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Freelance is coming back

19 Sep 00:00 By Lawrence Akers

What Can Emerging Graphic Designers Learn From Those That Went Before Them (1)
Freelance is coming back again!

You might be thinking that it never went away, however, the past 12 months or so have seen the industry be focused more on permanent placements than on freelance, and talking to a professional freelancer has often felt like a tale of two cities.

One will tell you they’re booked out and have been for most of the past 12 months.

The other will tell you that it has been really quiet and that they’re not really heard from anyone with opportunities.

They’re both right, and here is why.

The local freelance talent pool has shrunk over the past 12 months.

This is the first point that needs to be observed, and it comes from a few reasons. First, many professional freelancers didn’t like the uncertainty that the pandemic created and accepted permanent positions a little while back, moving out of the freelance world.

Secondly, the freelance community has always been bolstered by international creatives out on working holiday VISAs, and they haven’t been here for some time.

Thirdly, with fewer freelancers available, many clients have booked out their favourite temporary creatives for extended periods.  The freelancers I speak with will tell you openly they’re receiving multiple requests each week from clients and recruiters alike, and that hasn’t really slowed down over time.  

There has been the challenge of onsite vs remote working.

There are some companies who are really keen to get people back onsite again, and there are many freelancers who have truly appreciated the ability to work from home and who are not keen to go onsite.

I’d estimate that 50% of the freelancers I currently speak with will turn down an opportunity if it is exclusively onsite.  Thinking about this logically, why would they accept something that doesn’t work for them when they know another opportunity is going to be hours away?

If the client has their workplace based in an outer suburb, this creates more of a problem.  Of the 50% that will work onsite, you better hope most live nearby.  The reality is, and I’m being generous here, 50% of that 50% - better known as 25% - are going to be near that location.

The companies that have embraced remote working are absolutely being seen as an employer of choice.

Freelancers have become used to juggling multiple clients at once.

With the ability to work remotely and any time they want, most freelancers are working across a couple of clients at once.  This also means that they’re reluctant to take on one client full time because it will place them in a position where they can’t service their other clients.

Clients are expecting far more software skills from freelancers in recent times.

Gone are the days where a freelancer could get away with just knowing InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.

The digital revolution that used to only impact those digital designers has now reached across the board and we’re experiencing more and more clients who want to see freelancers with skills in After Effects, Premier Pro, and even ye olde Microsoft Office.

While many freelancers are indeed upskilling in these areas, clients are going to benefit best when they are a little flexible and recognise that many of these skills are going to be ‘fresh’ for most freelancers and for the ones who are experienced with them, it’s going to cost.

Why has it been so up and down with freelance opportunities?

Well, this is a good question and one that I can only speculate on.

I suspect many businesses developed their own network of creative assistance during the pandemic when there were a lot of people available.

Then in more recent times, we may have had a scenario where they looked for help but unless the creative met all their needs, they ‘managed’ to get by.  This often means long hours and burn out for existing staff though.

This is where it comes to the crunch though; clients are expecting their five days on site, high level creative with skills across print, digital and video to be ‘an easy fill’, and the reality is that right now, this is a unicorn. 

Unless the client is prepared to compromise in some way, the chances of them having a subpar experience is going to be high.  This compromise may be on allowing it to be a hybrid based role, allowing it to be part time, or allowing them to upskill on the job in order to find people who might be a better fit. 

While I know there might be a few clients reading this and feeling that I just don’t understand their situation, the reality is that without these compromises, it is often the difference between someone being in that seat to help or not.

The freelance world is desperately in need of new freelancers to come onboard.  While there is never any guarantee about what will happen if you become a freelancer, I don’t believe that there has been a better time than now to take that risk.  

This is especially true if you are happy to go onsite, work with one client for a period of time, and you have continued to update your skill set to reflect what clients are asking for.  If you’re doing that, you are the unicorn.

Sadly, many of the freelancers who are being overlooked at the moment come down to a handful of the same reasons; lack of industry experience, applying for the wrong roles, and a lack of a CV and folio that validates their experience.  If only there was an academy for freelancers that taught them all these things, right?  

For those wanting to step into the world of freelance, now is the right time to introduce yourself to Creative Recruiters and to explore if it could be a smart career move for you. 

As the world of freelance continues to ‘wake up’ more and more from the pandemic slumber, there is going to be an ongoing need for flexible, skilled and creative freelancers who are ready to be their own boss.  

There is always going to be an element of ‘risk vs reward’ in taking a step into the world of freelance, however for those who do it successfully, it can be truly rewarding. 

Maybe consider if this is the right time for you.