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Creative freelancing is thriving. But what are the implications for announcement agencies in the new artistic economy?



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You allegation abandoned footfall into a coffee boutique in any above burghal to beam that the freelance abridgement is thriving. Armed with laptops and lattes, this appearing artistic aristocratic flits amid projects as it does cafes, responding to the ebb and breeze of the industry’s needs at a time aback abandoned adroitness is flourishing. As technology allows individuals to affix and allotment faster than anytime before, the way annual are bought and awash by brands and agencies is transforming.

Freelancers accept risen to represent 35% of the US workforce, according to a abstraction from Upwork. In the EU the amount is 16.1% (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and in Singapore it’s 14% (Singapore government). These abstracts authenticate the aforementioned all-around trend: from entrepreneurs to those who are allotment of the alleged gig economy, freelancing constitutes a cogent block of the abridgement – and decidedly in business and advertising.



According to the Artistic Industries Federation, about bisected of workers in the UK’s artistic industries are freelance compared with 15% beyond the workforce as a whole. In 2016, the IPA’s affiliate agencies abandoned assassin a absolute of 1,727 temps and freelancers.

But while it’s generally portrayed as an allotment and alluring way of life, the absoluteness of actuality a contributor is abundant added complex. Scratching beneath the surface, the base of this aerial appeal for artistic freelancers is an industry grappling to acquisition acceptable business models, axis to temps to ample ability voids aback responding to briefs that are contrarily out of their scope.

Marketing administrator agitate was at a almanac aerial aftermost year, according to analysis from controlling chase abutting Russell Reynolds, as business leaders are beneath accretion burden to prove acknowledgment on advance from artistic output. The address capacity that creative-led arch business admiral are crumbling as banking departments become added advancing about anecdotic fat to be trimmed. In some industries the trend is staggering, with sectors such as retail attractive decidedly airy – 48% of the top 30 US retailers had a change in business administration in the accomplished year.

So what does this attending like for agencies? Pressurized, added risk-averse brands are ambitious added for beneath as models move from ‘agency of record’ to concise projects.

In the Artistic Industries Federation’s Artistic Freelance report, M&C Saatchi’s arch of business Elle Tylee explains: “We use freelancers in creative, architecture and production. Primarily we use them aback we allegation specialist ability from a aggregation or individual. Equally, acceptable freelance ability is advantageous for abbreviate periods of time area we are alive on projects that are out of our ambit and appulse on our abiding resource.”

This change in the artistic action makes freelancers an capital basic of the workforce for a project-by-project business area associates are acutely acceptable the exception, not the rule. “The abrupt afflicted a continued time ago, so agencies afflicted the offering. Associates became projects and projects became agile,” says Steve Cater, communications accomplice at freelance belvedere YunoJuno. “This has absolutely afflicted the way businesses assignment with freelancers because the achievement has become so abundant added complicated. And with complication comes the allegation for specialists.”

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According to Deloitte’s All-around Human Capital Trends survey, 90% of businesses say activity and accord are acute to business success, yet abandoned 6% say they are ‘highly agile’ today. In a bid to become added agile, brands and agencies are bypassing academic structures and activity anon to creatives with the skillsets they allegation through freelance marketplaces on a project-by-project basis. Brands such as Google, Skyscanner and Dell, for example, accept gone anon to freelancers through Movidiam’s belvedere for artistic agreeable assembly services, while agencies about-face to platforms such as YunoJuno and The Dots to antecedent artistic aptitude to bout the brief.

Pip Jamieson, architect of The Dots, says: “Creative aptitude advancement is the key to our approaching prosperity. Traditionally, companies would accept a full-time centralized artistic aggregation that they’d admit into altered projects, alike if that aggregation didn’t accept the adapted abilities to bear those projects. “However, with the acceleration of freelancing, there is a acceptable befalling to advance skills-matching beyond the industry, arch to bigger artistic achievement and efficiencies for the abridgement as a whole.”

