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Winner of Vanilla Forums CMAD 2016 Award: Sam Whitaker from OneSpace

Posted by Adrian Speyer on Feb 18, 2016 9:30:37 AM
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CMAD Winner Sam Whitaker

We were very excited to be a sponsor of CMAD 2016, with our friends at CMAD.co. We were also inspired to recognize the hard work of community managers using Vanilla Forums. We asked and you responded with numerous nominations. After reviewing all submissions, it is quite obvious that there are many great and hard-working community managers using the Vanilla platform, so it was really a hard choice. In the end, the standout winner is someone who had a major impact on their community and on their company.

Sam Whitaker from OneSpace is our winner for the 2016 CMAD award from Vanilla. Jayme O'Renic, VP Client Services at OneSpace who was one of the people who nominated Sam for the award, really summed it up best:

"Sam is a true advocate and positive force for our community members. He listens to their comments, good and bad, and is quick to take action. Our team of freelancers who make up our community know that Sam is approachable, and they can trust him to listen to their requests.

Our company recently rebranded from CrowdSource to OneSpace, and as well all know, change can be hard. Sam spent many hours fielding questions from our community and sharing their feedback with our team. He was able to balance and recognize real issues versus constructive criticism. We are incredibly fortunate to have Sam on our team!"

We couldn't wait to talk with Sam, to learn more him and OneSpace.


Adrian: Congrats on winning the CMAD Award from Vanilla!

Sam: Thanks so much, this was quite a pleasant surprise.

Adrian: So can you tell me about OneSpace for those who may not be familiar with it?

Sam: As you know we used to be CrowdSource, and up to about maybe a year ago we were largely a managed service for enterprise clients. They would come to us with projects that they wanted to get done at scale and we'd pitch them how we could solve it using our Freelance workforce.

We launched our own platform in March 2014 and we started the rebrand towards a SaaS platform which is how it started to go from the CrowdSource to OneSpace. We really just want to be the one space where freelancers and companies go to solve their scalable solutions and eventually one-shot projects to connect with the freelancers. We'll be launching a newer platform to make this even easier, shortly.

Adrian: Wow. So essentially companies can tap into your workforce and get projects done, and you manage the interactions with the freelancers.

Sam: Exactly.

Adrian: What made you join OneSpace? Were you a freelancer?

Sam: Actually, I joined the OneSpace team about 4 years ago as a workforce experience intern. I was dealing with a lot of freelancer emails during the day and coming up with communication plans for the freelancers. I was in that role for a couple of months and then I switched over to the project management side. So I was then working with our freelancers to complete our projects. Last January, I then moved back into the workforce development manager role and have been working with the freelancers ever since.

Adrian: Which I guess means interacting with the community of freelancers is part of your role? How is OneSpace leveraging community?

Sam: Yeah, so we've always had a forum presence. There are a couple of different ways we use the forum. First and foremost, and the most important, it offers the peer to peer interaction that the freelancers are missing from a traditional business setting.

So if you're a salaried employee at a corporate office, you're gonna go in every day and talk with your peers, your friends or what not. But when you're working remotely, from home or from a coffee shop, the forum is really a great way to connect. For example, it's a way for our writers to talk to our editors, or other writers to talk to one another. They can discuss pain points or how they can improve their techniques in a certain way. This is certainly one of the reasons our community is so important.

I am mostly focused on freelancer development, and of course, our freelancers are our community, so fostering positive relationships is important.

We also use the community community to talk administrator-to-freelancers and freelancers-to-administrators. So for example, we can talk about the status of the project, including if there are any changes. It's great for realtime feedback and collaboration so that we can help clarify certain points and they can have a better idea of what we (or the clients) are looking for. If we have to stop a project for couple hours, we can also communicate that easily.

The real goal is so that the freelancers are not in the dark about the operations happening in the office.

And the last way we use the community platform to communicate between our team and the freelancer workforce is overall feedback on how we are doing. You definitely gauge the sentiment on how we are doing on current projects and how we are communicating. That is invaluable. The one thing we can't do as a company that relies on freelancers is just neglect them. So the interaction between us and them on the forum is very important.

Adrian: So have you had any surprising results or unexpected benefits you didn't expect?

Sam: One positive thing we have seen, we are able to find those freelancers out there who aren't only interested in the work we are providing them, but in the company in general. Of course, with freelancers you're always going to have people who see it as an opportunity to just make some extra money, but then there are those other people who will go the extra mile and also help others understand what we are doing. So, for example, if we already covered a topic a couple of weeks ago, and the same question is brought up by someone else, we see those special individuals jump in and just help new freelancers with the information or to get adjusted to using the platform. Just seeing some of those freelancers go out there and go the extra mile to help others is incredibly beneficial to us, and it's really good to know who those people are so we can rely on them.

Adrian: That's great. People like that make a community a nice place to be.

Sam: The relationships can't just be us releasing work and freelancers showing up. We are trying really hard to make it feel like a team. Personally, it's rewarding to work with the freelancers and help communicate what's going on in the office and what our goals are. And I also really like being a community advocate for them in the office, share their feedback from the forum and be their champion.

Adrian: It's obvious you really care a lot, so what's a piece of advice you wish you would have had when you started?

Sam: That's a great question. The best piece of advice would be: you can try to make everyone happy in the community, and you should try to do that, but don't take it super hard if you can't. I kind of struggled with that at the start. I wanted to get a positive response from everybody, but when they were a couple that weren't, it kind of weighed on me. What I learned is overall you try to keep the community happy, but you won't necessarily be able to keep everyone always happy.

So basically if you get a couple of negative responses, keep your head up and keep trying to do your best and stick with it. You need to focus on making the overall community succeed. When negative situations do happen, take them as learning opportunities and move forward.

Adrian: Thanks so much for that advice, I am sure it will come in handy.

Sam: I do want to say, though, what makes things great are the little interactions with those freelancers who do let you know you are appreciated and go the extra mile for the community.

Adrian: Certainly. The community at OneSpace is very lucky to have someone such as yourself so passionate about them. Once again, congratulations on the award.

Sam:Thank you so much. I am so honored. It's not something I ever expected.

Adrian: Our pleasure!

If you're a freelancer and you are looking to join OneSpace, you can do so right on their website here. All you need is a verified Paypal account, select your interests and you will then do some courses to be placed in the right level.

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