For our 2017 Christmas party we didn’t just have a staff do or a client schmooze. Instead we hunkered down at the office and invited many of the people we have worked with over the year (and beyond). Camera ops, editors, writers, make-up artists and many more all came along. It was great fun and it felt so good to celebrate with an extended family of talented people. The freelancers. This made me think about how we work with our freelancers and why I enjoy it so much.
FYI, the origin of the word freelancers is found in the book Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott in 1819, used to describe a medieval mercenary warrior.
“I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them — I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”
Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, 1819.
Mercenary? No. This is about celebrating the freelancers and these days the lances have been replaced with Arri Alexas, gaffer tape and Creative Suite, but the men and women of action are as necessary and useful (and wonderful) as ever.
When it works… it really works.
They come in and are immediately part of the team. They bring something extra and add to the team in a special and exciting way. So beyond the obvious (increasing capacity or bringing in a specialism), here are a few of my observations based on years of working with freelancers at Contented Brothers.
Sometimes it doesn’t work…
If someone doesn’t seem right you’ll know pretty quickly. Best to move on politely and try to save face for all involved. Not always easy, especially if they have made headway into a project but doubling down will rarely be a good idea.
Part of the team
I have been a freelancer myself so have experienced both sides. It can be tough turning up somewhere new so it’s always a relief if it’s somewhere that welcomes you in. At its worst, the main goal is to get every last drop of work out and move on to the next rather than nurture a partnership. If bridge burning is your thing then by all means, but I have found the best work comes from the people who have come back time and time again and feel welcome and valued when they’re here. They will know the ropes and often know what the clients does/doesn’t like.
Ask their opinion
I’m not just talking about consultants or creatives here but anyone. Freelancers have seen, heard and created things we can only imagine. They have worked for lots of different clients, agencies and production companies so why not gain from that breadth of experience? Get them in a brainstorm or meeting. Ask how they would approach a brief. Do they have a workflow more efficient than ours? Steve Jobs said: “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to to, We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Well, the same goes for our freelancers.
Don’t hide them away
When we partner with other agencies we much prefer it when there is full disclosure to the client on the way we are partnering to do the best job possible. The same can go for freelancers. It generally doesn’t pay to try to keep them at arms length. They won’t feel empowered and you will have a lot more work relaying info back and forth. If you have been treating them as part of the team and been asking their opinions, they will understand your business and how you represent yourself.
Throw a party
Get everyone together and wonderful things will happen. There are partnerships and new work created this way. So welcome in the Free Lances and create better work.