← BACKSurely Work: 0–1

Surely Work: 0–1

Simplifying short-term hiring for employers and creators.

I’ve led product design at Surely Work since our inception in May 2022 until now, April 2024 (the time of writing this).

Why Surely? Why now?

Joseph and I founded Surely Work to address a critical issue in the entertainment industry – the absence of an efficient job posting and networking platform. Industry professionals relied on their personal social media networks to enlist contractors via Instagram stories. After gathering talent, there wasn’t a common use place to organize and archive these connections. Existing job platforms aren’t conducive to immediate, short-term engagements. This created a closed job market wherein employers struggle to find new talent, and talent struggles to find opportunity.

We set out to develop a networking platform that was undeniably useful, simple, and open.

Building an audience

Our first release: Surely Post

I built a prototype of our initial idea in Webflow, but it couldn’t natively support user-generated content and CRUD functionalities well enough for a public launch. We faced our first hurdle. How can we build an audience while building our platform? I knew our platform would rely on network effects for growth, so I wanted to get a head start on building our audience before launch.

I identified a standalone feature our engineer could build quickly: a simple formatting tool to standardize the mess of Instagram stories. This feature expanded our social media and newsletter reach from hundreds of people to thousands, as each story pointed viewers back to our site and socials. In three months of Surely Post, we gathered over 1,000 contacts in our audience.

Surely Post wasn’t an MVP or a shoddy version of our final product, it was an SLC (Simple, Lovable, and Complete) feature.

Validating Ideas

With Surely Post organically growing our social presence, it was time to build the beta. At the time, we knew our audience—in fact, we were our audience. The idea for the beta was designed on our lived experiences as freelancer and employer, then later validated with user feedback.

The Surely Work beta was to be a simple jobs marketplace with one twist: freelancers were not required to onboard or register their profiles.


Why not require accounts?

To continue building our audience and reduce time spent on engineering, I advocated to reduce the friction of signing up for our platform and not require freelancers to create profiles. This nixed about 70% of the potential users on our platform.

But, this approach still enabled us to collect demographic data and contact info from our account-less users via job applications and it didn’t require us to spend precious time designing and building the infrastructure for public profiles. Valuing user information over account creation allowed us to seamlessly transition a large percentage of our contacts to Surely Work 1.0 after the beta, without needing to explain a database migration.

The beta pulled in 300 jobs over 6-months as we learned what it would take to build Surely 1.0. During the beta, our newsletter tripled in size to an audience of 3,000+.

Beta → 1.0

The reception of the beta along with results of user interviews and feedback solicited on social media validated our idea that this platform was in demand and scalable. We raised seed money from friends and family and hired engineers to more quickly build the platform you see today.

Now that our ideas were validated, I was able to justify a greater time spend on building our current design language, taking us from a utilitarian UI design to one with a personality that we rally around for our paid and organic socials advertising.


Now that our product is in a stable state, my time is focused on leading the engines of growth for Surely Work, spearheading cohort analyses and working to iteratively improve our product and increase conversion rates.


As of writing this, 6-months after releasing Surely Work 1.0, we’ve amassed 8,500 audience members and over 6,000 users, with over a 5% conversion rate to paid users.

All told, the journey from an idea and a sketch to Surely 1.0 took us 16 months. The most potent learnings I’ve had are these:

  • Understand what your growth is dependent upon and optimize for it in every decision. We sacrificed user accounts for dependable contacts and focused our energy on organic social growth.
  • Have a good full-stack engineer on board from the jump and incentivize them properly. They’ll save you time, money, and heartache.
  • Trust your gut to take you to launch, then trust your users to hone your product.
  • “Fight hierarchy and bureaucracy as hard as you possibly can.” All too often I’ve found myself falling into management mode, but startups should be an opportunity to trust each other to excel in your individual talents.

Other Case Studies from Surely Work

Surely Work Design System

Surely Work Onboarding