COVID lockdowns coincided with maternity leave for Courtney Culmer, a corporate communications and marketing expert. But during that time, previously clients of hers kept reaching out for help with critical projects. Which makes sense, since companies of all sizes spent 2020 working through crisis communication efforts for their teams and refining their DEI strategies and social justice initiatives.
“A lot of that work falls on communication [teams],” Culmer told Hypepotamus. “It was really this interesting time where there was a need for the work, but I just couldn’t do it all.”
That got her thinking about ways she could more easily recommend potential freelancers who could be a good fit for these companies. That led her to create Uplevel Communications, a two-sided marketplace connecting brands that need additional communication support with vetted freelancers and small agencies.
Why Build Uplevel Now
Uplevel isn’t like a Fiverr or Upwork, two popular freelancer platforms known for quick turn-around, low cost projects. Instead, Uplevel provides a curated pool of vetted freelancers with proven communication-centric backgrounds. The platform also allows companies to search for freelancers with specific domain expertise or industry-level specializations.
Companies can hire talent from Uplevel for press release writing, social media creation, executive communication work, video making, digital marketing campaigns, and the like. That is particularly important for companies that are tasked to do more with less or might not have the capacity to take on more full-time employees. Uplevel allows companies to “scale up and down” as communications and marketing projects arise.
Current customers range from large enterprises to early-stage tech startups to nonprofits looking for quality freelancer talent. The platform currently houses over 380 approved freelancers ready for work.
For freelancers, the Uplevel platform is designed to “lighten the load” associated with building a solid business – be it invoicing, contracting, and other tedious administrative tasks. That is particularly important in today’s workforce, where upwards of 59 million Americans do some sort of freelance work and even more are looking for new opportunities after recent tech layoffs.
“We want it to be a place that’s connecting [freelancers] with opportunities that they might not find otherwise, but also with clients who value their work,” she added. “This isn’t somewhere where you have to sign up and feel like I have to price myself so low in order to be competitive that I can’t even build a sustainable business or lifestyle.”
The Next Level For Uplevel
Culmer studied journalism at Florida A&M University before deciding to move into the wider communications world. While she was previously living in Charlotte, North Carolina, said she was “drawn to Atlanta” because of the entrepreneurial scene in town, adding that “Atlanta is the best place to go as a young Black woman who wants to be an entrepreneur…it made it even easier to pivot from a solopreneur freelancer to an actual tech startup founder.”
She dove in fully to the local tech ecosystem and was one of the 2022 Atlanta-based founders to receive a $100,000 grant from the Google For Startups Black Founders Fund.
Her focus right now is connecting with communications and marketing leaders in Atlanta and beyond. She is also about to lead Uplevel through its first fundraising round and is looking to connect with angel investors and seed-stage VCs.