In my last post I announced that I’ve left the agency environment after many, many years and set up as an independent communications consultant. This was the response of someone close to me when I told them last year, but which pretty much sums up the reaction from a few people. Words like ‘brave’ and ‘bold’ have been used.
So I thought I’d share why I think becoming freelance is the way forward not just for me, but for others with my skillset and experience.
I specialise in digital, and primarily, social media. And though Facebook marketing has been around for seven or eight years and Twitter went mainstream over six years ago, it’s now 2015 and marketers of all types are still struggling to get to grips with how to communicate effectively through these “new” channels.
Generally speaking, digital, advertising and, to a lesser extent, SEO marketers produce great content but don’t necessarily have people in-house with the right mindset to activate it through a primarily conversation-led medium. On the other hand, the conversation specialists, PR professionals, are struggling to turn their skills into direct-to-public interactions or to adopt the data-led approach that enables them to measure success.
This isn’t a criticism; it’s just the way it is. The problem is that there’s a lack of specialist social media knowledge and skill within not all but most marketing agency and in-house environments. And it’s explained by looking at their core functions and the way they have developed.
The creative teams employ designers and media buyers. The tech teams employ very clever nerds. The comms teams employ media specialists.
And all of them are drilled into ‘selling’; selling products through ads, or search rankings, or media coverage. But people on social media don’t want to be sold to.
To make the structural changes necessary to redefine those agency models and roles is a massive and arguably unrealistic undertaking, especially for larger organisations.
Marketers essentially have two options when it comes to covering this ground: invest in employing someone senior on a permanent basis, or draw on the knowledge of a specialist freelance consultant on a project basis.
Both options have their benefits. But the former is limiting for small and medium-sized teams due to the not insignificant salary involved. I personally believe that the latter is the future for most agencies and in-house teams, and that’s essentially why I’m moving in that direction.
Given the challenges faced by many agencies and communications teams, it makes sense to me that partnering with an experienced freelance social media consultant provides the expert advice and counsel that clients require, while gradually building literacy in digital and social media to a point where they no longer need that external help.
It’s a win/win situation. Isn’t it?
Back to that conversation:
“For me, the risk is in not going independent.”
“But what if it doesn’t work?”
“If I’m wrong about all this, then I’ll have to try and get a full-time job! But I’m convinced freelance is the way forward.”
“I guess we’ll find out in a few months!”