Hola! I’m Albert, the 25-year old founder of UnderPinned, an early-stage platform for freelancers. In a former pre-entrepreneurial life I was a ballet dancer turned philosophy of science graduate. Today, I get to combine my love of creativity with computer science, logic and logical problem-solving. I started my business at university and it was a six-figure company within a year. Within three years, it is an eight-figure company.
What inspired you to launch your business and what is the end goal?
I’ve ran an arts and media company working with hundreds of fine artists, sculptors and painters who didn’t really know how to commercialise their work or skills. So I was helping them build successful businesses out of what they were doing – from selling their work to using and commercialising their skills, all to support the work that they were creating. Firstly, it was very much with just artists, but then it was graphic designers and illustrators, poets, copywriters, and journalists, and then consultants, translators, coaches and teachers.
Eventually, I was sitting down with an accountant and I thought, of all the people in the world that I would expect to understand how to build a freelance and independent business, it would be an accountant! And the truth is that the knowledge just wasn’t there. I knew a plethora of people with passion and skills and crafts, but none of them had ever left education or full time employment with any real idea of how to build a successful business. So UnderPinned was created as an answer, to create a place that gives people access to building successful businesses around their skill, which they already have in abundance.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
I always take a 2-3 hour lunch break which has massively increased my productivity which includes a workout on my own. That is my space to calibrate and come back to the second half of the day with renewed vigour.
Working with a co-founder can be tricky, so understanding and compromise is important. How have you both found the process of building a business together? What makes it work?
I met Jack at a poker game where we were the first two out of the game but despite this, he is saved in my phone as Jack “Poker Queen” Williams and I’m in his as Albert “Poker King” Azis-Clauson. We quickly became close friends, worked and even lived together. It works because underneath it all is a solid relationship – we even have the same company logo tattooed on our arms. Our roles are also massively split. I’m the business and technical brain and Jack is creative. Our opposite personalities mean we keep each other in check. Typically, that is me running at a million miles per hour and him slowing me down by asking lots of questions.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think we stand out because of the way we make money, putting our community first. Working with early-stage freelancers can sometimes be difficult because if they’re not successful financially, traditionally they’re seen as not a particularly valuable customers. But the way we’ve constructed our system around community and education, as well as technology, gives us a unique proposition. Everyone is valuable, so we can afford to invest in them.
What social media channel has worked best for your business and why?
Instagram for our b2c- I think it’s the hybrid channel between social and business upskilling. In terms of keeping in front of investors and wider business connections I would say LinkedIn has been invaluable.
Describe your business in three words.
Freelance. Technology. Upskill.
How have you found trialling a 4-day week?
Over the last three years we’ve been trialling multiple members on a four-day week before rolling out across the whole team. We have found the team to be more productive and the extra time off has in fact sparked more creative ideas and proactivity across the junior team members. However, after our research, we’ve decided it only works when the whole team does it at the same time, rather than allowing some senior members to have this perk. The key challenges are around maintaining productivity across different teams who have different working formats. I’m also pro giving employees time to do life-admin, as otherwise, they do it in lunch breaks which can make it very intense, or it eats into their weekends and they have to do it on a Saturday.
How has the pandemic shifted how your team works?
Many of our team moved out of London across the UK and Europe during the lockdown. We will stay remote forever now, at least in some format. So the key thing for us decision wise is to focus on how we can align people at work, who wouldn’t otherwise talk to each other to make sure they have touchpoints. And aligning people culturally and socially by making sure that are specific channels for people to deliberately interact in a social format.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
The takeaway for me is always open every door, meet every person because you never know when you’re going to find the next person who is going to help you. Particularly when you’re getting started.
Any new product launches we should know about?
Lots in the pipeline but one of the big things that is coming from UnderPinned is our new freelance business accelerator – it really is the ultimate guide to freelancing. There’ll be huge amounts of updates and upgrades between now and the New Year, which will make it a kind of complete, integrated experience. It will take you from absolutely nothing to landing your first client as a freelancer and feeling competent about having used your success to bring goodness to the world. We also have some university partnerships in the pipeline as a big goal for us as a business is to help increase the employability of graduates by arming them with the knowledge to go out and do this.