Almost anyone can write – but who can write well enough to get paid for it? Sunil Rajaraman helped create a platform for freelancers where the hard work of evaluating their ability isn’t left with the client; it’s done by Scripted.com’s own team so that contractors can hire with confidence.
Sunil has always had a passion for writing, although it wasn’t until about two years ago that he got paid for any of his own material. But he writes regularly for a magazine and is an occasional contributor to the New York Observer. And he helped create a company that, by the time he moved on, had helped freelancers earn more than $1 million.
Working in the corporate world wasn’t sitting well with Sunil; he didn’t see where he was going. He decided that returning to study, to pursue an MBA, would give him the opportunity to step back and see where he was going.
It was on his way to start studying that he had his first idea: the creation of a collaborative online space for working on screenplays. While there were other spaces available for writers, this site would support the specific formatting needs of scripts and screenplays that are necessary for submission and would allow several writers to work together.
The difficulty for writers is always being able to sell their work before they’ve established a name for themselves. The idea was that this platform would help facilitate the process, but even after a merger with Zhura, they still had trouble monetizing the business. The merger brought a small angel investor – but they soon realized that $200,000 doesn’t go all that far in the industry!
An initial launch came in 2007 and “official” launch in January 2008. They got mentioned in some blogs, and quickly had between 3000 and 5000 users, and 20,000 within a year. By 2010 they were at 70-80,000.
A change of style led to their eventual success. A contact asked if they had anyone who could write advertising copy for Levi’s. They reached out to their base and got a lot of replies. Levi’s was impressed with both the quality and the price, which led to a rethinking and relaunch under the new name of Scripted.com.
The difference here, compared to other freelancing sites, is that the writers were vetted. There is a required English test and a rating given by three writers that focuses on multiple dimensions. Of course, plagiarism checks were also built in.
This new model led to better success. By the end of 2013, they were generating over $150,000 a month and were glad to celebrate the landmark of paying $1 million to their writers.
Sunil saw challenges, of course:
- Should the focus be on small or large customers? If you get too many large customers too soon, it can take control of your business
- In raising their Series “A”, they were delayed in reaching their $4.5 million goal because investors were looking for confirmation of market size and the importance of content marketing
While they hoped to reach their Series “A” goal in 2013, it finally came early in 2014. Sunil led the company also through a Series “B” before deciding to move on.
He now works as head of marketing for Replicon and is owner of the digital magazine Bold Italic. He plans to eventually start another company, but for now is grateful for the opportunity to learn more at a later-stage startup.
Advice for others starting out
- Don’t overthink it,
- Find a cofounder you respect and can support each other over the long term
- Find something you’re passionate about