Which is better: A staff job at an ad agency, or self-employment, a.k.a. working freelance?
As someone who has significant experience working it both ways, my answer is there is no right answer. Of course, this is an unsatisfying response to anyone who is questioning their current path and imagining how a job, or going freelance, might be a better plan for one’s economic and mental well-being.
Whether to go freelance or return to a job
Felicia C. Sullivan, a marketing strategist, is facing it now.
My freelance career is nearing its best-by date. This realization didn’t come from some climactic third act. Instead, it was an acknowledgment of a simple truth: everything expires.
Sullivan’s writing on this topic is moving. It’s frightening to feel alone in the world, be it professionally or personally. She points to the fear but does not sucumb to it.
Here, she lists the things that she misses in a job.
I miss the feeling of walking into an office with hot coffee and powering up my laptop. I miss not having to deal with the administrative aspects of my job, which often take as much time as the work itself. I miss having access to the tools and technology that would make my work easier and superior. I’ve become the MacGyver of brand strategy and market research, and it’s often exhausting. Although I’m a self-motivated Type A person who loves to create structure and develop solutions, I miss the formality of imposed structure.
How badly do we, as human beings, need other people in our work lives? It seems to me that to be happy at work, it helps to be on a team and have a place to physically show up every day. Without these things, the feelings of being unmoored can sweep one out to sea. The needs for connection are amplified, not
Are You A Member of Coffeeshop Nation? Chances Are Good That You Will Be
Is your favorite coffee shop full of laptop-toting caffeine addicts who occupy just about every seat?
According to economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz, the percentage of people engaged in “alternative work arrangements” (freelancers, contractors, on-call workers and temp agency workers) grew from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015. Their report found that almost all — or 94 percent — of net jobs created from 2005 to 2015 were these sorts of impermanent jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7% of the labor force identifies as an independent contractor. Whichever way you parse the data, it all adds up to millions of American workers stitching things together as a solo artist. While soloists often make beautiful music and add their piece to the orchestra when called upon, it can be a hauntingly lonely existence, where questions about self-worth come up much too often.
There are remedies to these pitfalls, including finding and building community (via AIGA, your local Ad Fed and Creative Mornings, to name a few). There is also The Freelancer’s Union, which is free to join.
Let’s Not Lose Sign of the Immense Value in Outside Ideas
Freelancing is not for everyone, and not every agency makes good use of the freelancers they do hire. I’ve experienced the disrespect that comes with the territory. And I’ve been rewarded for my contributions. Also, as an agency creative director who routinely hires freelancers, I’ve been on each side of this equation.
The obstacles to success are easy enough to identify. A functional team with freelancers keeps everyone in the loop and acts
However the team is composed, the freelancer brings more than a fresh mind to the client problems at hand. A freelancer is not bogged down with the political bullshit or daily grind that exists in every agency under the sun. Therefore, the freelancer is free to think good thoughts on the client’s behalf.
PREVIOUSLY ON ADPULP: Don’t Kill the Copywriter: A Short Guide to Treating Freelancers Like Human Beings by Joel Wayne