The two freelancers

“Do you do wireframes?”

Ok I promise this is not a dig at recruiters (well, maybe a little) but I have always had an issue with the perception of freelancers in the creative industry. I have been a ‘freelance’ creative type (eurgh) my entire career.

But there are two distinct types of freelancer.

  1. Pro Freelancer. People that have run their own company, set their own pace, blaze their own path (eurgh) and are really great at what they do, and people pay top market rates to hire them as an expert consultant, but also a workhorse, design leader, knowledgebase and conscientious all-round badass. I strive daily to be this type of freelancer. I aspire to be this person. This drives me to be the very best I can be.
  2. Freelance Design Resource. A jack of some trades, Photoshop for hire, holiday cover, between jobs, cookie cutter capable of following instructions and not asking too many questions. These guys get the majority of work from the mid level recruitment agencies, average money, the usual suspects. Most of them convert to a perm (not a hairdressing term) position and look back on their freelance days as part of their journey.

And thats fine I guess, but the problem lies with finding the right work. Recruitment agencies tend to work well with Freelancer number 2. You can tell by the brief, the company is looking to hire a permanent staff member (arent they always) so they put out a brief and you fill in a spot while they find their person. Maternity leave, pitch work, overflow work etc. This perfectly average work is filled by people of commensurate ability.

But my relationship with freelancing is entirely different. I do it for the following reasons (in no particular order):

  1. I get to control my career
  2. The money is much better
  3. I have more options
  4. I get to flip between agency and client side
  5. The better you are the more money you make
  6. The money is much better

The downsides are the following:

  1. Most recruitment agencies apply an estate agent methodology to a creative industry
  2. The perception of freelancers being expensive and not particularly useful, a resentment amongst perm staff, left out of staff meetings and not involved in key decisions, given the crap work to appease the perm staff.
  3. Getting paid on time
  4. IR35
  5. LinkedIn
Pointless UX metaphor, is all just ketchup.

We should all strive to be the right freelancer for the right reasons, then recruitment agencies can target the two freelancers with the right work.

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