There are many differences between marketing, PR, communications, copy writing, event, photography / videography, and hospitality industries, but they come together as constituent parts of what many freelancers call creatives. I prefer to think of this work as comprising the largest part of an experience economy. Joe Pine and James Gilmore were among the first to spot and talk about this shift, and are certainly worth a read. As a Forbes colleague wrote, recently, Millenials and GenZs strongly reflect this valuing of experience over “stuff”.
“Why do millennials value experiences over things? Because it makes them happy. And they aren’t wrong—studies have found that spending money on experiences brings more lasting joy than spending money on things. Experiences are also more shareable, which is important to younger generations.”
Pundits Gurleen and Chanpreet Kaur point out that the experience economy has been impacted and accelerated by Covid 19, ironically by diminishing recent opportunity for experiences (at least those outside the home). Clearly, the pandemic has impacted experience economy freelancers differentially. But, I’ve tried in this survey to recognize and combine the views of experience economy freelance platform CEOs and thought leaders, as well as across geographic markets.
What we know is that, more and more, these areas of expertise need to work together to grow the larger freelance potential. Collaboration in areas like marketing transformation is clearly increasing, but not fast enough for all parts of this freelance community. While Covid 19 has opened up significant avenues for freelancing on the marketing side both in brand work and in digital marketing transformation, and continues to disrupt traditional agency work, the events and hospitality business has been sheltered-in-place in most developed countries, and has been challenged to reinvent almost every aspect of the business to stay afloat. Event freelancers are optimistic about 2021 but especially glad to turn the page on 2020.
Here’s what experience economy freelance platform CEOs and thought leaders have to say about the coming year:
Hans-Ulrich von Freyberg (Vicoland, Germany) “Two trends shape the marketing services business in 2021. They seem contradictory but both go after efficiency. One trend is clients, especially larger corporations, deepening their relationships with suppliers but not all. The goal is streamlining and cutting out low value work. The other trend: openness to use freelance resources to benefit from the efficiency of working with the right talent, when needed, and without overhead cost attached.”
Peter McPartin (Indie List, Ireland) “After a major hit to revenue this year, marcomms agencies are quietly filling talent gaps with freelancers. This will generate business for experienced independents. Simultaneously, major brands are supplementing marketing teams with freelancers on contract. For our clients, agility, diversity and originality are even more essential requirements. The collapse of geographic barriers and use of project management platforms to help coordinate teams, will favour greater direct use of freelancers. The skills in greatest demand are currently around all aspects of e-commerce, UX/UI design, social media management, AV content creation and copywriting skills.”
Marlon Rosenzweig (WorkGenius, US) “There are numerous tailwinds and structural characteristics that make the freelance marketing sector one of the most attractive ones. Marketing teams are digital and embrace innovation. Creative marketing talent seeks the flexibility of freelancing. Marketing is growing as an industry. Most marketing work can be done remotely. This was true pre pandemic and has been accelerated by the pandemic.“
James Sandoval (Measurematch, UK) “2021 will be a year of growth for professional services marketplace platforms. We see growing demand for customer experience analytics, data visualization and CRM systems and data capabilities, but also enterprise cloud computing, cyber security and marketing campaign execution. I’ll also make this prognostication: there will be one or more acquisitions in 2021 that sees consultancies take a bite out of the independent professional services market.”
Steve Dormon (Speakeasy, US) “The freelance market will be flooded with high quality professionals either furloughed, made redundant or by choice. This coincides with clients confidence in remote work and an increased appetite for external expertise. Brand Strategy, consultancy and analytics freelance work will increase. CPG companies are adopting a more ‘fluid’ approach to independent talent-based contractors and businesses, given the pressures they face from startups. Healthcare, Hospitality & Travel industries will boost growth in strategy, graphic, and services. Entertainment is in the midst of a strategic re-set and need the fresh perspectives of outsiders and reinvent themselves. Leaner, faster, freelance-based models will take a larger bite of the total pie.”
John Ashton (Write Arm, UK) “The opportunities for freelance businesses are as never before. Prior to Covid there was an understandable tendency among clients to view kitchen table agencies and other flexible remote-based enterprises as a tin pot version of bricks and mortar businesses. The explosion of enforced home working has opened their eyes to the fact that such businesses are viable and should be taken seriously. We see marketing services growth tech continuing. The sector is very robust and subsectors like fintech and e-commerce tech are mushrooming. We’re busier than ever and 80% of our work is in tech – as if Covid never happened.”
