In a recent opinion piece, noted columnist and author, Thomas Friedman discusses the freelance phenomenon. Not being in the design industry, we should all forgive Tom his naiveté when he considers freelancing as a relatively new trend. Many of us freelanced at some point in our careers well before the new millennium ushered in the massive downsizing and outsourcing that has forced other professions to follow our lead.
I would propose, though, that the newest iteration of freelancing, the on-site contract workers model, has begun to have a significant impact on the in-house design community. In 2008, many companies, in their panic to cut costs in the midst of the great recession, cut their creative teams back to levels where they could no longer service the design needs of those companies. The need for the services they provided did not go away with their departure and clients went to agencies to fill the gap. The beancounters discovered that this was even more costly than the in-house designers and writers their companies had employed. There was a quick about-face as these same companies rehired the “right-sized” creative crew.
But there was, and is, a difference. Rather than bringing their creative staffers back as full-time corporate employees, they brought them back to the fold as full-time on-site contract workers. This has allowed companies to have access to the same talent and services as they had before but without the headcount and accompanying HR and benefits overhead.
There are many varieties of contract worker engagements. Some are salaried, some are hourly. Some involve engaging workers as independent freelancers, others have their teams come in through specialized temp staffing agencies.
Having worked within this new paradigm early on, I can honestly say, that if structured properly, it is the best solution for most companies who need design and copywriting services on site.
Whether your team has weathered the downsizing storm intact, been gutted or is in danger of being outsourced, it’s in your best interests to educate yourself on the many options available within the contract worker model and determine which one is right for you and your team.