INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Gideon Stein of Write Label Tells Us How the Freelance Marketplace is the Way of the Future
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gideon Stein: Thank you for asking. We are fortunate and doing well. Luckily, both of my kids, ages 17 and 15, are able to attend school in-person every day, and I’ve been able to keep busy with work. We worry about those less fortunate, both in terms of employment and educational opportunities and are doing what we can to help. (I’m on the board of three national education nonprofits that are working in a number of ways to address inequities.)
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Write Label?
Gideon Stein: I have always been an entrepreneur and got my start working in finance after college. It didn’t take long to realize that I wanted to start and build things, so, at age 22, I founded my first company – a magazine. After the company sold, I became an angel investor and serial entrepreneur. Now, I am the CEO of the crowdsourced creative writing platform, Write Label. Write Label helps media companies, agencies, and brands sell more using creativity. The platform drives copywriting efficiencies while democratizing access for creatives to marquee clients. We have developed a proprietary way to employ a network of thousands of trained and data-focused writers to deliver almost instant copywriting and creative results.
I joined Write Label after a friend of mine, who also happens to be the Chairman of the company, asked me to take over from the founders. The initial management team had built a great platform and assembled an awesome team, but they hadn’t quite figured out the product-market fit. Working with the team, I was able to take the platform and create an enterprise business in about four months.
In addition to my day job, philanthropy is also incredibly important to me and has played a significant role in my business endeavors. Currently, I am the President of The Moriah Fund, a private foundation focused on supporting human and civil rights in the U.S. and around the world. Prior to joining Write Label, I was the Founder and CEO of LightSail Education, the adaptive reading platform that helps students, classrooms, and school districts significantly exceed their literacy goals. I also co-founded and served as President of Future Is Now Schools, an organization focused on school turnarounds and union reform work. Currently, I serve on the boards of three nationally focused nonprofit organizations, including New Classrooms, Narrative 4, and Chalkbeat.
How does Write Label innovate?
Gideon Stein: Write Label provides high-quality, diverse copy, with optionality and scale, at unparalleled speed, meaning we always need to be innovating, especially during these ever-changing times. One particular example that comes to mind is during the height of COVID-19; we experienced a surge in our writer community. Projects were oversubscribed, so we had to quickly develop a system of allocating work while still ensuring the utmost quality. So, we created a ticketing system to distribute requests to specific writer cohorts that were best suited to answer clients’ calls. And to our surprise, ticketing led to higher quality submissions. Demand also tripled over the first few months of COVID-19 (and it’s now up more than four times), so that’s helped a lot, too.
Another way in which we’re innovating is by expanding our diversity efforts. We’ve been amplifying diverse voices by building cohorts of BIPOC and Latinx writers that provide clients with access to targeted and important community voices – historically lacking within the traditional agency model.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Gideon Stein: As coronavirus continues to spread, companies are looking for ways to protect their workers. Agencies have been implementing work-from-home options, and conference organizers are postponing and canceling events. What does this mean for the future of work, and specifically, how will freelancers be used by agencies in the short and long term? Needless to say, we strongly believe that freelance marketplaces are the way of the future (not just in the interim) and an area where agencies, in-house marketing departments, and media companies should invest their resources to spark growth. These online communities give workers peace of mind in times of crisis, with the flexibility to work remotely and take on specific projects based on timing, interest, and location.
This year has been a catalyst for our platform, experiencing over 400% growth during a time when local advertising has taken a dramatic hit. This is in large part to our writers dispersed across the country representing diverse creative voices (nearly 60% are women, and we’re approaching 30% POC) and the way in which we’re able to deliver high-quality, cost-effective work when everyone is looking to do more with less. As remote work became the new normal and budgets shrank overnight, Write Label played a vital role in the survival of both careers and brands by filling gaps as clients cut staff and slashed freelance budgets.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Gideon Stein: A lot of our client rollouts were intended to be in-person, and naturally, like the rest of the world, these sessions and meetings were moved online. We switched our focus and, instead, trained folks via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Of course, conducting these sessions remotely meant there were no cross-pollinating benefits. To ensure we had the same success, we worked to make our presentations as interesting and fun as possible. We also made sure to keep them short because who wants to sit through a long Zoom meeting?
Another big change we made was giving up our physical office. We were fortunate that our lease was up in June and, while it seemed like a bit of a leap of faith to go full-on remote, it’s worked out well, and we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars that we’ve put into ramping up our sales and marketing efforts.
While I do think we’re going to have an office again someday, I’ve been incredibly impressed by how well we can keep communication open and collaborate seamlessly despite the fact that our team is now dispersed.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Write Label in the future?
Gideon Stein: I’ve been fortunate to leave my home in NYC for much of the pandemic. I’ve split my time between the coast of Georgia and the mountains of Colorado, taking time each day to be outside – walking on the beach or hiking in the wilderness with my dog. It has been a game-changer, and the result was a 35 lbs. weight loss, which has made a positive impact on my health.
In terms of the future, I think we’re in a position to capitalize on the major disruption that is accelerating change in ways that no one could have projected 10 months ago. As everyone is asked to do more with fewer resources, platforms like Write Label are poised to benefit from major shifts in employment to the way content is produced. Most importantly, we’re going to help creatives shift to a project-based freelance model while saving our clients’ money.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Gideon Stein: Our competitors include traditional agencies and in-house creative teams. One way that we’re looking to make significant advances is through a new product we’re currently working on that will allow Write Label not only to write the ad scripts, but produce the finished asset, as well. It is a game-changer that will allow us to compete with agencies and other ad-generating platforms because we have a writing-centric focus and can produce finished videos at a fraction of the cost of other managed ad services given our distributed creator model.
Your final thoughts?
Gideon Stein: We know this is a difficult time for people, and we’re constantly thinking of ways for Write Label to provide sources of income for creatives hit hard by this crisis. Our top writers are making six figures, and we have thousands of folks who are making real money on our platform. To join, you don’t need experience, just talent, and a willingness to learn and improve based on our editors’ input.
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