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The lockdown project that might turn into a permanent platform

Notepad Studio managing director Naeem Alvi
Naeem Alvi ran brainstorming sessions to see how Notepad could help

Brand agency Notepad saw an opportunity to connect struggling organisations with freelancers out of work during the crisis. What started as a small website has rapidly become a thriving platform – called Sometime – with the potential for commercialisation.

When coronavirus hit the UK, Notepad founder Naeem Alvi started thinking about how his team could support charities and essential services. Then, while scrolling through social media, he saw how many freelance creatives were out of work. 

“We thought, why don’t we combine the two? So we did some really quick, dirty validation. I put out a tweet and said, ‘creatives, if you’re sitting at home with nothing to do, would you be up for helping organisations solve coronavirus-related problems?’ We had about 30 people reply back who were interested,” Naeem said.

Accelerate your processes to create an MVP

Many freelancers agreed to offer their time for free if the organisations didn’t have any budget. The idea clearly had potential – Notepad just needed a brand and website to tie it together.

“We accelerated our process. Our strategist Ian came up with the strategy and messaging in two or three days. That included the name, tagline, mission and values. Then our designer Josh brought together the brand identity in a couple of days,” Naeem remembered.

“It took us about a day to build a very basic website on Squarespace, which allowed creatives to sign up and organisations to get in touch. That’s how Sometime was born.”

Explore different ways to offer value

Sometime website
Sometime was born out of team brainstorming sessions

So far, Sometime has connected freelance creatives with around 50 briefs in seven weeks. Freelancers have worked with hospitals, charities and wildlife trusts. In some cases, organisations have requested a simple illustration then realised they need a full rebrand. They’ve been able to find some funding and now work with that freelancer on a paid basis.

“The quality of the work is outstanding. Now we’re starting to think about what we’re going to do with it once it grows. Something we didn’t initially think about is that we’re kind of a recruiter. We’re a connector – even if it’s not paid work to get going, we’re helping organisations find decent creators,” Naeem said.

The mission for Sometime is to solve 1,000 coronavirus-related problems. It’s a sizeable amount, but Sometime is attracting more creators and briefs every day.

Build relationships outside of your sector

It’s early days for Sometime, but the plan is to grow the platform and then look for ways to commercialise it. One option is to raise corporate funding as a corporate social responsibility play. There’s also the option to bring in partners who could help run it. 

However, the website is already benefiting Notepad. The agency might be building a name for itself in the brand industry, but Sometime has given Notepad a voice in the wider creative world.

“The first priority – consciously – for Sometime was to help people and do something good. Subconsciously, I think we thought: was this going to give us a platform to raise Notepad’s profile? Sometime has given us a much easier marketing platform to speak to people from,” Naeem said.

“Since we launched Sometime, we’ve had a lot of enquiries in. One example is a hospital in Birmingham that wanted to get briefs out on the Sometime platform. They wanted really basic tasks, but we built a relationship with them. As a result, we’re starting to have bigger conversations with them about their own brand and vision and ambition.”

Have you made some technological additions to your business? Are they changes that are here to stay? We’d love to hear about your experience. Here’s how.

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