As freelancers flood the market, it will be survival of the fittest | Advertising
Last week seemed to be the first big spate of layoffs between creative, digital, and PR agencies when my LinkedIn feed was flooded with grim news. Most seem to be self-employed and “go out on their own” in hopes of taking up the work they can do during this uncertain and anxious time.
The constant rush of being a retailer isn’t always easy – you need to have specialization, proven experience, and a high level of tenacity. I have worked with freelancers and independent creatives in Asia and Australia for the past 15 years. In 2018 I started an agency alternative that gives brands access to highly specialized, creative experts – that is, they only pay for the work they do, as opposed to hefty agency retainers.
During this time I discovered what makes a really great freelancer and … what doesn’t. Sure, you get a (rightly deserved) pat on the back if you take the plunge and go out on your own – but from our experience with our network, this first step is the easiest part. What comes next are the challenges of finding consistent work, some form of structure and routine, and a supportive community to participate in.
It is important that you define your worth and make it clear what makes you unique in the marketplace. There are a dozen creative freelancers out there, but specializations in terms of experience, network, and approach will set you apart from the next. When you have this clearly under control from the start, you can not only support yourself and be confident when speaking to prospects.
Go to work
One of my strong beliefs is that if you are good at what you do – you will be busy – that’s what has resulted in our referral system now in full swing.
Second, reach out to everyone you know. Literally. The hustle and bustle is real, so managing and communicating with your network is just as important as finding new work. Right now it means you need to access the phone, social media, WhatsApp, email or Zoom calls. As soon as social distancing measures wear off and we can get back to the pubs and cafes, we need to meet with as many previous and new contacts as possible. Believe it or not, we actually met some of our best customers sitting next to them in cafes, planes, and even elevators.
Third, don’t be alone – find a community of people to work with, learn from, and rely on when things get tough. There’s a lot going on about mental health and working from home right now. Being part of a network can help alleviate the feeling of loneliness that is common with freelancers – especially at Vinos on Friday afternoons. If you rely on office banter and morning coffee, make sure you still do that – albeit virtually. It’s a great way to creatively explore, collaborate, and learn.
Get a good setup too. A solid “office corner” is key to those Zoom calls. Find a dedicated area in your home and create a work area that you can turn off when needed, although unlike permanent employment, truthfully, that will never happen again.
Tash Menon is the founder and director of MASH, an Australia-based company that curates freelance experts on client projects based on recommendations.