The idea for Kalo came from Pete’s painful experience when working with freelancers and vendors at Google. But this pain isn’t reserved for behemoths like Google, even startups find difficult to collaborate effectively with freelancers.
As a company that relies on freelancers and vendors daily, we are lucky at Kalo to have the perfect use-case for ‘dogfooding’ - using our own product as part of our daily workflow.
So how do we use Kalo and what have we learned?
The most active users of Kalo are our Operations, Finance and Marketing teams. Operations and Marketing will interact daily with our freelancers and vendors, and our Finance team will get notified whenever a new invoice is approved, so they can know to pay those invoices quickly.
An inexhaustive list of the freelancers and vendors we have on the platform:
- Freelance designers, developers and copywriters
- PR firm
- Law firm
- Two video agencies
- Recruitment Agency
There are 3 main workflows within Kalo - onboarding freelancers, collaborating on work, and invoicing & paying those freelancers. Let me dive into how we use Kalo for each workflow, and what we’ve learned in the process.
To start, when we onboard someone new we invite them to Kalo directly from the app. When they open their email invitation, they’ll be asked to fill in a form with their contact details and bank account information, and sign a contract using Docusign.
The form we send is different depending on whether they’re an individual freelancer or a company, and where in the world they are. We have pre-built templates for each variation, so it takes no time to select the right template and hit send.
What did we learn?
It’s important to get your templates set up ahead of time to really benefit from the onboarding experience. We’d forgotten a couple of specific templates we may need, and it was annoying to have to go into the Admin and create it new when I wanted to invite a new vendor.
So now we know - think carefully about the different freelancers and vendors you work with, and the details you may need from them. We wrote a post recently with an onboarding checklist you can look through to make sure you’re collecting the right information first time around.
Now that we have everything setup, the time and stress saved is wonderful. When I get asked the specific details of a contract, or need to call someone with something urgent, it’s super simple to go into their profile and find that information.
Collaborating with freelancers on work
When collaborating with our freelancers, we will assign them tasks and keep an eye on everyone’s progress using the project overview.
What did we learn?
Our first realisation was that this workflow isn’t suited to every type of vendor; we were never going to get our law firm to communicate with us using the Kalo messenger!
Instead, the team benefitting the most is the Marketing team. They work with a selection of freelancers when there’s a specific need - copywriting for a blog post or imagery for an email header. It’s quick to assign a task with a deadline and budget, and there’s no need to chase for confirmation because the freelancer just clicks “Accept the task” from their email and it updates in the Kalo app.
It’s helpful that some of the people dogfooding Kalo aren’t doing demos or writing code, so they can bring fresh eyes and a beginner’s mind when using the app - highlighting when it isn’t intuitive what they should do next, or if there are too many steps to achieve their goal. We made some huge improvements to the user experience recently as a result of the pains we felt using Kalo ourselves.
Invoicing & paying freelancers
Once we complete a task with a freelancer, or when our lawyers need to send us their bill, we either auto-generate an invoice or they upload their invoice to Kalo. The person at Kalo who worked with them will review the invoice and approve or decline, and if approved the Finance team will get a notification to pay their invoice.
What did we learn?
It’s important to let your freelancer know as soon as you start working together that they need to upload their invoices to Kalo. Changing habits is hard, and the first few times we worked with freelancers, even though they’d completed the task using Kalo they still automatically sent their invoice on email.
However, once you get through this barrier, life becomes so much simpler. It’s hard to describe how much unnecessary stress you save when you don’t have to constantly search for missing or late invoices to try and work out if it’s your fault this time for not forwarding it to the Finance team.
We still have lots to learn, and as we grow we will continue to use our own experience to make improvements to the product and make the user experience as simple and intuitive as possible.