Long gone are the days when our employees devoted forty years of their life to the same industry, company or job, receiving a gold watch or engraved plaque upon retirement.
The itchy feet epidemic of our modern generation and an increase in everyday mobility extends beyond wanderlust and now also manifests in the workplace where it is no longer unusual – or at all frowned upon – to be changing jobs on a reasonably regular basis. If knowledge is power and variety is the spice of life, then a range of professional experiences where you’re required to work with a bunch of different personalities, stakeholders and systems can only be of value, right? For the estimated 32% of the Australian workforce who engage in some form of freelance work each year, there’s obviously a clear set of advantages.
Even traditional industries are struggling to provide safety from a turbulent economy, so learning the skills that enable you to be your own business manager (either full time or occasionally on the side) may well be the key to ensuring a more stable career future.
Matt, tell us about your move to launch Gigs. Where did the idea come from?
The concept of Gigs was very much an organic offshoot of what we were already offering on The Loop – which is a network where companies and creatives can connect and commercialise these connections. Our corporate and small business clients were increasingly posting ‘gig-like’ opportunities in the freelance segment of the site, which made us realise it warranted a section and strategy of its own.
Lots of companies were voicing a need for ad hoc products: “I need a website, invitation, flyer or logo”, rather than needing a long-term hire, which requires a lot of commitment – and as anyone who has done it before would attest to – can cause a lot of anxiety and pressure! So, like a lot of problem-solving technology, Gigs was definitely born from market research and demand.
How soon did you know it was a worthwhile extension of your brand?
There has been rapid growth in the global freelance landscape for some time, in part because of digital platforms like ours that make it easier than ever to connect talent with short term work. It was obvious that many of our ‘Loopers’ were already doing some on the side, so we knew we had to create a slick way to aggregate these types of opportunities in one place. The early engagement rate is clear evidence of Gigs relevance and benefit to the community. We have been blown away by the assortment [of jobs] that are hitting the site each day, from a new ‘Chippy’ logo to jungle illustrations for a lampshade.
Do you have a way of tracking the success of professional match-making?
We don’t automate the process of tracking success as we encourage relationships to be built between the creative and employer off-site, which is pretty unmeasurable. However, our community regularly share their stories across social media so we’re getting a good feel for our customer happiness through these channels. What we’ve seen so far is that a one-off gig so often leads to a regular freelance job, which is win/win/win for everyone!
In your opinion, what are the benefits of connecting local employers to local employees as opposed to off-shore solutions?
Connecting on a local level has so many advantages. First and foremost, nothing really beats a real life interaction. There’s still huge merit in building a face-to-face relationship – especially when it comes to ongoing work. Although a huge amount of digital tasks are completed remotely these days, there’s something comforting about knowing your job is being done by someone you can look in the eye… if you ever need to.
We’ve found that in the majority of off-shore projects, there is inevitably some sort of communication breakdown/lost in translation moment. Often not all the elements of the brief are understood and desired outcomes aren’t met, which becomes a costly, time wasting, and frustrating process of revisions.
By staying local, creatives also avoid free pitching and the sorts of bidding wars associated with offshore sites, which undoubtedly drive down price and quality. I could go on for hours about how bad this type of model is for the creative industry as a whole.
A freelancer’s online Loop portfolio makes it easy for local business owners to make a quick decision about who’s right for the job as they can see work for other local brands, which builds instant credibility.
Why do you think there’s an increase of employees identifying as ‘freelancers’ at the moment?
Creative professionals are looking for flexible and diverse work options rather than producing work for a single client under one roof. Working across multiple clients and products makes a freelancer more nimble and agile as they’re constantly having to upskill to meet client demands, and this consequently puts them at a competitive advantage in the market.
Not only can there be some desirable work/life balance perks, but – if charged out correctly – freelancers are also well rewarded for the fruits of their labour. In March, we saw over 250 Gigs posted to The Loop and incredibly – to our pleasant surprise – the average price of a Gig was $1,233. These Gigs take an average of 8 hours to complete, so for someone working in a full-time job doing a few Gigs on the side, it has the potential to become very lucrative.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing freelancers in the industry right now?
I think there are two: the first is creative freelancers need to get paid what they are worth. Too often I hear of freelancers saying my hourly rate is $100 per hour but I’ll do it for $60 just to get the job. This constant devaluation is a risk to both their own livelihood and the industry. So we want to ensure the value of creative work is maintained – even accentuated – by giving employers a guide on industry rates.
The second is encouraging freelancers to actually operate as a business. Doing so will hopefully ensure they consider salary, tax, expenses and super. Freelancers like any business should try to plan for the future, look towards a pipeline of revenue, manage expenses and cash flow and ensure the business can afford both tax and superannuation payments.
Freelancers and businesses, check out Gigs for yourself at theloop.com.au/gigs