Pixelated Solutions, a new concept of a Digital Collective

Pixelated Solutions is out of the box thinking of a digital agency. We’re calling it a digital collective or “freelance collective”. Pixelated Solution is dedicated to bringing best value to creative mojo.

Pixelated Solutions is a break from the traditional digital agency model of an owner / bureaucracy / worker hierarchy and replacing it with a model of vetted buy-in partnership.

The issue is that digital agencies are not very scale-able and therefore profits are limited. In addition the primary cost of a digital agency is not infrastructure or suppliers but the talented people whom work there. This scenario forces owners to deflate wages (minimizing cost) and inflating billable hourly rates (boosting profit margins).

But in a digital agency where the talent is the real value driver, this seemed to me like a case of the tail wags the dog. Ownership, bureaucracy, and administration account for the lion’s share of the billable rate but contribute proportionally little to any given finished product. True the owners do provide vision, capital, network, and so on but to me and many freelancers the numbers don’t add up.

On the other hand, freelancers get a lot of credit because we avoid the trappings of a corporate bureaucracy and live on our own individual talent, drive, and reputation. We get paid commensurate with the value we provide and we get to discriminate between the projects we want to take on and those we don’t. We are beholden to no one but the client’s approval.

As a client I like to work with freelancers because I have a greater degree of direct contact with person responsible for getting work done and I am cheap so working with freelancers I save a lot of money.

But the limitation is always that freelancers can only provide so much work and only in a very specific area. Most freelancers are specialists. Freelancers must also keep a regular amount of work on their plate or risk having work lulls. Therefore rush work or work that involves two or more disciplines often isn’t very well suited for freelancers.

Pixelated Solutions’ Solution

Pixelated Solutions was formed to take the positive aspects of a digital agency – comprehensive services, administrative support, and a project management and quality control methodology – and put that together with the positive aspects of freelance – minimal bureaucracy, value / efficiency, and more control on the part of the client and the developers / designers / photographers / etc.

We do this by forming a collective. Individual designers, photographers, and developers are suggested to us or apply directly to be a part of the collective. They are vetted and if we think they’re capable and will work well within our methodology, they’re brought on-board to try out for a project or two. During a project new members have specific deliverables and quality measures. If they complete their work and do a good job they are offered a chance to become a member of the collective.

Once a member of the collective they are able to contribute to collective projects, use the name of the Pixelated Solutions brand for their own projects, and represent the collective to new clients. All work done under the Pixelated Solutions name is supported by a team of members as mentors, quality control, and in cases that require multiple disciplines or additional support we can form work-groups. All work that is performed by members under the Pixelated Solutions name is billed hourly and accounted for on an individual basis so that everyone receives the share they are entitled based upon the value they provide. In this way every member maintains control over their own pricing, hours, and projects.

Creating the institution I’ve come up with a number of solutions to obvious risks such as safeguarding against incomplete or shoddy work. I also have designs on partnership buy-in system to finance a marketing and administrative budget but will save that for a later stage. At this point the collective is still in a fact-finding stage for me but I have reason to be hopeful: We’ve successfully completed several projects and received tremendous feedback. I’m very excited to learn what the future will bring and in the meantime it is a lot of fun.

Physical Products Marry the Web

These days it seems like every day I meet someone starting a business with a revolutionary new business model to reshape the product lifecycle by (in one way or another) marrying it to the web, and they are doing this because they want to create better products or somehow squeeze some new efficiency out of the deal.

What i mean is not the simple ecommerce marriage (although look how much that has changed the landscape of things) but beyond. For example, today I met with a great young CEO that’s in the early startup phase of her concept BundShop. The general idea is that it helps designers in China reach markets abroad by using an umbrella company that organizes marketing, promotion, sales and distrobution. Its something for the low volume or independent designer who feels restricted (by either time, knowhow, money, or enthusiasm) to get the greatest potential out of their concept.

What i think is remarkable is that this conversation was the second of its kind TODAY and the fifth this week. I’m no VC but I can feel it when the wind is blowing in a certain direction. Luckily I’ve been moving in this direction for some years. In a recent job interview I gushed about how excited I was to be considered an expert in this feild. And really, I am. I’ve been thinking about this for 5 or so years, built two business models on the premise, and given speeches, presentations, and so on on the subject of what the internet can bring to the product lifecycle.

One of the most important insights I think I’ve had on the subject is that manufacturers (I know a few) are REALLY slow to adopt efficiencies that can be found on the web. Just as a rule of thumb manufacturers and the product development minded are a little old school in their methods. To be fair, many of the standard practices of the manufacturing industry have roots that can be traced back MILLENNIUM. Their not exactly big on reinventing the wheel.

Of course globalization has had major implications for almost every sector of the manufacturing industry. The rules of economy of scale have been redefined in scope and kind. All the elements from supply-chain-management to logistics have had thier books rewritten.

That said, you still have productive manufacturers capable of competing with limited technology or machinery in many sectors like furniture design. And many of the others that adopt modern manufacturing techniques focus on internal efficiencies.

What i mean to point out is that these aren’t the people you see checking their iphone4s midshift downloading the newest app and thinking about how “cool” it would be if you you bring the web into manufacturing. Manufacturing marrying the web has taken longer than other industries but my read is that I will continue to have conversations about this and as it starts to penetrate deeper into the culture it may prove to be as big a game changer as globalization.

Rant :: China I’m Ticked

I know that everyone in China has experienced this often. You go to google, type in your search term, and get your results (sometimes). Maybe you even get to open a few pages (sometimes). Till somewhere down the line all the pages start coming back Error not found on server. Wham. Now your screwed! You either switch search engines (not baidu because when searching for certain workarounds about wordpress it seems to return a lot of junk), or you close your whole browser and start again. Until it happens again, and again. And you get seriously fustrated.

So you open your VPN and whalla, the web is available to you again, google opens its loving arms and you are once again able to peruse articles that make your forehead hurt b/c your researching the vast complexities of wordpress patches and mod_rewrites on shared hosts, etc.

But wait! You found the code snippet you think may work and want to try it! Hurrah!

Woops, your FTP crashes with some sort of IP conflict whenever its on the VPN these days. Shoot.

So you turn off your VPN. Restart your FTP. Upload your code. Test your file. And it either works or it doesn’t and either way you keep working on finding newer better snippets to deal with different or the same problems until. Wham. Google Error. VPN. FTP Crash. VPN off. Google Error. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Seriously, I can’t wait until China starts to trust us on the internet and we can go back to the neverending annoyances of code building as opposed to all these self-imposed hoop-jumping. 99% of the time I really don’t care that China hates Google but right now I just needed to say: I love you China but right now, I’m ticked.