Hugo Finkelstein (Rise, US) “While advertising and PR budgets have been reduced, 2021 demand is rising. Businesses from all sizes are looking for independent talent to produce content cost efficiently. When businesses are strapped for cash, they’re open to alternative ways to get what they need for cheaper while maintaining quality. Turning to freelancers is becoming normal. While content like animated videos and blogs has strong demand, we’re seeing demand growth in audio branding and production (jingles & podcasts).”
Alok Alström (Appjobs, Sweden) “We see a new potential set of clients that have not been working with freelancers before and are now actively exploring it. In advertising, marketing and PR, we see an increased shift to freelancers thanks to traditional companies starting to explore the use of freelancers. But this shift is slower and will take place during a longer period of time. Even though the total market spend might decrease, the share captured by freelancers is already increasing significantly and will continue to do so throughout 2021.”
Helen Dibble (Incredibble, UK) “Freelancers are already stepping in to fill the void left by Covid-related redundancies. These opportunities are about more than doing the job. Companies need partners able to fully integrate into the business, offer strategic insight and deliver the goods while retaining the flexibility and agility. Too many freelancers are leaving money and opportunity on the table by not thinking beyond the project. This thwarts freelancer growth and teaches companies freelance talent is transactional.”
Tash Menon (Mash, Australia) “To win in this new world of coexisting with COVID, marketing and advertising leaders will look for agile, efficient, results-focused creative solutions via the curation of freelancers. COVID-19 has accelerated openness to remote working.”
Anna Yudin (Marteamo, US) “2020 has forced all of us to change how we work and interact. Many companies in 2019 wouldn’t accept remote work, but Covid has changed that. For the freelance industry it means that there will be more opportunities, but competition will be even more intense. Personal branding will be especially important in 2021. And digital marketing will be more human-oriented than ever: people need people, not just products and names.”
Elina Jutelyte (Endo-exo.net, Belgium) “In event marketing, I see that in 2021 marketing will become more smarter and more personalised. I believe we will make a big step forward in machine learning and data analytics. The event marketeers therefore will be required to be not only digitally savvy but also have strong technical and data analytics skills. This all reflects greater opportunity for freelancers in digitalisation, data analytics, AI, AR/VR, and distance learning. We see advertising, marketing and PR freelance business expansion in most industries.”
Sarah Townsend (Sarahtownsendeditorial, UK) “Freelance creatives have a bright year ahead. The inherent unpredictability of self-employment means we’re used to being adaptable and resilient. And with newly lean businesses waking up to the skills, flexibility and cost savings that come with hiring freelancers, the world has changed in our favour. The outlook is positive.”
Daphne Hoppenot (The Vendry, US) “When it’s safe to have in-person events again, freelancers are going to be one of the biggest drivers of the corporate events and experiential marketing industries. With so many event professionals being laid off, furloughed, or having their hours cut, they’re taking this time to develop their own personal brands – we’ve seen more members of our community than ever market themselves as freelancers. Brands, on the other hand, are going to want to jump back into live events the minute it’s safe to do so. Their clients, customers, and employees are sick of being all virtual all the time, but many no longer have the in-house resources they need to produce a live event. When that time comes, this burgeoning community of event freelancers is going to be there, ready to get to work.”
Teodora Nikolovska (Vrootok, Macedonia) “If there is one good thing that the pandemic has shown us, it’s that digital marketing is among the key areas which are not tied to a physical location. As business goes digital, hiring freelance, on-demand talent in 2021 will become essential for companies that want to work with the best talent and get the best results.”
Chandrika Pasricha (Flexing It, India) “Marketing, including communications and PR, is one of the top 3 skills in demand on Flexing It. Post COVID, there is a strong shift to digital and we expect this to continue with large firms as well as SMEs looking to leverage the best talent in the market, and seeing value in the high quality, niche skills and agile mindsets of independent marketing talent with cross-sector expertise. FMCG, healthcare and Education are three sectors in particular where we expect to see strong demand.”
Gideon Stein (WriteLabel, US) “While marketing budgets are likely to remain depressed in 2021, demand for personalized ad copy is rapidly expanding due to broadcast and digital requiring hyper-targeted messaging to connect with specific audiences.”
In sum, what do these platform CEOs and thought leaders see as the near future for the freelance creatives helping to build the experience economy? The expectation is for transformation both in how client companies tell their story and create events – digital now, in hopefully back in the physical world in 2021 – that will carry and reinforce their brand message. But very likely, the transformation will also prove a growth tsunami for freelancers in this space.
Viva la revolution!