Embracing Freelancers and the Age of Hyperspecialization
When it’s time to buy a new car, you don’t look around for a car craftsman. That’s because Henry Ford figured out a long time ago that mass-producing vehicles by giving each component to a specialist made a lot more sense.
In the same vein, having a single craftsman make you a table might not be the most efficient way to get the job done. He might be great at carving, but someone else might be an expert at sourcing the wood. That’s why nearly all furniture is mass-produced today — to allow each step in the process to be done by those who can do it best.
So why should creative marketing projects be any different? According to new research, commoditizing creative work might be the new norm.
With 53 million Americans (34 percent of the workforce) doing freelance work, more companies are capitalizing on the demand for specialized workers. Some estimates even predict that number to reach 40 percent in the next five years.
By working with freelancers, you don’t have to accept mediocre creative work. You can tap into the legions of creative minds out there to put your company’s campaigns on the map.
The Rise to Hyperspecialization
Both companies and agencies have been outsourcing grunt work for years. But this shift hints to a new kind of freelancer. Today’s freelance worker possesses a highly specific skill set, whether that’s email marketing or Twitter ad campaigns.
No CMO can afford to hire a full-time staff for every specialized area, but you don’t need to. When jobs become that segmented, you can hire several people for a few hours a week to work on their designated areas — no payroll or expensive benefits package required.
With hyperspecialization on the rise, designers, developers, marketers and writers now work independently. And within each specific category, they’re concentrating even further. For example, you might find a designer who specializes in apparel brands, a developer who builds apps for small businesses, or a writer who cranks out the best tweets you’ve ever read.
Hyperspecialization has exploded globally, and that’s great news for marketers looking to produce top-notch work for their companies or clients.
Why Your Brand Can (and Should) Work With Freelancers
Many marketers hesitate to work with freelancers at first because it drains too many resources upfront or they fear entrusting important work to someone with no vested interest in the brand.
Despite the naysayers, working with expert freelancers can give your campaigns a competitive edge.
To spark engagement around your marketing efforts, you have to churn out high-quality work. But what if top talent lives across the world and doesn’t want to move? Thanks to the cloud, you can still access amazing talent, no matter where someone lives.
The marketing field is slicing and dicing into smaller segments. As this happens, the level of specialized knowledge out there is too vast for any one agency to master. Agencies can no longer claim to be “full service” if they don’t outsource those specialties.
By hiring freelancers, you can also enjoy a renewed level of productivity. Instead of leaving one generalist to juggle 10 strategies, you can hire 10 specialists who know their fields as a science and work more efficiently. Although specialists can command a higher hourly rate for their expertise, you only pay for the work they produce, avoiding the burgeoning costs of a full-time staffer or large consulting firm.
From the freelancer’s perspective, moving from being a worker bee to being a self-employed contractor instills a sense of pride and ownership over their work. Suddenly, they don’t feel obligated to please a higher-up. They adopt a client-first mentality and will go the extra mile to build an impressive portfolio and reputation.
Maximize Your Freelance Experience
Working with specialists can propel your marketing efforts forward, but like anything else, it comes with distinct challenges. With so many moving parts, keeping a pulse on the people and projects funneling in and out of the company can become overwhelming.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you implement a specialist strategy:
- Know your core competencies. What does your team already do well? You won’t need to outsource those skills. Instead, think about what you’re missing, and break those skills down into the smallest specializations you can. Recognize KPIs so everyone is on the same page about project goals and objectives.
- Only hire the best. Just as you wouldn’t settle for subpar salaried employees, only work with the best freelancers. A sloppy freelancer could ruin a project and burn you on working with specialists in the future. Check out their portfolios. If the work thrills you — and past clients, too — you’ve likely found a winner.
- Break up the project timeline. When working with freelancers, thinking in terms of the final product can be a costly mistake. Work with your freelancers to develop complete project timelines with target dates for all deliverables and drafts. This also allows you to weed out shoddy freelancers who can’t make deadlines before it’s too late.
- Give them what they need. Make sure to provide freelancers with all the creative assets you have. Brief them on potential strategies or tactics your company just won’t touch for whatever reason. Knowing what not to do is often as helpful as knowing what to do and eliminates time spent on disproven methods.
- Stay in touch. Schedule regular check-ins with your freelancers as a quality control measure and to answer any questions they may have. Be accessible and eager to help, and they’ll put as much thought and care into their work as you’ve invested in them.
The once-renowned “generalist” is becoming obsolete. You can no longer expect one marketer to manage your design copy, PR blitzes, and email marketing efforts and still produce award-worthy work.
There are millions of proficient marketing and design specialists waiting to create your next killer campaign. It’s time to embrace the freelancer and start unlocking your company’s true creative potential.