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How Digital Brands Can Find Top-Notch Creative Talent in the Freelance Economy

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 07 Aug, 2017
Essential Essential topic

Tap into freelance creative talent for your next campaign

When I started my career in 1999, the best and brightest creatives still worked full time. The freelancer revolution was close to 10 years away, and independent contractors were not yet thought of as a valuable resource for many companies. In some situations, they were treated like a bit of an afterthought: warm bodies that could come in to complete the low-level work the internal creatives turned up their noses at.

Then, during the first dot-com boom, something changed.

The Evolution of the Freelancer

Suddenly, there were all these new companies starting from scratch all fighting for attention. Simply existing and offering a service wasn’t enough anymore. So to stand out from the competition, smart companies began prioritizing their product design, their branding, and the quality of their advertising messaging.

Many of these new companies started in-house creative groups to vertically integrate their businesses. They used colorful offices and armloads of venture capital to lure creatives away from advertising agencies and design firms, and slowly, as good creative started coming out of in-house agencies, going to one of these companies became a viable option for creatives everywhere. Goodbye, client services. Hello, weekends.

As technology and time progressed — and with so many new options for work appearing every day — creatives had an epiphany: Perhaps it wasn't necessary (or wise) to dedicate themselves to just one brand. Top-tier creatives started leaving their full-time jobs.

Suddenly, freelancing was no longer relegated to creatives who were between full-time work; it became a viable option for the best talent on Earth. This is just one of many reasons there were an estimated 55 million Americans (35 percent of the workforce) living the freelance lifestyle in 2016. That number is set to rise to 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Thanks to the emergence of online communities like mine that allow creative professionals to broadly showcase their portfolios and negotiate one-off jobs, these highly skilled individuals have realized they can live anywhere while working for virtually any brand on the planet.

Navigating the New Freelance Economy

This paradigm shift should be seen as great news for digital brands that need high-quality creative work and planning but aren’t quite ready to hire an agency. Companies can still move swiftly and adjust to new marketing techniques and competencies by partnering with the right consultants. In this new economy, there is more independent talent available than ever before.

In the past, before the freelance market was ripe with so much talent, brands would spend a great deal of time and capital looking for full-time employees who possessed the necessary skills. Then, by the time they were hired, a different technological development would appear that sent them spinning to fill that need. It was an arduous, inefficient, never-ending process.

Today, brands can scour online creative communities as needed to find and hire these skills. If they do so effectively, they save time and money and receive a top-tier product that wins them business.

Here are three tips to help digital brands navigate today's freelance economy and maximize the opportunity:

Prioritize passion.

A Deloitte study revealed that nearly 88 percent of modern-day employees don’t feel passionate about their work. You can be sure most of these folks are slogging along day to day, doing just enough at their jobs to maintain employment and make a living.
The beauty of working with freelance creative talent is that you can take extra precautions to ensure your candidates will feel passionate your specific project. By browsing portfolios and interviewing for specific projects, you can identify the passions of certain creatives, their preferred industries, and whether they tend to produce strong work for brands similar to yours.

Choose the right level of talent for the project

Ask yourself what caliber of creative you need for each project. If you’re only resizing work or making small tweaks to a previous project, you don’t have to break the bank to hire an award-winning designer (he or she would also be frustrated with that type of work). But if you’re developing a new campaign with a new strategy and are in uncharted territory, hiring someone with a record of success winning new business (even if he or she costs twice the price) will pay dividends in the long term.

Prepare your brief ahead of time

Unless you’re also hiring a freelance strategist, you need to have actionable assignments and instructions ready the moment your hire punches his or her time card. Just like any other employee, it doesn't matter whether a freelancer is cranking out a project or sitting around playing Candy Crush awaiting instructions. If he or she is on the clock, you have to pay up.

Freelancers should be able to immediately hit the ground running and know what exactly is expected of them. This will not only allow you to get the most for your money, but it will also keep them engaged and accountable.

Unlike the old days, the freelance market is now stocked with top-tier creative talent that can help digital brands and their marketing teams execute any and all initiatives. As a result, it's never been easier — or less expensive — for companies to keep up with the times, flex their creative muscles, and rise above the competition.

Adam Tompkins co-founded Working Not Working in 2012 with Justin Gignac when they realized creatives and the companies they work for needed a better way to find each other. They launched Working Not Working as the first real-time network that broadcasts the availability of the best creatives to companies looking to hire them. Justin and Adam were named among Advertising Age's Creativity 50 2015: The Most Creative People of the Year.

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