Jobs / Startups

Compass pivots to become an agency, launches payments service for freelancers

The five-person company launched Sail, in beta mode.

At the new Center City offices of Compass. (Courtesy photo)
If you’re friends with a freelancer, likely you’ve heard them gripe about the pain of hunting invoices. If you’re a freelancer yourself, you’re likely trying to track down your money across clients in the neighboring browser tab.

That’s the painpoint Mike Wilner’s company, Compass, saw among freelancers while running the firm, formerly a web design marketplace. The Baltimore native’s company, which was spawned from a Venture for America fellowship, raised $300,000 last year to ramp up marketing and support the team as the startup evolved.

Earlier this month, the company shook things up, big time: Compass pivoted to operate as a web dev agency and launched a software product called Sail which promises to aid freelancers in their hunt for invoices from clients.

“It’s a tool that helps them manage client relationships and helps them power their business,” cofounder Wilner told It’s currently in a private beta mode, and freelancers can request early access to the tool.

Wilner sees this endeavor as a more scaleable one thanks to the growing freelance force. “They’re becoming business owners and this makes it easier to manage payments, which is not really fun to talk about,” he said.

The team of five was perched up at Benjamin’s Desk’s Washington Square spot, but they recently made the move to an office in the 400 block of 10th Street. It shares the Callowhill space with fellow startup Cardinal. Wilner said they’re looking for some more tenants to join the space.

As for Sail’s pricing model, that’s still being worked out with feedback from the users in the beta. Eventually, it may follow the SaaS scheme and there’s also the transactional fee model (charging per payments tracked and processed). “With the beta we’re not yet charging,” Wilner said. “We’re figuring out what would help us add value.”

To help figure out Sail’s place in the freelancing tools space, we reached out to some freelancers for feedback.

At first glance, freelancing PR rep Andrea Carter — formerly with AWeber — loved the idea of Sail. “In theory it’s exactly what I need for my freelance stuff, right now I’m just sending invoices by email and folks send me a check, but they’re always looking for an easy way to make electronic payment,” Carter said.

Colorado transplant Jess Ryan also took a quick look at the platform’s website and likened it to a tool she’s been using called Wave Accounting.

“Wave is free and also includes receipt tracking,” Ryan said. “After years of filing 1099 taxes, I think any tool for freelancers needs to have a way to track receipts and other deductions.”

Ryan (who, full disclosure, has freelanced for fired a quick list of features she’d like to see in a platform like Sail: “Hourly/workload tracking, project planning, quarterly payment estimator, a dashboard with integrated health insurance / benefits view and a drag and drop proposal builder.”

Sail has a Trello-based public roadmap, which Wilner said will help track feedback from users as the platform grows.

Companies: Compass / Venture for America

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