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The Future of Work: Why Hiring Freelancers Makes Sense

Chicago Ideas Week is one of my favorite events in Chicago. With dozens of talks, labs and experiences to be had about everything from Cybersecurity to Meat 101, I was happy to snag a ticket from one of our clients to hear the event’s opening session – a lively discussion about the Future of Work.

A broad topic for sure, but our moderator David Brancaccio (of NPR’s Marketplace) and panel* came in with three things on his mind:

  • Preparing for the takeover by robo-workers.
  • Women’s safety in the workplace and representation in the start-up world.
  • The shift into the “gig” economy – the power and pitfalls in freelancing.


The latter is especially prescient at our marketing agency. Both my marketing agency and our clients have greatly benefited from the growing number of experienced freelance marketers. To understand why we need to understand their motivation to risk stability and go it alone.


Why are more people freelancing?

The primary reason freelancers leave their job is because they want a better work/life balance. Freelancers are able to choose work environments free from the #1 reason workers of all types leave their job: Their terrible boss. Add that to an escape from long hours, micromanaging, tedious work, workplace bureaucracy and annoying colleagues, it becomes an attractive way of life.

What does that mean for our agency?

We always have happy employees. It’s really as simple as that. Because we know marketing agencies are only as good as their people, it’s a joy to collaborate with people who are fresh, excited to be in the room and passionate about the project.

What does that mean for our clients?

They get friendly, passionate collaborators that truly want to learn their business. They dig deep into the dark corners where unique solutions lie, and color our whiteboards with ideas that can make a difference.


Flexibility in freelance work.

Working on short-term projects places freelancers in contact with a variety of industries, products, collaborators, campaigns and ideas. The Future of Work panel suggested that the new workforce is choosing jobs in which they can learn something new about their craft. Managers are strongly recommended that to reduce turnover, they simply need a process to place people in diverse situations with experienced mentors who can help them experience and master something new.

What does that mean for our agency?

We can find people that have a breadth of knowledge, and/or are experts in a particular industry. Unlike big agencies, our freelancers haven’t spent two years on the same client (and solutions) just trying to make them happy and get home without trauma. It means we can choose people for a project that have a short learning curve about the business, but bring fresh ideas and experience from many projects to the table.

What does that mean for our clients?

It means clients are getting an experienced team who knows the audience and product, but can also think outside of it to adapt tactics and solutions that have worked elsewhere. It means more creative, more relevant ideas in far less time while having a willingness to try completely new.


Flexibility in freelance schedule.

We all talk about going remote: More time off, working from the beach or small town coffee shop and generally feeling free as a bird. Brent Rose, a Future of Work session panelist, described his current situation living in a wifi-ready van writing for Wired Magazine as way to find stories he would never otherwise, while taking advantage of not knowing where he wants to live.

What does that mean for our agency?

We find freelancers are inherently agile. They generally live life outside of routine and many eschew it. When a project pivots suddenly, there’s no drama. It’s expected and seen as an opportunity. A train should go off the rails when the scenery is worth stopping for. In marketing, being fluid, strong and able to easily map to client needs in times of potential distress is vital to a functioning office.

What does that mean for our clients?

Our staff isn’t upset by canceled meetings, shifting marketing strategy, sudden concern by the in-house counsel or a CEO (client or agency!) that wants something now. We can avoid the passive aggressive sighs and comments about wasted time. By hiring freelancers to augment and integrate with full time staff, our teams aren’t invested in a routine, and welcome change, if only to prevent from falling into one.


A Wild Card: The Affordable Care Act.

This Chicago Ideas Week session didn’t get too political, but health insurance is a big factor in considering contract-only work. Although it’s far from perfect, The Affordable Care Act’s relatively accessible and comprehensive insurance policies, based on a “sliding scale” of subsidies to support unpredictable income, has been pivotal in supporting the “Gig” economy.

A survey by small-business network Thumbtack found that about one-third of 5,400 small-business owners said they had the confidence to start their own businesses because they had access to health care through the ACA.

The panel unanimously agreed that a healthcare policy that supports freelance workers is integral in creating a robust entrepreneurial sector and moving innovation forward.


What does this all mean for you?

If you’re in Chicago and you haven’t experienced Chicago Ideas Week, it’s worth a few hours off work to hear some of the best minds talking about innovations in their field.

If you haven’t seriously considered using freelancers to supplement your full-time staff, the Future of Work panel gave a number of convincing arguments to do so – also suggesting that with the advance of remote-work technology, you’d be at the forefront of an inevitable movement.


About Liquid Iron.

If you’re looking for a full-service marketing agency that specializes in reaching the hard to reach and influencing the hard to influence, I’d ask that you learn more about Liquid Iron and our past clients that have taken advantage of our subject matter experts (freelance and full-time)

Thanks for reading.


John Armstrong
Account Director


Panel for “Future of Work” Session at Chicago Ideas Week: 

Dev Auija
Founder, Catalog

Claire Lew
CEO, Know Your Company

Brent Rose
Journalist, Filmmaker

Julie Smolyansky
President and CEO, Lifeway Foods