Strahinja Vukoičić, Honorarci.rs

www.nesta.org.uk/case-study/strahinja-vukoi%C4%8Di%C4%87-honorarcirs/
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An online platform to help freelancers and gig workers in Serbia advertise their services, build their portfolio and find new clients.

Strahinja Vukoičić, along with three co-founders, spotted a gap for an online platform to help freelancers and gig workers in Serbia advertise their services, build their portfolio and find new clients. The idea came in early 2014 and the first version of Honorarci.rs launched in the same year.

Already a serial entrepreneur (Honorarci.rs is his fourth business venture), Strahinja attended the Creative Enterprise Programme (CEP) in Skopje, Macedonia in November 2016 and believes that, when it comes to business, “you can never learn too much”.

Tailoring the product

Strahinja valued the chance to take a step back and focus on the business, and says the workshop helped shift his approach in some key areas.

“I think one of the most important things I learned at CEP is that you really need to know your customer,” he says.

“At first, we thought that everyone was our customer. With the first version of our platform, we were targeting every single person that wandered onto our website, and tried to meet the need of every single profile, and that’s impossible.”

Strahinja Vukoičić

"[After CEP], we realised you really need to focus on a certain group of people that you identify as your greatest customers, and try to acquire as much of that customer base as possible. You cannot talk to everybody and you cannot please everybody.”

The founders changed their approach; rather than trying to serve everyone, they began focusing in on a specific group and trying to meet their needs. They started interacting with early adopters, via email and then a poll, asking what they thought about Honorarci.rs and what would be most valuable for them, and using this feedback to improve the user experience.

Building a business model

Following CEP, the team began developing the second version of the platform, which introduced monetisation for the first time. Strahinja says this was an iterative process of communicating with customers, testing and tweaking to develop a viable business model.

“In the first version we didn’t charge for anything, because we just wanted to acquire as many users as we could. We needed to interact with customers to try to understand what they would pay for, and how we could differentiate between a free user and a premium user.”

Strahinja Vukoičić

The second version of Honorarci.rs launched in August 2017, with a new premium membership model. Freelancers can still register and advertise their services for free; or for €5 a month they can become a ‘super freelancer’, with visually highlighted ads.

Freelancers can also purchase various digital products to help them stand out on the platform, such as pinned ads and badges, for around €5-15 each. Clients can also register and post jobs for free. As of May 2018, Honorarci.rs has around 20,000 users in Serbia, and is growing each month.

Going for growth

The team plans to expand across the Balkan region, specifically Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro – all markets the company can serve from its current base in Belgrade.

“It’s a really good opportunity, because we don’t need to scale in terms of operations, but we can double the marketplace,” says Strahinja.

In May 2018, the company joined the Venture Growth Accelerator, a six-month incubation programme organised by Impact Hub Belgrade and Startup Wise Guys. Honorarci.rs was one of five companies selected (out of 100) following a pitching competition, securing €50,000 investment to help develop the platform further and boost marketing activity.

Strahinja says CEP helped him hone his pitching skills: “[During CEP], this is where I made the most progress, because we were guided to develop a really strong pitch, and we were working on the business idea as well.”

Strahinja’s advice for entrepreneurs is: “Don’t hesitate, just try, because entrepreneurship is not something you can learn from books or training alone. Education is really important, but you need to actually try to do something.”