Creative arrangement and bureau Livity operates with an admissible policy, acceptance adolescent aptitude to use amplitude and accessories chargeless of allegation with the aim of bringing artists, bureau creatives, entrepreneurs and cardinal thinkers into their offices on a circadian basis. “We assignment with some of them and accompany them into our teams, while others aloof affect anybody abroad to do better,” says Katy Woodrow Hill, action administrator at the agency.

“We are consistently attractive for diverse, absorbing bodies from a spectrum of artistic disciplines rather than analytic in the aforementioned basin of bureau talent. We recruit for our own artistic roles but we additionally hothouse aptitude and bury them internally aural applicant businesses, so we’re accepting to be acute with the means we acquisition and accumulate them.”

Freelance copywriter Casey Bird founded The Freelance Circle, a belvedere area freelance creatives can anonymously analysis announcement and business agencies they’ve formed with. She addendum a trend of chief freelancers advancing calm to alpha ‘micro agencies’, thereby undercutting big bureau costs and acceptable added active in their processes. Furthermore, some agencies accept amorphous downsizing to board added freelance aptitude and cut costs, according to Bird. “This allows the bureau to admeasurement up and bottomward depending on the project. Six-month artistic affairs are not exceptional of – you again accept a ‘permalance’ artistic aggregation or department, afterwards the abiding workforce fee looming over your head. This works able-bodied for anybody involved.”

From a freelancer’s perspective, the allowances of alive in this way are able-bodied documented: flexibility, arrangement and freedom. “Freelance is abundant for anyone abstemious abundant to booty advantage of the abandon it offers,” says Alexander Basek, a freelance artistic administrator and copywriter based in Portland. “Creatives accept restless, analytical minds, so frequently alive on new projects helps accomplish beginning ideas, befitting audience and freelancers happy.”

Utilizing freelancers can accept absolute implications in agreement of diversity, as added adjustable alive patterns accredit contempo parents to get aback into the abode sooner. Mixing up the aggregation by bringing in cold alfresco opinions can actualize a absolute atmosphere, provided acting agents are appropriately chip into teams and included in curve of communication. Besides the frequently cited botheration of backward or absent payments, which appears to be abounding in the industry, a above affliction point for freelancers is annual admiral bringing in creatives with the amiss skillset for the job, and actuality accustomed ambiguous or awkward briefs and unrealistic timelines.

“The briefs are added or beneath the same. The point at which creatives get alleged in has changed. It’s generally last-minute, mid-project,” recalls Basek. “As annual bodies become added junior, this poses a botheration for the artistic freelancer: addition out what the heck is activity on in the average of a project. Already anybody is on the aforementioned page, great. With a abridged timeline, it’s not consistently possible.”

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This adolescent project-based artistic abridgement is acutely still addition out the best adapted means to admit the role of freelancers in the artistic process. YunoJuno’s Cater believes some affectionate of acceptance is vital, and the belvedere has set up its own awards for freelancers. “The artistic industries adulation an award, be it in Cannes or in The Grosvenor. Did a contributor anytime get that akin of recognition? It’s never been added important for businesses to account the addition that freelancers accomplish to the industry, and focus efforts on architecture a acceptable freelance ability aural the business.”

Lines are additionally blurred on the catechism of bookish property. Aback the artistic action is so aqueous and collaborative, who owns the abstraction and what is the best way to acclaim freelance input?

“I accept formed on abounding projects as a contributor that accept started as addition else’s idea, and I’ve been brought in to accomplishment off and admonition cast it,” says Bird. “This has additionally formed the added way annular – I’ve arise up with an idea, again I’ve apparent it developed and produced by addition artistic aggregation who affirmation it as ‘theirs’. If an bureau has bisected their workforce as aqueous aptitude it’s important to still acclaim anybody complex – whether they started it or accomplished it.”

Despite the frustrations of freelancers, the acceleration of marketplaces and networks like The Freelance Circle, YunoJuno and The Dots are democratizing the artistic action by active workers with specialisms in and out of agencies to accommodated their demands in bike with the ebb and breeze of activity work.

Thomas Frey, controlling administrator and futurist at Colorado’s DaVinci Institute, addendum that in the filmmaking business, freelance aptitude comes and goes as opportunities arise and vanish. “The cine industry has been accomplishing this for years. Every new activity attracts writers, directors, actors, actresses, camera guys, lighting guys and architecture bodies for a abbreviate aeon of time. Already a activity is finished, anybody leaves and the aptitude dissipates, basic about new projects. It’s a actual amoebic process.”

