Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Freelancer's Owner Manual
Today's post is for my people.
No, not grumpy 44 year old Jews with an unlimited supply of righteous indignation and a garage full of soapboxes.
I'm talking about art directors and copywriters, of the freelance variety. So, if you're looking for something pithy about politics, parenting, neighborhood relations, the skyrocketing cost of college, or even a dismal recap of this year's Super Bowl extravaganza, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Today, February 16th, 2016, there are more advertising freelancers than I have ever seen in my entire career. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't receive a phone call, a text or an email to the effect of, "Hey, Rich if you know of any gigs out there send me your overflow."
Ok, that's not entirely true -- those requests never come via a phone call.
The point is, there are a lot of us creative mercenaries. And I don't think that's bad for ad agencies. In fact, as I have pointed out many times before, I believe it can be good. Very, very good.
As a public service to ad agencies all across this great land as well as those on the other side of the Greenwich Line (because I occasionally go international), I'd like to offer up some helpful hints in what I'm calling:
The Care and Feeding of Your Freelancer
1. Be Prepared -- Years ago, I was hired for a long term project at a rather obscene day rate. I won't say the name of the company but it rhymes with Zapple. I arrived on a Monday morning, ready to dazzle the Zapple people with my creative wares. But the Brief was not ready until Thursday. That's three full wasted day rates. Look, I'm happy to take your money, cruise Internet memes and pore through photos of Kim Jung Un all day long, but after a while Jewish guilt sets in. We want to work. Just tell us what the ideas are supposed to be about.
2. Give Us Time -- Over the last dozen years, I've been brought in countless times to reposition a brand. This is a monumental task. And it doesn't happen in the span of one rotation of the earth. "Here's the brief, let's see where you're at tomorrow morning." Look, I wasn't in the room at Chiat/Day when they came up with Think Different and Here's to the Crazy Ones, and by the way it's shameful how many people are claiming credit for that work, but I was down the hall when it came into being. And I can tell you it didn't happen overnight. Or overweek. Or even Overmonth. To that end, I urge you to watch this video.
3. Less Meetings, More Work -- It goes without saying that if you've hired a freelancer you're paying a premium for what you hope to receive are solid sellable solutions. What you don't want to be doing is paying top dollar to a bunch of fidgety creatives who are inordinately averse to PowerPoint decks, marketing-speak, and incomprehensible intersecting Rhomboids and Trapezoids. Wink, wink, we hate trapezoids. There's a reason they have sold 473 million of these coffee mugs.
4. Lay off the Layers -- If there's one thing we've learned from Washington DC and our inept members of Congress, it's that bureaucracy and politics produce more bureaucracy and more politics. Nothing good ever came out of GroupThink, with the possible exception of Windows 95™. Freelancers want nothing more than to do the work. We have no hidden agendas. No ambition. And no desire to move up the company org. chart. Hell, we don't even want to look at a company org. chart. It's why we became freelancers in the first place.
5. The Long Leash -- My dog is 13 years old, pushing on 14. When I take her out a night for walk I put her on the leash. But the truth is I don't have to. She doesn't pull ahead, as she did when she was a pup. She doesn't bolt across the street to chase squirrels. She simply walks by my side and obeys all my commands. It's the benefit of experience. Similarly, most freelancers tend to be on the older side. Not 44 like me, but they've been around the block. You can depend on them. They're going to get the work done. Whether it's offsite or onsite. Or a flexible combination of both. Of course, if you want them onsite, it's always a good idea to have free food around. We are by nature, cheap dates.
6. 1099 Us -- I'm no accountant, though I come from a long line of CPA's, but I can't tell you the exuberant joy that courses through my body when, prior to booking a gig, an HR person will ask, "Is it OK if we 1099 you?" OK? I'll slash my day rate to get a full 1099 paycheck. I'll gladly let my crafty accountant sort through the tax code and get me deductions for everything from my oven roasted turkey sandwiches (eaten while working) to my new Shimano FSX Mountain Bike (ridden while ideating.) Note: we also hate the word ideating.
With the possible exception of the last tip, all these tips are guaranteed to increase the bottom line of ad agencies hiring freelancers. And really, isn't that what's it's all about? Making more money for the holding companies.
I'm going to stop here at 6 points. I know that's an odd number and doesn't fit into the common listicle format of 5 or even 10. But that's exactly the kind of reckless and irresponsible freedom that makes life worth living as an advertising freelancer.