Is freelance a dirty word for some people?
Posted by Paul Allen on 27th September 2018 / 0 comments
This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Is ‘freelance’ a dirty word for some people? Is a freelancer’s time perceived to be less valuable and less valued than that of someone who works in agency? I am starting to think that it might be, certainly when it comes to new business.
Working for exposure = BS
It’s a well-documented thing that many freelancers – notably but not exclusively photographers, designers and musicians – are asked to provide work for ‘exposure’. How grateful must those freelancers be to be rewarded for their work with exposure, it’s almost as good as actually being paid for it.
That doesn’t seem to apply to freelance PR (it has never happened to me anyway) but is so obviously a steaming pile of BS that I want to avoid it here. Except to say, if you are asked to do it, just say no.
What makes me think that freelance time is less valued than those who work for a bigger company, is the complete lack of response or even acknowledgement during the new business process. I started Rise PR as a freelance / virtual agency in 2010. Throughout that time (and quite a lot recently, hence me finally writing about it) a common thread is if we spend time, resource and sometimes money on putting together a new business proposal, we are met with…nothing.
Not a ‘thanks for the proposal’, not a ‘we’ve gone with another option’ and not even ‘sorry, that proposal was the worst thing I have ever seen’. People don’t even bother to reply. I should stress that isn’t always the case, but a finger in the air estimate would be one in three new business prospects not responding. Perhaps another third will reply if we spend time chasing them for a response.
I spent the first 10 years of my career in agencies, big and small, and this occasionally happened then too but not nearly as frequently. I have been around the block a fair bit so certainly won’t take it personally if someone wants to go in a different direction or simply doesn’t like our approach / methodology. I also appreciate that telling someone ‘no thanks’ is not many people’s favourite task but it really isn’t that big a deal. Surely it isn’t asking too much to send someone a quick email?
Managing time as a freelancer
Popular misconceptions of freelancing are that we come and go as we please, squeezing a bit of work in between yoga and binge watching Netflix from the sofa. The reality is a little different and our time is precious. A new business proposal can take anything from half a day to two days and if we are doing that there isn’t always someone to pick up the client work while we do, meaning long working days or working the weekend.
That’s what makes it all the more galling when someone can’t even be bothered to say thanks for the time spent. Why is this seemingly so hard? I’ve spoken to a number of freelancers and it seems to be a common problem in my industry. What are other freelancers experiences of this? Is it more a freelance PR / digital thing or is it common across other freelance disciplines? I’d love to hear from other freelancers on this.