The Future of Work
April 8, 2021

The Freelance Revolution

Overhead of a creative freelancer, looking through color options while working on a computer.

Freelancing The Future: The Independent Talent Revolution.

Long before the monkey wrench that is the COVID pandemic was tossed into the works of the business economy, companies were already reinventing the way they do business. How businesses go to market is increasingly unconventional. Companies are required to interact with past, current, and future customers more intimately than ever before. Establishing relevance online is critical to achieving success today. Flexibility and outside-the-box thinking are now in.

Less than a decade ago however, executives had few choices when looking for a partner to help them reach their marketing goals. You could hire a team of expensive employees and hope that internal processes were nimble enough to allow them to rise to the challenge. Another option available was to commit to an exorbitant contract with an ad agency who would be as mindful of their own margins as they are of your projects. Or you could piecemeal services through slightly-less-costly boutique agencies that may or may not play well together.

Of course, the free market will always find a way to improve on itself. For marketers in urgent need of specialized creative, production and managerial talent that won’t break the bank, the Freelance Revolution has arrived just in time.

Why independent creative talent is the better option.

The explosion in the availability of independent talent is remarkably widespread and covers practically every discipline within the field of marketing. From brand identity and strategic planning to content creation and creative production, working with experienced and knowledgeable specialists goes a long way in helping you create efficiencies for your project and maximize return on investment.

When working with freelancers, you tap into a workforce that brings highly specific expertise on a flexible, as-needed basis. Their combined creative, technological and managerial expertise helps you be more productive with limited resources while also helping your business become more nimble and responsive to market trends.

Many of today’s freelancers have seen this trend developing for some time. They recognize that they can provide greater value, and better support themselves by working independently. The most observant of them recognize that the demand for independent contractors has never been greater, and it’s still growing. In fact, according to Upwork's 2020 Future Workforce Report, 59% of hiring managers used some form of flexible talent in 2020.

The ad agency model is no longer effective.

Traditional ad agencies have a well-earned reputation for being large, monolithic entities that move slowly and charge an enormous premium for their services. I don’t mean to bash the ad agency model here, but when you compare what they offer versus what independent contractors offer, certain truths shine through:

  • Agencies are clunky, costly bureaucracies – Agencies are expensive because a large percentage of your marketing budget goes first to keeping them afloat, and secondly to your projects. They may have bulky teams to keep their employees busy or to be able to add to their billable hours. When you hire independent talent, it’s free from this kind of agency overhead and markup.
  • Agencies cannot fully dedicate themselves to your project – Agency teams work part-time on your project, part-time on other projects and often part-time on new business pitches. Independent talent is able to give their all to your project and its timeline until it is complete.
  • Agencies struggle to foster collaborative relationships with their clients – All too often, traditional agencies fall victim to an “us vs. them” mentality that runs counter to collaboration. Freelance creatives though, strive to provide the spark that ignites creative collaboration and builds blended team chemistry with your in-house employees.
  • Agency talent pool competencies are limited and weighted with junior talent – Agencies are staffed with broad-based generalists with a working knowledge of many media types. To keep overhead low, junior talent plays an outsized role in many critical projects. And accessing best-of-breed specialists for any given technology is a hit-or-miss proposition. Hiring your own independent professionals puts you in control of placing the right experts in the right roles.
  • Fortune 500 corporations are abandoning the AOR (Agency of Record) model and embracing independent talent - America’s most successful corporations are increasingly mindful of what can be accomplished with expert independent talent. Well beyond one-off tasks, today’s talent pool of free-lance professionals is easily deep enough to develop and implement strategic-level initiatives and large implementation projects once reserved for ad agencies alone.

Expect higher quality work from independent talent.

Independent contractors know that reputation means everything to long-term success. They also know that reputations must be earned by delivering the goods day-in and day-out with exceptional results. With so much at stake, you’ll find freelancers strive toward always giving their best effort and achieving your goals your way. It’s not hard to imagine how that model builds strong business reputations and creates relationships that lead to additional projects from repeat customers.

The reason you’ll find the best creative talent in the independent market is because that is precisely where they can do their best work. They embrace the flexibility and freedom of independent work because they know that diversity in project assignments and working collaboratively with leaders in other disciplines helps them build their own networks and take charge of their own career trajectories. So it should come as no surprise that 64% of professionals at the top of their industry are increasingly choosing to work independently, according to the Upwork 2020 Future Workforce Report.

Ad agencies and in-house creative departments cannot foster that sort of working environment, which is often the reason why top creative people leave those jobs to start their own business.

The bottom line on independent talent: a lower bottom line.

Job One is doing the job well. Job Two is saving money in the process. The more, the better. When you work with independent professionals, logic, math and the CFO are on your side. Even with what might seem like a high hourly rate for, say, a creative director, hiring independent talent can realistically save you 20% to 30% annually over in-house talent because you’re not on the hook for their health insurance, benefits, employment taxes, desk space, tech over-head and the like.

The cost of independent talent is even more affordable when compared to agency models and fee structures.

Working with freelancers also gives you a greater degree of financial control and flexibility. Hourly and per-project costs are only incurred when there is work to be done. When the work is complete, so are your expenses. This ability to invest while the budget supports it, and hold tight when the budget forces your hand means you don’t have to dig a financial hole to cover payroll during an income slowdown. From a financial point of view, hiring independent professionals reduces risk for your business. It's a no-brainer.

In the near future, I will be authoring a number of articles geared toward helping marketing executives and business owners understand and embrace the concept of hiring and working with independent talent. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this topic in depth, or if you are ready to dig into a project using independent talent, feel free to contact me directly at

Robyn Stockdale

Chief Orchestrator, Orchestrata