & other types of content: Podia
“Content is King” has been the name of the game in tech and business for decades, but with each passing year, it only becomes more true for more industries. That means most entrepreneurs spend at least some amount of time creating content around their work — and Podia is helping them monetize it easily.
On Podia, you can sell online courses, audiobooks, webinars, cheat sheets, ebooks and other content. The company allows you to run everything in one place, including a custom website, a live chat widget, email marketing, and 24/7 support.
More than 50,000 creators have sold through Podia at this point, and it’s growing fast.
John D. Saunders, who runs multiple successful online businesses, is just one of Podia’s success stories. After working at an ad agency for multiple years, he pursued a side project creating 5four Digital, a website agency. This would eventually lead him to his other ventures, including creating urbanwallet, a site that teaches millennials about finances, and Black Illustrations, which gives creators access to illustrations of Black people for their digital projects.
He’s able to manage all of this by creating standard operating procedures that keep things running smoothly — which led him to launch his Learn to Create Standard Operating Procedures online course on Podia. On launch day, he immediately earned $10,000 and since then, he’s made more than $100,00 in total from his Podia site.
Other examples include The Oh Joy! Academy by Joy Cho, who has a well-known lifestyle brand and blog out of Los Angeles, Best Selling Year Academy by personal branding and content marketing guru Shalena D.I.V.A. Broaster, and a slew of courses from Natalie Sisson the “suitcase entrepreneur.” If you have a community and something to teach, look into this one.
8. Measure the success of your projects with visual dashboards: Graphy
The traditional way of processing, visualizing and analyzing data has typically been reliant on data analysts and engineers. Those who don’t specialize in those areas are often at a loss about where to start. The reality is creative people care about data, but a lot of them aren’t sure of the best ways to process it.
Graphy is meant to help them out — teams can create, share and collaborate on data collection and analytics remotely. You can even have real-time conversation, making annotations, replying to people, and reacting to data points. It features a lot of helpful templates and visualizations, too.