Maari Casey is an ad-agency art director turned freelancer turned entrepreneur. After leaving the full-time agency, she began freelancing and discovered a void between the quickly growing talent pool of freelance consultants and clients looking to connect with this resource.
In 2015 she founded Raleigh-based Uncompany with a lofty goal of making unconventional working as accessible and acceptable as full-time.
1. What is in your pockets?
Between my pockets and my purse, I usually have iPhone cords that are tied in this gigantic knot, that I can never untangle by the time I need to plug it into my phone. I come from a long line of note-sters and list-makers. I remember my mom always had grocery lists tucked into every single pocket. I have a combination of grocery lists, things I need to remember, and reminders on sticky notes. Some of them end up in my pocket.
During Covid, I usually have at least one or two masks in my pocket. Usually, one of them is a kid’s mask and one of them is mine. Because my kids are always forgetting them, I usually have a couple of them in either my purse or my pocket.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
We were recently featured in Forbes. We were super-excited about that.
Uncompany is trying to create a system and a process and a community that makes freelancing as frictionless as possible. Both for clients who work with freelancers, but also for freelancers to grow and build a business and a career. We have slowly started to develop all of those components. Connecting freelancers to the right clients, building custom teams. Ongoing career development for freelancers, and the contractors; and for clients, how to work with an unconventional workforce.
It comes from my experience working first in an agency setting and then transitioning to freelance and seeing this massive move for clients to utilize these workers. There’s no real system or process. It feels like the Wild West of working. I experienced it on a client side and on a freelance side, experiencing the frustrations of how hard it can be as an individual, independent worker, to build a business, find the right clients, get paid on time, get paid what you’re supposed to get paid, and grow your career.
Then I found on the client side, how hard it was to tap in and find the right talent, retain the right talent, work with them through your kind of operating process, and make sure that everybody understands the process. Uncompany is trying to pull those together, so that for a client it’s a no-brainer to work with a talent pool. A freelancer can easily connect to the larger community. It’s a hybrid of a staffing company, a hybrid of a creative freelance agency and also an operational system.
We’re starting to get more exposure and more interest outside of this area. I think it has a lot to do with the nature of what Covid has exposed. We’ve seen in the last five or six months a lot more clients, a lot of agencies and brands who are really looking to tap into a flexible staffing model. We realized early on, that there needs to be a way for people to use freelance staff more effectively. We’ve had client interest in building these flexible teams and looking at different ways to build their staff with more freelancers fully embedded with the full-time staff.
The other thing that we’re working on right now is building software that we will be testing through the end of the year. This software will be used to run our on-deck service—a flexible, adaptive team we’ve been building. It makes it easier for our clients to work with freelancers and for freelancers to work with clients. We’ve been working on that for about a year now.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot
Now that I live in North Raleigh, Sola is my neighborhood coffee shop and they do a great job. They’re open outside. I love all the area’s coffee shops and bounce between Sola, Jubala, Fount, Beyu, and Cocoa Cinnamon when I am in Durham.
4. What keeps you up at night?
It’s just making sure that we’re building a business that has margins and is not growing too quickly and out of control. Basically that we’re making really intentional decisions. I have two young kids and have a handicapped brother who lives with us. It’s important for me to build a business that also works with my life. The reasons why a lot of people move towards independent working is because they need to find that flexibility.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
Most of my happy hours are in this place in my desk chair. But there’s so many good restaurants in this area. In Durham, it would be Dashi. And there’s this little Japanese sushi place in Cameron Village, called Ajisai. They have the best sushi.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
Next for us will be to get a piece of software tested and rolled out to our client base. This year during Covid, we’ve spent a lot of time starting to build out our community, connecting freelancers, connecting clients, doing webinars, doing virtual meetups. Next year, the education component will be something that we’ll be really working on as well. That will involve education and training for our freelancers on how to build a business, what the business side of working independently looks like. Also, education for our clients. How to manage, onboard, and work with a freelance team. At least the first two quarters of next year we’ll focus on getting the software rolled out and then build around education in spring.