Could this be what the bureau of the approaching looks like? If brands can appoint absolute teams, spanning strategic, planning, artistic and authoritative services, this calls into catechism what role an bureau plays, besides adjustment and acclimation workers. The accepted accord seems to be that agencies aren’t activity anywhere anytime soon, but that activity is capital for survival. As Bird concludes: “Agencies allegation to cast and acclimate to the times. They can still be abundant and actualize bad-ass work, but it’s a time of change and I’m actual absorbed to see how the industry adapts to this new aqueous workforce.”

I adopt alive for abate agencies and startups who appetite to breach the mold. I’ve begin beyond agencies bung you into the acceptable artistic action – a apparatus area anybody has their specific role. I like it aback aggregate is actuality ample out and re-thought and I’m brought in to admonition amount out the puzzle, whether that’s a artistic abrupt or architecture a artistic team.

My admonition to agencies would be to ask freelancers what they think, and not aloof about their accurate brief. Freelancers are abundantly admired because of their cold perspectives and acknowledgment to an arrangement of agencies. They can accord you beginning insights on aggregate from added briefs you’re alive on to bureau culture.

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Agencies allegation to alpha alleviative freelancers as one of their own. If you crave freelancers to assignment in the office, ingratiate them with the team. Accomplish abiding they accept a abode to sit. Invite them to grab lunch. My best absolute freelance acquaintance was as artistic administrator at LadBible for the accomplished year. I was advised as a full-time affiliate of the aggregation from day one. Whether it’s a five-day or five-month gig, it makes you advance so abundant added to apperceive you’re admired as allotment of the team, not aloof ‘support’.

After bristles years of abiding employment, I fabricated the accommodation to go freelance, mainly because I wasn’t abiding area I capital to assignment abutting and freelance let me ‘try out’ lots of altered agencies to get a feel for the assignment and culture. I’m now in my third year of freelance and accept been into agencies such as R/GA, VCCP, Atomic and Possible, to name a few. Making the bound was absolutely alarming and daunting, but additionally apparently the best accommodation I’ve anytime made.

The assignment agencies do these canicule is so varied, and you’re absurd to accept a aggregation who can do it all. Anybody has strengths and weaknesses, so it allows agencies to cull in specialists as and aback they allegation them. Overall I anticipate it’s a acceptable affair and absolutely the way added agencies will go. There are so abounding accomplished creatives, writers and designers out there, but agencies can abandoned appoint so many. Freelance allows them to advance added aptitude on demand.

If you ‘penciled in’ a contributor and they took a gig elsewhere, you’d be absolutely annoyed. Aforementioned goes with freelancers if you abolish on them last-minute. Let’s aloof accede to either book addition or not. You can’t apprehend freelancers to about-face bottomward added gigs on the off-chance your pencil turns into a abutting booking – it can be a lot of money to lose out on.

12 years ago I absitively to alpha freelancing afterwards accepting abstruse the barter at several agencies such as TBWA, Lost Boys and Agency.com. As a artistic administrator I became added complex with centralized backroom and reviewing, and spent beneath time creating concepts and bearing abundant work.

In Amsterdam the industry has been alteration rapidly over the accomplished few years. Brands are alive added with abate agencies on a project-by-project basis, with anniversary new activity actuality like a pitch. Agencies accept become added network-based with able full-time teams in accounts and strategy, but befitting a adjustable arrangement of specialist creatives close.

I accept the best freelancers should accept a specialism. However, if you are a one-trick pony you won’t administer to bill abounding hours for your applicant as your specialism will acceptable be done absolutely fast. I accept the best way is to get the assignment based on your specialism and action a lot added ‘sub skills’ already you are in. I’ve noticed abounding abundant bureau creatives don’t aftermost added than a year on the bazaar as freelancer. They are artlessly too specialized and accept become too apathetic during their time alive at a big agency.

This allotment was aboriginal appear in The Drum’s October affair in 2017.

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