From Freelancer to Marketplace Maven: How Connor Finlayson Built a Profitable Business with No-Code Tools [Leanpreneur 3]

This week, you get to learn about Connor Finlayson, a nocode marketplace building leanpreneur who operates right in the sweet spot of what the Leanpreneur is all about.

From Freelancer to Marketplace Maven: How Connor Finlayson Built a Profitable Business with No-Code Tools [Leanpreneur 3]

This week, you get to learn about Connor Finlayson, a nocode marketplace building leanpreneur who operates right in the sweet spot of what the Leanpreneur is all about.

Read on to find out more about his journey.

Contributor: Connor Finlayson

Connor’s originally from New Zealand, is now based in Canada. He runs Unicorn Factory, New Zealand’s largest freelancer marketplace, and a mastermind community for building online marketplaces using no-code tools.

Click here to watch the Interview and Tutorial (52min)

Scratch your own itch

After an early foray into entrepreneurship straight out of university, Connor started freelancing running Facebook Ads for regional businesses in NZ.

Like all agency businesses, he had the challenge of how to find clients consistently.

Rather than build a portfolio site like everyone else he set about building a local marketplace using Webflow to connect freelancers with jobs.

And the first iteration of what the Unicorn Factory would become was born.

The early marketplace, can you spot Connor?

His plan being to put himself top of the listings, solving his business development challenge.

He didn’t have a ‘launch’ via Product Hunt or HackerNews, he just launched it to the members of the coworking space he worked out of.

He asked friends to sign up initially and it grew from there, first to regionally to Wellington and then nationwide.

Smooth Sailing

Connor only needed a handful of new clients to stay busy, and wasn’t reliant on the marketplace for income.

Consequently, it was pretty smooth going for him. He says that bar of stress is intertwined with your own expectations.

His costs were less than $100 per month so the risk was low.

When he started to monetise he did it slowly, dropping his clients for every $2k in monthly revenue he achieved.

This way he never worked on it for free.

Riding the Market

The pandemic saw the Unicorn Factory blow up with a huge uptick in demand. But, what goes up must come down and his marketplace tracked with the economic dip afterwards. in 2020

Connor’s lesson from this was that sometimes the wider economy plays a part, and as a business owner there isn’t much you can do about it.

It’s important to network with others in the niche you operate in to get a feel for what's happening and always be prepared to weather downturns.

Teach what you know

Connor decided to build courses when he moved to Canada. This was after he took a shot at high ticket consultancy and realised he was replicating the same building process time and again.

A selection of Connor's courses

Teaching was transformational for him and he has since built a tight knit community mastermind containing his course grads.

He set out to teach what the least competent version of himself would need and what he wished he had when he started.

He now has a community of people he enjoys supporting.

I’m in this community which is how I know Connor. It’s easily one of the best communities I’m part of. He’s involved, helpful and you can tell he finds it fun to run. Staying close to communities like this is key to it's long term value prop and retention.

Life Running a Marketplace, Product Business and Community

Connor is able to manage the Unicorn Factory in as little as 2-3 hours per month.

It’s largely run by AI and automation with zero staff.

Unicorn Factory today

When he wants to build or create new courses, he does it in sprints.

Right now, his main focus is training for a marathon, updating some of his courses and turning up in his mastermind group.

For lots of people, their lives revolve around their work.

His doesn’t.

He’s successfully detached his self worth from his work and freed up his time to travel and pursue his hobbies.

Lesson: Connor’s Glide Set Up with Integrated AI

Connor showed us in his tutorial how he uses Glide to facilitate interactions between freelancers and businesses on Unicorn Factory.

Glide is a no-code app development platform that lets you create mobile apps from a Google Sheets or Airtable without writing any code.

It's great for building simple apps quickly and affordably.

Before Glide, Connor's marketplace set up required plugging together multiple tools with more potential points of failure.

With his main challenge being making his platform easy to use, Glide allows him to build more seamless user experiences.

User Management

Connor powers both sides of his marketplace with portals built using Glide. He customises the onboarding flows and users' access to information.

User Profile

Glide has a built in AI integration which he then uses to build micro tools to improve the user experience.

Turning fuzzy job specs into adverts

Connor showed us how he helps advertisers create more effective job adverts.

People would typically write poor quality ads, or they’d be long or too short.

Within Glide he showed how he uses AI to turn a fuzzy user input into a defined job advert using a format that he knows converts.

AI created job advert

This has increased advert conversion and improved the experience for all users.

The fact that AI is integrated within Glide means you can build products within products, leveraging your gated databases. All without coding.

Filters when Building

Connor is a proponent for keeping things simple.

He agrees that people get too academic when talking about the definition of lean startup.

He only builds functionality after repeated requests and puts the decision through the following criteria:

  1. Will it make him more money?
  2. Will it save him time?
  3. Will it enhance the value proposition? (Getting more work for freelancers)

Everything else goes in the bin.

Parting Advice

Connor urges that the best way to succeed is by just starting.

Theories and plans are helpful, but real progress comes from taking action and learning through experience.

Actions are better than the tutorials you watch.


Connor recommends personal experience as the best resource, though he also mentioned past influences like the Consulting Accelerator by Sam Ovens and books by Derek Sivers.

Derek's business philosophy mirrors Connor’s.

For no-code tutorials, check out Connor’s YouTube channel 😉

Follow Connor's journey

Listeners can learn more about Connor through his personal site at, his YouTube channel, or directly on the Unicorn Factory platform at

That’s it for this week.

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