Roycelyn Frances To, a Singapore-based freelance art director, had a busy 2022. As Adland recovers strongly from the pandemic and business returns to some sense of normalcy, his services have been in demand. So much so that it features three or more job openings, as agencies and marketing teams ramp up and freelancers or construction workers in areas such as To’s (art direction), as well as disparate areas such as analytics, e-commerce, data science and project management. In all of these areas, recruiters are lining up to recruit freelance talent.
While the advertising industry has traditionally used freelancers, this increase in demand has been catalyzed by two factors. First, the lack of talent compounded by the “big resignation” forced the hand of agencies, pushing them to expand their network for key people. Second, as companies and agencies are now much more comfortable working remotely, they are giving more “grassroots” work to freelance talent.
As these two trends have grown, freelancers say they can now dictate better terms than before, especially in high-demand segments such as e-commerce, analytics and data management. project. They are now able to name their price; several freelancers Country Asia Pacific spoken to say that their rates have gone up over 30% in the last five or six months. On top of that, they have more say in the working hours, as well as the timelines associated with their projects.
As agencies and in-house marketing teams scramble to recruit top freelance talent, they leverage their own databases, look to recruiters and specialized tech platforms to source top talent. Big agencies usually have their favorite roster of freelance talent, but that may not be enough to keep pace with current growth.
“We are currently on track to double our business from 2021, having grown during the pandemic,” says Dave Bentley (pictured above), co-founder of &Friends, a talent management platform. “What we’re seeing now is demand shifting from more of a project-by-project nature to brands and agencies looking to use [freelancers]more proactively as an ongoing extension of their internal resource.
Freelancer To says there have been a lot of jobs coming up and everyone is in a rush to complete the projects.
“Thanks to my [connections]I often respond to requests for at least three projects at a time and have to agree to work on a first-come, first-served basis,” she says.
To is not the only freelancer to benefit from this new boom. In India, data scientist Ajay Bangar, 31, says he turns down offers from ad tech companies and traditional agencies because his personal backlog is full of deals.
“All the agencies are talking about wanting to do more with data and analytics, but almost none of them have the in-house talent or the capabilities to hire them,” he says. “80-100% pay raises are becoming more common and freelancers are now shopping.”
In Australia, a deluge of work for agencies and marketing teams worked well for Jay Anderson, 34, a motion designer. “A lot of new work for me has been spillover work, helping busy internal teams,” he says. Asia-Pacific Campaign. “I think there’s more confidence in people working off-site, which has had a positive effect for freelancers.”
“With a limited talent pool in the market, the Singapore government having made some changes to the policy of hiring foreign talent, the speed of replacement was and remains a major challenge,” Mandy Wong (pictured above), Managing Director of TBWA Group Singapore, says Asia-Pacific Campaign. “(The) volume of work for TBWA Singapore has increased over the past year… this entails running multiple briefs simultaneously, most of them on a campaign draft basis.”
As TBWA and other agencies try to keep pace with this business explosion, project managers are hot goods and recruiters need to look beyond full-time talent to fill the gap. Tony Wang, 48, is a project manager who works one job at a time – and takes a month off between gigs – to cope with a business boom.
“Clients are asking for more projects to be done and agencies are in a rush to get things right,” he says. “As a project manager, I manage the work that is traditionally at the heart of agencies, including scope of work deadlines and resource management. I feel there is a growing demand for project managers …most of the requests come from agencies I have worked with regularly, but I am also starting to receive requests from [others].”
&Friends’ Bentley says the rush for indie talent is just the first step in an industry-wide transformation. Today, his company wants to build entire plug-and-play teams with international talent from internal and external agencies.
The company helps bring together talent across the business, including full-time employees, preferred freelancers, and other specialists, to prepare this capability in advance. “Our goal is to help our clients reduce their hiring costs, while managing the talent shortage,” he adds. “That’s the number one challenge for agencies and brands right now.”
Requalification and improvement
However, in a fast-paced industry, this increase in demand and pricing comes at a price: gig workers must work harder to retrain and upskill to avoid competition from in-house talent and other freelancers. . For example, To, the freelance art director, who focused on stills, had to work on video and motion pictures in a snap, as client demands seemingly shifted overnight to those new media. Wang, the freelance project manager, had to add skills in methodology and UX/UI design due to the increasing demand on the projects.
The challenge for freelancers looking to upskill and retrain in this fast-paced environment is that they have to do it on their own terms and at their own pace.
“If we don’t work, we don’t get paid,” To says. not live up to expectations, or the time to deliver work may be delayed because you’re still ‘figuring things out’ on the app.”
New opportunities arise, old problems persist
Agency executives say they now treat freelance talent much better than before and take better care of their workload so as not to lead to burnout and mental stress.
“Everyone at TBWA is treated equally and the required support is available to all employees whether they are self-employed, part-time or full-time,” says Wong, the Singapore leader. “All freelance talent enjoys the same flexible work schedule, as all employees, for example three days a week, work in an office environment; one day a week without a meeting; and the flexibility to choose to work from home or the office.
Data scientist Bangar, however, argues that agencies such as TBWA continue to be the exception rather than the rule. He says that on his last project for a multinational consumer goods marketing company, he logged 80 hours over three weeks and only backed off when he felt exhausted.
“Currently, these companies have too much on their plate to prioritize work-life balance and the well-being of freelancers,” he says. “As things stand, I have to deal with this on my own.”
This growing demand for freelance talent has not completely resolved other weaknesses in the system. For example, old issues keep getting worse, like getting paid on time (without the headache of multiple rounds of follow-ups). On top of that, some agency executives and marketers continue to fight with freelancers over rates, despite business picking up.
Bangsar adds, “Business has surely picked up, but the old pains of being a freelancer haven’t gone away.”