Let’s be honest, the word “freelancer” used to come with a stigma attached. Some deemed it a euphemism for ‘unemployed.’ Others would think: “Why is this person so readily available?”
But as the world turns the page on 2020 and collectively wishes for anything but an encore performance, the word “freelancer” has finally come full circle to stand for something vastly more empowering.
Both for freelancers — and the agencies themselves.
The world’s changed and with it, what it means to use outside help. As a result, “freelancers” are now preferable — a necessary work solution that gives companies and ad agencies access to impressive talent, a flexible workforce and in some cases, a happier and less taxed group of people.
It’s a world I know firsthand having spent years in the full-time agency and digital media world…
One of my previous stops was as a managing editor at the digital media agency Uproxx Media. This was 2015-2016 when I spent my days quarterbacking creative ideas to sell to brands like Miller Lite, TBS, Apple and Honda (amongst others). By spearheading native editorial plays for the mostly millennial male audience of 50M+ unique monthly visitors who passed through our owned-and-operated websites (Uproxx and BroBible) and social channels, I was kept inordinately busy. To say the least.
There was something like 75+ creatives writing, designing and producing content for us back then — and if I remember correctly, maybe 10 were full-time. The rest were some of the most talented and enthusiastic freelancers you could find across the country who teamed up to produce killer editorial and branded content on a daily basis. If I had to guess from a purely unscientific poll, I’d say most probably preferred to stay freelance so they could retain their flexibility, write for others and produce passion projects on the side that they’d never be able to touch if they had a more traditional “office job.”
It was a teamlance work model — though no one called it that back then — and part of the origin story of flexible workforces that defied conventional workplace models to do things differently. It’s not entirely different from the Teamlancing™ model of content creation ClearVoice has developed — a solution purpose-built for agencies where talent works remotely for the agency in tactical, interconnected groups to deliver the same results as if the work had been kept in-house.
This model worked for our digital media agency at the time because of three key reasons.
It allowed us to:
- Retain flexibility: By using only the resources necessary to complete each branded content play, we could ramp up or down depending on what was needed for any project and/or work we won.
- Save money: By using only talent that was necessary for a project, we could pay them according to the budget we were able to negotiate for each branded content campaign.
- Access the best talent we could find: If we didn’t have the person we needed in our stable, our work model allowed us to go find them versus merely relying on the best of what was around.
There were other advantages that work even better now — versus five years ago.
New York. Chicago. Miami. Los Angeles. Just some of the cities where the freelance talent I collaborated with on a daily basis lived. In fact, on day one at Uproxx, I was shocked to find out that I was the only writer working out of the L.A. office. But I’d soon learn why that was a good thing as we benefitted from using creative talent spread across the 50 states. Experienced writers connected by Slack, email and video conferencing platforms (pre-Zoom boom). We all *gathered* together virtually in the same office every day — without throwing away god knows how much quality work time to office commutes, awkward stop-and-chats and cultural misfires.
As it turns out, this talent model was ahead of its time in the digital space — and will likely be adopted with more consistent usage given reality checks from the coronavirus and the collective rethinking of the traditional office workplace. As it turns out, having access to hundreds of thousands of talented freelancers who can teamlance together remotely — without sacrificing quality and the idea of togetherness — is not so farfetched after all.
Here are three more compelling reasons why this model worked for us at the time and why now might be the time for agencies to consider bringing on a tactical teamlance partner.
Teamlance advantage #1: Agency resources free up allowing you to divide and conquer.
One of my primary responsibilities in the role of managing editor of branded editorial was to respond to an incessant flow of RFPs (requests for proposal) on a daily basis from media firms and Fortune 100 brands. This amounted to roughly five per week, which meant my team had to conceive, refine and pitch about 15 solid, workable ideas every week. This, of course, was before any were even bought — so, on top of it all, I was also responsible for writing ideas we sold.
There were only so many hours in a day so that posed a bit of a bandwidth problem for me. The solution? A teamlance-type setting was a lifesaver to keep things running smooth — and me from losing my mind. Having contracts in place with freelancers with wide-ranging areas of interest to tag-team branded content pieces made a huge difference productivity-wise. With detailed direction, they whipped up pieces I couldn’t and did heavy-lifting around concepting, execution and even attending occasional out-of-town events, which freed me up.
Without having to rely on other full-time employees whose bandwidth was already spent, we were able to pay these trusty team players to free up agency resources in house for bigger ticket items that could keep us focused on driving more revenue to the company.
A small investment for a much bigger payoff.
Teamlance advantage #2: You can now pitch projects you would’ve had to say ‘no’ to.
When it comes to pitching new projects and clients, there’s something to be said for knowing what you’re capable of as an agency. It’s easy to get seduced by dollar signs and just pitch away with the hopes that you’ll figure it all out later. And that can work out… sometimes.
When our team pitched and won a beast of a branded content project from Mountain Dew called DEWcision 2016, it was ambitious — but we knew we could handle it because of the freelance resources we had in place and access to. A quick snapshot of the campaign involved Mountain Dew polling fans about two new flavors they were hoping to launch. With a presidential election coming, this angle seemed especially ripe for exploitation.
Luckily, our team nailed the right pitch, recruited the right people out of house, and ultimately produced 15 articles (eight for Uproxx, seven for BroBible) asking people to vote for their favorites on a wide range of random pop-culture topics — from sports, to entertainment, to life. Two writers per piece, tackling vote-worthy topics.
Here’s one such piece that I wrote with the editor-in-chief of BroBible, Jason Cammerota, asking who the greater sports movie villain was: Ivan Drago or Shooter McGavin. We were full-timers, but the rest was crushed over the course of two weeks by the mostly remote team — spread out in several states — who coordinated assets, social strategy and media spend. The timeline was ambitious but we ultimately delivered a boatload of assets — and built a voting widget — all in a compressed timeline. The project tested the boundaries of what we were capable of, but we were able to accept the assignment and deliver the impressions Mountain Dew expected. 500,000 votes for the campaign — because of the way the agency was set up using resources to ramp up and scale.
It was the first time the native team was able to tackle an ambitious project with next-level success — without fire drills, budgets snafus or the morale-crushing overnights that deflate workers.
Win, win, win.
Teamlance advantage #3: Geographic-spread lets you dive into a deeper talent pool.
A music writer who gets the Nashville scene. A TV critic who can navigate New York Comic Con. A lifestyle writer who lives in Germany who just happens to know female criminals inside and out. When you’re working with team members throughout the world, you can cast a wider net to match talent to topic. (It’s something ClearVoice actually does quite well for agencies with its VoiceGraph™ Talent Discovery platform.)
When you’re able to look outside your four walls, the possibilities are endless when it comes to finding talented people who can create content nimbly, and fast. At Uproxx and BroBible, we did it for branded content involving everything from music to video games to TV to films. The approach let us work with people who specialized in, or had established connections to, the content we were trying to create — versus simply who’s sitting around screwing around on social. The latter approach can, of course, work — but it’s a riskier endeavor that frankly isn’t necessary given remote workforce access and intuitive tools that can help you lock in the best freelancers.
Thanks to technology, more people feel connected to each other than ever before. They can see each other, Slack each other and remain trackable to employers due to an abundance of efficiency software. For these reasons and more — including the big question of when people will actually return to a physical workplace — it seems the teamlance model is likely here to stay.If you’re an agency looking to boost productivity with a talented remote team, here are three compelling reasons you should finally pivot your stance to #teamlance. Click To Tweet