All of a sudden, it’s 2020…how long before the majority of our economy will be comprised of freelance workers?
If you ask the freelance platform Upwork, we have about 7 years. Even slightly less exuberant reports, such as the one prepared by Robert Half International, a project that 34% of workers will be freelancers in 3 years’ time.
That begs the question: how can you harness this surge in freelancing to build your own efficient and effective remote team? Can you make the “gig economy” work for you?
There is a real opportunity for entrepreneurs, particularly marketers, to create dynamic remote teams that serve clients with tremendous agility. But to leverage the opportunity well, a few ground rules are best observed. That’s what this post is primarily about.
Understanding how the freelance movement impacts marketing
Statistics about freelancing demonstrate that we truly are in the midst of a movement that’s changing the future of work.
Today, a full 28% of workers are freelancers who don’t pin their professional destinies onto any single company. And by the decade’s end, we may all mainly be our own bosses.
The reasons for this are technological as well as social. Clearly, freelancing platforms like Upwork and 99Designs have opened up opportunities for contract work all over the planet. Gig economy behemoths like Airbnb have normalized flexible, boss-free work. Millennials, especially, relish the opportunity to build flexible, lifestyle-oriented careers.
Freelancers can travel when they want to, rest when they want to, and grow professionally at their own pace. For many, these perks make the stress of self-employment (uncertainty and isolation) an acceptable price to pay.
Marketing is especially impacted by these trends, which are unpacked in full by Upwork’s Future Workforce Report. (Note: All stats below are drawn from this report.) Unmet demand for skilled marketing professionals has driven many hiring managers to fill those gaps with freelancers. In fact, 58% of those managers utilize freelancers, reportedly because they help agencies scale to meet project needs (56%) and because they fill staff shortages (54%).
Specialized skills distinguish the most in-demand professionals. For example, Upwork lists its most sought-after marketing professionals as marketing strategists, search engine marketers, email marketers, social media marketers, lead generators, and SEO experts.
Increasingly, the location doesn’t matter. 72% of managers will hire for a freelancer’s ability to perform certain skills, whereas only 6% will hire because a freelancer can physically come to the office.
The moral of the story? Freelancers are here to stay. Especially marketing freelancers. Their skills are meeting critical gaps, and their absence can delay projects or even stop agencies from taking on new clients. That means marketing agencies who have mastered the art of building happy and efficient teams out of these remote freelancers will rule the game as the decade progresses.
Three keys for building the best remote marketing teams
For all the benefits of harnessing freelancers (lower overhead, the ability to scale up and down depending on project needs), there are still obviously a lot of potential headaches to manage. The best marketing managers know how to avoid these headaches by setting up systems and processes to build truly efficient and satisfied remote teams.
These successful marketing managers know how to help their remote team focus, function and stay fired-up to deliver the best work with these keys:
Foster incredible communication
There’s no doubt about it: ensuring good communication throughout an entire team that doesn’t occupy the same office building is not easy. But all the advantages of a remote team go to the wayside when enough balls start dropping. Efficiency is lost and team morale starts to plummet.
The key is to bake protocol for “how to communicate” into a team’s Standard Operating Procedures and lead by example. All systems, processes, and workflows need to be extremely clear and transparent, and the team needs to see the procedures in play by the leaders so that they can emulate them. Obviously, as a systems strategist, I connect teams with project management tools that make meeting this challenge a lot easier. (Psst, check out this post I wrote comparing various PM tools, from Monday.com to Asana, to learn more about which one might suit your needs.)
Set expectations with utmost clarity
This is very much connected to the communication piece. To get the best out of marketing freelancers, you need to set extremely clear parameters. Spell out the workflows, identify the milestones, break down tasks into steps, and always articulate in objective terms what you need from a project. Again, having customized systems, processes, and workflows for your team will make the process of communicating these expectations so much easier. Even the best communicators aren’t always consistent if they don’t have a structure to support them.
Combine Account Management and Project Management into one seamless role
Running lean and efficient boutique marketing teams very often involves combining the roles of an Account Manager and a Project Manager into one extraordinary professional. Whoever takes on these dual roles needs a training process that sets them up for success. It’s essential that this training shows how these roles’ respective Key Performance Indicators work together.
Harness the revolution
Every day, there’s less debate about it: the future belongs to the freelancer. When it comes to marketing, this is especially the case. Skilled freelancers who can fill the type of gaps that threaten to shut down projects for agencies are no longer the exception—they’re the rule. Hence, marketing freelancers, to a certain extent, have more options than ever before. They need to be happy in their roles, or they can certainly move onto the next contract opportunity.
That’s why marketing managers who can actually build efficient and happy remote teams are poised for phenomenal success. Are you able to build a team with communication skills, operational clarity, and account/project management agility to meet these great needs in our economy? You hold the keys to the future, my friend.
Don’t forget, if you want to talk about setting up great systems and processes for your remote marketing team, I’d love to share my insights.