Fisqual is a tool that empowers freelancers and small businesses to feel financially secure in their independent ventures. The app analyzes freelancers’ income and spending history and calculates a stable monthly income from variable earnings.
As designers and art students, many of our peers use freelance as their primary form of income. As a result, they are often plagued with considerable anxiety over the variability of their money flow. Some months may be ripe with client contracts, others may result in a barren checking account. Our first-hand experiences with freelancers pushed Amanda and I to dive deep into the lives of self-employed people. We were inspired to pursue a product-based solution to the struggles faced by people with variable income.
Additionally, we consulted studies conducted by outside companies on freelance work, and drew the following statistics of significance.
To get a bigger picture for the future of self-employment, we read a study on freelancing conducted by Forbes in 2018. Most statistics pointed to a rapid increase in freelancing within the next decade.
To research how widespread this postulated problem may be, we sent out a questionnaire around the Maryland Institute College of Art, as well as freelancers that were in our professional network on LinkedIn. We received several responses to the following questions posed:
The following are some of the most insightful quotes we have gathered from the aforementioned survey, as well as the interviews.
We picked two interviewers who were most vocal about their habits as freelancers and conducted in depth interviews with them for further insight. Amanda took on Devin, a freelance product designer from New York City, while I interviewed Katie, a freelance graphic designer from rural Maryland.
After conducting questionnaires, interviewing freelance designers and consulting outside sources on the state of self-employment, as well as the future of the market, we concluded the following:
Given the discoveries, we created a journey map for the average freelance project to put our findings onto a centralized timeline and analyze possible pain points associated with self-employment.
How might we ensure financial wellness for self-employed people with variable incomes?
We decided to conduct a competitive analysis of existing finance management applications to see how compatible they are with freelance work. The following financial management and budgeting mobile applications were installed and thoroughly researched:
With such a wide spectrum of features, across such a wide spectrum of apps, it is important to keep a narrow scope. With only 24 hours to complete a working prototype and so many possible exploratory paths, we focused on just three principles: centralization, handsfree and adaptability.
Keeping the three principles in mind, we’ve narrowed our list of features to the following:
A major pivot for the project is whether we want to visualize the data in terms of time or in terms of money. The tree of prototypes below is an exploration of this idea. At the time, the timeline-based view has grown to be more favored by us, because, based on our interviews, freelancers often worded their concerns about living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Once the first iteration was completed, Amanda and I seeked out several testers, which there were plenty of in a hackathon setting. We sat down with several volunteers and had them go through the user flow one by one, jotting down any comments they might have. The following issues became apparent after our user tests:
After the user tests, we condensed our concepts into fewer screens, cleaned up our copywriting and re-structured the information architecture:
After we finalized our changes, we created an animated prototype using Principle and prepared our pitch. During the judging session, we allowed students, mentors and judges alike try out our product. At the end of the hackathon, it was announced that Fisqual has won the Best Product for Small Businesses award.