The rise of the digital marketing freelancer

There are many reasons why a CMO might steer clear of freelancers when building their in-house marketing team.

“They may not 100% committed to my business”

“They may leave at short notice”

“They may not be available to work when I need them”

Those worries combined with the UK government’s IR35 legislation (cutting down on freelancers benefiting from a more favourable tax position) and its impact on businesses has been an argument against freelancers throughout the in-housing trend over the last couple of years.

Until Covid-19.

Instead of building in-house teams completely made up of full-time employees (FTEs), the pandemic has caused brands to shift to hybrid models, combining both FTE and freelancer resource.

The structure of these teams tend to consist of FTE senior strategic resource (in charge of long-term marketing strategy) and freelance junior activation resource (in charge of running marketing campaigns).

Here’s why:

The freelance talent market is growing

With one in five UK workers becoming freelancers throughout the course of the pandemic and 83% stating they hope to continue working contractually after the pandemic subsides, the balance of the workforce is changing.

There’s now more freelance talent in the market for brands to choose for their in-house teams – skilled marketers with relevant job experience that would have usually sought out full-time roles are increasingly moving towards freelancing, making the market a great place to cherry-pick in-house resource.

Advertising budget cuts will continue to fluctuate

With record declines in advertising spending last year, the stable ‘locked in’ annual advertising budget will take a long time to return.

Having an unpredictable spending strategy leads to a resourcing headache – how can you resource your marketing team with FTE resource if you’re not sure of how much work they’ll have to do?

With the pandemic continuing to have a serious economic impact on businesses, freelance resource is a way to combat this volatile budgeting dilemma.

Operational and activation tasks will need to be scaled up and down

When running campaigns, the volume of work required for activation tasks is dependent on the pattern and volume of advertising spending - trafficking, tagging, optimising and reporting on campaigns can all be scaled up or down in relation to how many campaigns are running.

The erratic nature of advertising spending over the next 12 months benefits freelancers with these operational skills – in unmovable peak periods (Black Friday, Christmas, ISA deadline) campaign activation freelancers can be pre-planned in anticipation of greater spending, but can also be stood down at short notice if advertising budgets are suddenly cut.

Prioritising campaign performance

Recruiting, hiring and retaining an in-house marketing team has always had its complications.

The monotony of working on one brand/product, the lack of up-to-date training, the finite ceiling of career progression, the outer London office locations and the lack of media owner free bars are all obstacles that brands have faced in attracting and retaining in-house talent.

Working with freelancers allows you to focus on prioritising marketing performance, with their sole goal being to run campaigns that achieve your goals. All the other stuff can wait.

View from the expert

Tokay Aderiye, Contract Team Manager at Pivotal London gave me her take on the rise of the digital marketing freelancer:

"The freelance market is busier than ever. With the unfortunate effects of Covid still lingering across the sector, several workers have used the newfound flexibility to venture into freelancing. Pivotal has seen a 116% uplift in contract roles in comparison to January 2020 providing evidence that the contract market remains consistent. The circumstances have also led to a new talent pool of contractors, those now open to contract due to redundancy.

However, this increase still does not leave us with an excess of talent on the market. Instead, it seems brands and agencies across the market are starting to notice the benefits of having a more flexible workforce. As the economy continues to heal, and we continue to see an uplift in campaign spend, freelance performance marketing freelancers are being sought after now, more than ever.

In an unpredictable time, freelancers continue to be a solution to the uncertainty the pandemic has spread across the market."

Have you recently decided to jump to freelance? Comment below!