Although there is some debate about just how many freelancers there are in the U.S., everyone agrees that the number is rising. Writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and other professionals are choosing to work for themselves even as the demand for creative content increases. Meanwhile, brands, non-profits, and small businesses need content for online platforms and other communication channels. The "freelance economy" is creating a new problem: How do organizations that need content find the professionals to create it?
Freelance writer Jennifer Mattern suggests that there is not necessarily a problem. "Freelancers want there to be some mysterious destination where all of the high paying clients congregate, itching to part with their money," she says. "Many clients don't want to be bombarded with applications from dozens to hundreds of freelancers, many unqualified, simply because they advertised a professional pay rate...Referrals, searching, and receiving direct pitches are how many pro-level gigs start out." She goes on to say that professional freelancers probably won't be hurt by using services that connect them with potential clients and that they may be valuable stepping stones, but "my recommendation is to still focus on your own visibility through owned outlets (like your professional site or blog) and actively network with prospects and colleagues alike."
Still, services like the bidding platform Guru show that there is a demand for a place where organizations and freelancers can find one another. On Guru, creative professionals set up profiles to showcase their work, and organizations looking for content post jobs. Freelancers then bid on the jobs, and the job posters can browse through the profiles of the bidders.
Although some freelancers have criticized Guru for promoting a "race to the bottom" as far as rates go, Anna Bassham, branding and communications manager at Guru, says that is exactly the problem the platform seeks to solve. "We want to help freelancers get paid what they deserve. And we want employers to be able to find someone who can work within the budget they have," she says. "Those two goals can be hard to reconcile. But we believe that the quality of a freelancer's work speaks for itself on Guru. You can literally see what someone is capable of, by viewing their profile, services, and work collections."
Guru user Jennifer Reineohl says, "Since I am not good at selling my skills, Guru works out well for me. I can showcase my ability on my profile, and then let my profile and feedback speak for me to potential employers." Reineohl says that she bids on about ten jobs per week and enjoys the freedom to take time off and work on other projects.
Tongal takes an entirely different approach to connecting content producers and organizations. Where Guru uses bidding, Tongal uses crowdsourcing. On Tongal, brands post projects (most often video-related), offer prize money, and users submit ideas. The top ideas are chosen. Next, the winning ideas are posted to the community, and users put together pitches describing how they would bring those ideas to life. Once again, the brands choose the winning pitches and offer the winners a budget to complete the project. A final winner is chosen and paid for their work. Tongal's founder and president, James De Julio, says, "Our community members have already earned $10 million! The work they are delivering is brilliant."
Users Jeff Capili and Maggie Condol say that the biggest perk of working through Tongal is that they get to work with big name brands. In an interview they said that there really is not a downside to working through Tongal. They say, "It's rewarding and you get to see your work out there. And you get to work with big brands that you otherwise wouldn't get to work with. You can add that work to your projects and it helps your overall portfolio and helps you get future work." Capili and Condol, an animation team, has worked on Tongal projects for LEGO, McDonald's, and Ivory Soap, among others.
Contently is "a tech startup based in NYC with the mission of building a better media world, and empowering the three groups that have a stake in that: publishers, creative people (journalists!), and readers." User Spenser Davis says that for him, the biggest appeal of Contently "is their content management system for publications. I see Contently as a potential home for writers online--if it were in widespread use. It's fairly seamless to pitch/write/edit/get paid when both the writer and publication are using the system, and the writer can then just pop over to their profile and add any finished projects."
As the freelance economy continues to grow, the options for how creative professionals and organizations find each other and work together will expand. The type of content needed, personal working preferences, and the budget involved all make a difference in what the best option is for any given situation. Bidding sites, crowdsourcing platforms, portfolio profiles, and personal sites mean that freelancers have marketing flexibility and organizations have choices.
(Images courtesy of Shutterstock.)