Today I’ll introduce you to a new work exchange website called Hippohelp!
Hippohelp is a free map-based platform connecting hosts with travellers willing to work in exchange for free food and accommodation. Let’s get started!
How the Hippohelp website works
The first thing you see when you’ve logged in is the map-based interface and a lot of markers scattered around the map. All information is always displayed on the main-page. I’m trying to make the site work like a mobile-app more than a standard web-page. This way you don’t have to keep hundred of tabs open when searching for a potential host.
There are two types of markers on the map. Blue “hostmarkers” and orange “travelmarkers”. By clicking on a hostmarker you’ll see information provided by the host such as type of work, stay duration and accommodation arrangements. By clicking on a travelmarker you’ll find the traveller’s details such as profile description, allergies and age.
Other than that you can add other users as friends. You can send messages using the built in chat system. Travelers can also read and write reviews and save markers as favourites.
How Hippohelp was born
At the end of 2016, my wife and I were developing a small piece of land in Guilin, China to grow our own crops. It was an interesting project (and still is!) but it required more time and work than we initially anticipated.
Since Guilin is a popular destination for backpackers from all around the world I got the idea that some of them might be interested in helping us out in exchange for food and somewhere to live in return. That way we would get the help we needed, they would save on their expenses, and we would hopefully make new friends!
I did a quick search online for websites that could help us with finding helpers but found that they were either too expensive, too complicated or too outdated, so I decided to create an alternative myself.
How did you come up with the name Hippohelp?
I got Hippohelp by first brainstorming a couple of words that would be related to the site, and “help” was one of them. After that I used a website called leandomainsearch.com to find good available combinations to the words I had found, and Hippohelp was one of the words that popped up. I also had a couple of other names in mind, but I asked which one my friends liked the most, and Hippohelp was the one that won the most votes, and also the one I liked the best. I think it sounds good and the Hippo makes a nice logo. 🙂
How I created Hippohelp
When I first got the idea of creating the platform I didn’t know anything about programming, so the first thing I did was read a few books on the subject in my free time, and some small test projects. Once I felt that I had a somewhat accurate understanding of the programming languages I wanted to use I slowly started creating the platform part by part.
There were a lot of errors and headaches when learning how to code, but it was a really fun process at the same time. At a few points I had to hire freelancers to make sure that the code was secure and scalable together with a few more things, and generally speaking it worked out well.
However, I feel like it’s very important to be skilled enough to notice when your freelancer is doing a bad job, otherwise the work they do for you could be harmful for your business. A bad freelancer could for example introduce security vulnerabilities in your site, or do SEO (search engine optimisation) work that can get you penalised in Google’s search results later on.
It took me 6 months to create the platform, I launched it in May 2017 and it now has around 2500 members.
Where Hippohelp is going
From the start I’ve aimed on keeping Hippohelp free for all users and I also plan on keeping it that way. I get revenue by commission on travel insurance sales from two companies I promote on the site and also plan on adding sponsored markers in the future. One way to use sponsored markers could be a company selling hiking gear marking out it’s shops on the map for a fee.
While keeping the platform free is an important thing for me I also don’t want users to choose Hippohelp only because it’s free. To make it the best platform around I also actively ask users for feedback on how I can improve the site, and I’ve already gotten some great suggestions that I’ve implemented.
Since the platform is so new I try to keep the features at minimum and only add features that the users are excited about. I am hoping that I can keep the platform simple while at the same time provide a great user experience.
I hope that this introduction was of interest if you’re considering doing a work exchange trip. If you are planning a trip to China, stop on by! On Hippohelp pan the map over Guilin that’s where you’ll find us. My wife and I are also on Hippohelp and are happy to receive volunteers!
Testimonials from Hippohelpers
Ethan Maurice: “I absolutely love this site, it’s navigable map feature making it the easiest work trade site to search for volunteer opportunities wherever you want to go.”