A blended model should be agencies’ answer to the full time vs freelance debate

To find a sweet spot, agencies need to take advantage of the stability and consistency of full time staff and support them with the best freelance talent, argues INVNT's Stephen Horsley.

What’s that age old saying? Ah yes, the grass is always greener on the other side. It’s certainly true for full timers and freelancers. Permanent employees have job security, paid leave, and they set and uphold an agency’s standards of work, which is ultimately very rewarding. Freelancers, on the other hand, are their own boss, privy to flexible work hours (although some agencies also have flexible conditions), and able to pick and choose projects and agencies.

The perks of both routes are clear when it comes to the individual, but what about the company? Why don’t agencies just employ freelancers in response to client demand? While more and more industry professionals – from creatives to strategists, producers and everyone in between – are heading down the freelance path, an eager, experienced and passionate tribe of permanent staff are key to the success of any campaign, and in turn, agency. In my view, the most successful agencies adopt a blended resource model.

The need for a steady workforce

There’s a level of brand governance that needs to be applied to each project. Permanent employees set the standard, define the level of delivery, and uphold the agency’s reputation in the marketplace by ensuring those standards are met each and every time. Full timers select work that’s suitable for the agency and consider factors like delivery timelines, workflows and staffing. While creative discussions are always a plus, full-timers will always brief freelancers and set the tone for the project, ultimately shaping the output.

Full time talent know their agency’s positioning, service offering and way of working inside-out, which ensures consistency of delivery from client to client, and campaign to campaign. In contrast, different freelancers have different styles of working – if we only had freelancers doing our work, there would be a lot of varying execution styles at play, leaving clients a little confused and ultimately unhappy.

Tapping into the relevant talent

A lot of the best people in the industry are freelancers – I’ve seen many of them start out as full-timers, work their way up the ranks, develop a reputation for the quality of their work and build out their book of industry contacts until it’s time to make the leap.

Having worked in different agency and client-side environments, they tend to have a much broader landscape of experience, which makes them versatile and adaptable, but, at the same time, many are specialists. This is beneficial; it means we can dial in a particular freelancer based on the skill set we need for a specific pitch or live project – perhaps a creative director who knows the client’s brand inside out, or a content maven with a passion for curating top notch speaker programs.

So, why a hybrid approach?

Avoiding a one size fits all mentality and creating a bespoke team that combines full time staff and freelancers means we’ll deliver the best quality work to the client in a highly personalised way. It highlights to them that we really get – and are passionate about – their brand. On top of that, blending resources allows us to operate from a more agile model.

This is why projects headed up by strong leaders, who ensure the consistent, high quality delivery of work, supported by freelance talent, hand-picked depending on the nature of the project, is the ultimate agency sweet spot.

Stephen Horsley is the Asia Pacific director of strategic accounts at INVNT.


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