Mike Fromowitz
Mar 2, 2015

Creative freelancers in a fast-changing marketplace

At an advertising industry get-together put on by The Bauhub, I sat with several creative freelancers in a discussion that centred on the difficulties they are facing in a fast-changing marketplace.

Creative freelancers in a fast-changing marketplace

That many freelancers sound like they have to defend their chosen careers says something about the state of the work world. Being a freelancer is nothing to feel guilty about. You are your own boss after all. And the way the ad industry is operating these days, it’s the full-timers who should be defending the act of working at a desk for a huge ad agency that doesn’t really give them the proper time of day. And, as most of us know, the state of advertising work is changing.

Many freelancers will tell you that the benefits of freelancing far outweigh the drawbacks. However, living and working independently is not all a bed of roses. Nor is it for all creative types, given the added responsibilities such as the stress of erratic income and the unpleasant prospects of networking and hustling for work.

Because of the nature of many advertising agencies, something will inevitably change, and you’ll be asked to work longer hours, and asked to take on more than was initially explained to you. If you’re not tough, it’s easy to get taken advantage of. The better agencies are the ones that take the time to brief you properly,  give you access to all their resources, and are realistic in their expectations.

One of the biggest complaints the freelancers spoke of, did not surprise me— they often find themselves under difficult timelines to produce ideas and are expected to do it on a shoestring budget—"more for less”. 

A good number of these freelancers were also resolute in regards to their less sophisticated clients (non agency) who have very little real marketing experience. These clients also fail to provide the appropriate research because they think they know their audience. When they hire a freelancer, they are looking for that silver bullet that will answer all their marketing needs. And the creative freelancer is expected to have all the right answers. 

One freelancer noted that when she started to sidestep the ad agencies and deal with companies directly, the real fun began when she realised that, whilst she knew about the web and so on, dealing with business, pricing, negotiating, and more was a completely foreign land to her.

It's no secret that great ideas take time. Sometimes it's difficult to find that one terrific solution that's going to win the day. So what do you do when there's so little time, and what do you do when you get stuck for an idea?

The quickest route to new insights is to take a step back and look at the challenge facing you from a broader context. Now is the time to think in terms of business solutions, not in terms of advertising ideas. Think of the client's business as though the business was yours. 

Another method is to take a step closer and look at the challenge facing you in more detail. Explore the market environment, the media, the customers and the competition that surrounds the product or service. This could lead you to some rather new and interesting insights. 

Another way is to dive into one detail of the experience and see where that takes you. Focus on what you believe the customer may want from the product or service - in other words, how will it make his or her life better, simpler, or easier. By spending more time thinking about how the product or service can fit into a person’s life may lead you to a special insight that will help you arrive at a great idea.

There’s a false impression out there that creative work is some kind of exalted pursuit to find that one great idea. When it comes down to it, there’s too much fixation on ideas. In the real world, ideas are worthless, if you don’t make them happen.

Mike Fromowitz
Partner, Chief Creative Officer
Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing + Advertising Inc.


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