A few years ago, I was searching for more balance, control and flexibility when it came to my career. I was working 60-plus hours a week, traveling a ton, and in the habit of turning on my computer every single evening between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m. to “catch up” on work. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, but wasn’t ready to launch my own business just yet. Instead, I decided to leave my six-figure job that left me feeling completely empty and overworked to freelance and get a taste of independence. One year later, I had doubled my salary and cut my hours in half, allowing me to spend every Friday with my kids. Two years later, I had launched my own business.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy at first. But I learned how to create jobs for myself by asking employers if they would consider hiring me as a freelancer instead of a full-time employee. I wrote job descriptions for myself and sold people on the benefits of working with me as a consultant instead of hiring me. I began telling my friends to do the same thing and helped them make connections around town. Since then, I have watched their independent freelance careers thrive. That’s when I decided to take what I was doing for free and turn it into a business.
My business partner and I launched The Hunt Agency in the beginning of 2019. It’s an invite-only freelance network for advertising and marketing professionals in the Twin Cities. We make it easier to “go it alone” by creating a resource for freelancers and companies to connect. Knowing you have the support and connection tools to find consistent work takes away the fear and unknown of freelancing. In addition, we were helping freelancers market themselves, reducing ongoing business development efforts and leaving time for what’s most important – the work.
As soon as we launched our proprietary network, we had immediate interest in the concept. However, it wasn’t perfect. We launched with an MVP (minimum viable product) site, conducted a beta test, and began collecting feedback from freelancers, agencies and businesses. We shifted our pricing, refined our targeting, added new features to our website and began working with new clients. We were slowly moving forward and learning a lot along the way… then Covid-19 hit.
Local advertising agencies began furloughs and layoffs, immediately leaving thousands of talented marketing experts worried about their careers and the livelihoods. Requests to join our network as a freelancer skyrocketed. Businesses began scaling back their marketing teams and pausing agency relationships, although work still had to get done. We began receiving calls to step in as marketing consultants, provide support and direction, and fill gaps with our curated freelance teams.
As companies begin to reopen, rehiring will be risky, time-consuming, and expensive. And, it may be tough for businesses to find those willing to return; 97 percent of professionals who go independent elect to stay that way rather than return to traditional work, according to the 2019 Freelancing in America survey by Upwork. The benefits and work-life balance that can come along with freelancing often make it tough for any independent to return to a full-time position. I can vouch for that!
There has never been a better time to start a career as an independent freelancer. The marketing and advertising freelance community was already expanding, and Covid-19 put that growth on a fast track as many others were laid off and left wondering when, if ever, they would be called back to work. Or they’ve started to enjoy working from home. If you’ve ever considered freelancing, now’s the time to pivot your thinking about traditional work relationships and work for yourself. The best way to control your future is to create it.