Study: 3 Freelancing Trends Marketers Need to Know About

By Jordan Teicher June 25th, 2015

To marketers, freelancers often fall into two categories: low-cost cogs in a machine or respected creative partners. For those marketers interested in building long-lasting content programs, the latter should be preferred. After all, it’s in their best interests. Marketers who have a reputation for valuing their freelancers could see big dividends down the road if they’re able to build out teams made up of the most talented self-employed creatives.

When you’re recruiting top freelance creatives, it helps to understand them. On our sister site, The Freelancer, we just published the results from our extensive survey that captures how today’s freelancers feel about their own careers as well as the state of the freelance economy as a whole.

Here are the three important takeaways from the study that marketers should know about.

1. They’re in it for the long haul

More than two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) plan to keep freelancing for at least the next 10 years, which is very important for both freelancers and the people tasked with hiring them. Why? Because it signals a shift in the way we should view the freelance community. The data suggests creatives are no longer just using contract work as a way to land a full-time job in the future—although that may be a result of staff jobs disappearing. As freelancing continues to shed its stigma as a second-rate career path, there will be more highly skilled creatives available to deliver on ambitious projects for publishers, marketers, brands, and anyone else willing to pay a fair rate.

2. They’re underpaid and looking for more work

This takeaway may not shock anyone, but it’s still useful to look at income data and get a sense of what exactly is plaguing the freelance community. Right now, money is by far the No. 1 issue for freelancers—34 percent of respondents reported that securing enough work was their biggest day-to-day challenge, topping all other factors including cash flow problems, time management, and loneliness.

In our survey, the median income for all respondents, which only counts freelance earnings, is between $10,001 and $20,000. When only looking at full-time freelancers, median income jumps up one interval, to between $20,001 and $30,000. Both ranges are well below the average U.S. salary (about $47,000) and the average salary for writers and editors (about $67,000).

For the right price, publishers will be able to attract the best talent out there. But without that, the quality of the freelance talent pool—and the health of the freelance economy at large—won’t be able to improve.

3. They’re still open to full-time employment

Yes, a majority of freelancers plan on committing to long-term self-employment, but that doesn’t mean they’re against taking full-time work if the right situation presents itself. In our survey, 68 percent of respondents reported they’d at least consider taking a full-time position in their field, including 30 percent of people who would definitely accept. Those stats could dictate how marketers approach compensating their freelancers over time.

In a recent Content Strategist piece on staffing a marketing team, Contently VP of Content Sam Slaughter stressed the importance of rewarding freelancers who consistently do great work. “Hiring your best freelancers in full-time roles is smart business,” he writes. “As freelancers prove themselves (and our content drives more and more results to the bottom line), I’m often able to make the case for them to come in-house.”

Obviously, budgets have limited flexibility. However, it’s crucial for marketers who rely on freelancers to think about ways to continue nurturing talent as time goes on. Freelancers may be committing more to long-term self-employment, but the security of a steady paycheck and benefits will always be a strong source of motivation.

You can read the full version of “The State of Freelancing in 2015″ here.

Image by Ivelin Radkov
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