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On this blog we will cover stories from all around the Exact ecosystem.

Posts Tagged ‘freelancer’

Co-creating solutions with users – our first freelancer workshop

Written by Toine Hurkmans on . Posted in Exact Online

Collaboration with users during the research and design of new solutions at Exact has just taken a new step. Our first workshops with Dutch freelancers has highlighted again how important listening to customers is – an essential step in translating user requirements into solutions that genuinely meet their needs.

The last month Exact invited two groups of freelancers for a workshop. Most were quite surprised when they found out what we wanted them to do. The aim? For them to talk to each other about freelancing, and for us to listen – not for us to bombard them with questions and do all the talking. Furthermore, the workshop wasn’t about software. In fact, it wasn’t even about bookkeeping. It was just about being a freelancer.

So why are we suddenly so interested in freelancers? Why has ‘the user’ in general become so important? Well, to create effective solutions for certain groups or types of users, one needs to understand them. And understanding a user is something different than understanding the job they do or the tasks they need to carry out every day. Of course we’ve talked to users in the past, but mostly concerning their business activities or the applications they use. However, really understanding the user can only be achieved by listening to and observing them carefully.

In line with this we invited some freelancers to tell each other about what they like and/or dislike in their professional environments, how they manage their working and private life balance, and perhaps most importantly, what brings a smile to their face. We just sat, listened and tried hard to absorb the information they were offering us.

The freelancers in these first two workshops have already given us a great deal that we can use in designing and developing solutions for them. It’s not just about the struggle to get their administration done and send in their VAT return, but also about how they manage their customer relationships and find new jobs using their personal networks. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share this information.

It was also pleasantly surprising to learn how willing the participants are to contribute further along in the design and developing process. It tells us that users are willing not only to tell us about their needs, but really want to be involved in collaboration throughout the whole process. In the world of industrial design this is often referred to as co-creation or co-design. Industrial designers refer to product development in such close proximity to the customer user centric designs – essential for them in developing successful innovation. It is only fair to say that as software designers, we can and will also learn a lot from their approach.

We have already planned another workshop for September, which I have to say I’m really looking forward to it. For those of you who are interested, I’m sorry to tell you that all the seats are already booked. But please do keep your eye out for more initiatives to come concerning user collaboration – we’d love for you to be part of our research and help us in designing solutions that make a difference. In the meanwhile I will certainly keep you posted on our progress and share the results with you as they unfold. 

The author of this blog post is principal research engineer at Exact, focusing on researching business services offered through Software as a Service.

Freelancers: How can we help you?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

Being a freelancer offers you a lot of freedom. Freedom to choose only the contracts you like, to choose when to work and when to have time off, no boss to report to, etc. At the same time you also have to manage your acquisition, close contracts, invest in your network, keep track of your billable hours,  invoice clients and keep on top of your bookkeeping among many other activities.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get assistance with things that you have to do but don’t particularly enjoy and/or struggle to find the time for?

We’d like to know what we can do to help. On the 11th of May we are organizing a roundtable-session which we would like professional services freelancers to participate in. In this interactive session we want to discuss what’s on your mind and keeping you busy. Your input will be highly appreciated.

You can find more information via this link (Dutch): http://exact.nl/nl/nl/action/roundtable/

If you’re not a freelancer but know freelancers that might be interested, please forward this information to them.

Freelancers and self employed entrepreneurs can benefit from SaaS

Written by Toine Hurkmans on . Posted in Exact Online

Freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs often miss the benefits and opportunities that SaaS business services can offer them. It seems that many feel current SaaS offerings are just not designed for their needs. With the time and money ‘Software as a Service’ solutions can potentially save this group of professionals though, it seems likely that this situation will soon be changing.

75% of all companies registered in the Netherlands fall into the group of freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs. It’s reasonable to assume this applies to other countries as well. Notably, most of these people do not use business software for running their businesses. The reason for this is simple: it seems not to be meant for them. The available solutions seem too complex and/or too expensive – the cheaper ones too simple to meet their requirements.

Freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs, or ZZP-ers as they are called in the Netherlands, differ from other types of companies. Their company is ‘just’ them, their private and business affairs often intertwined. Their finances, time and social lives are influenced personally and professionally. They know what they are capable of, they understand their clients and they like doing their job. They generally do not know accounting, don’t understand fiscal law and do not like doing administration.

These professionals generally spend 8 to 10 hours a week on admin and acquiring new business – as much as 20% of their time spent on activities they do not like and do not bring in any money. Any other type of company would begin automating or outsourcing this to save time and expense. Unfortunately though, when you don’t have the money, you’re forced to make the time.

The challenge therefore lies in offering a solution for ZZP-ers which will save them time and money. The answer lies in SaaS-based services. They require no investment and the monthly recurring subscription fees are reasonable given the added value and spread over the year. Services that help to process expense receipts, split private and business expenses and directly result in correct VAT returns and income statements can save a lot of time. The same applies to services that help you to get invoices out and paid in time. But what about saving time and money?

For freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs time really is money. Doing things yourself (like your administration or accounts) allows the money you would otherwise spend on someone else (an accountant) to be saved. A paper administration and some spreadsheets can be very time consuming though, especially for the non-expert. The right tools and support are essential for ‘doing it yourself’ to be a practical solution.

The good news is that SaaS-based solutions for this group are already available. However, the very near future will also see service solutions developed specifically for them. They form a large and important group in our economy and therefore deserve to be supported. The main question is what services should be developed first to benefit ZZP-ers as soon as possible?

So what happens once freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs can save both time and money? More time to work and earn more money or more money used to work less and enjoy more private time? It’s an exciting question for them – after all, that freedom of choice is why they became self-employed or a freelancer in the first place!

The author of this blog post is principal research engineer at Exact, focusing on researching business services offered through Software as a Service.