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Creatives – you finally have the leverage

Figure out what makes you happy and then put all of your creative energy into that

“Thanks so much for my great salary, but I’m not happy.”

This should make agency leaders very, very nervous.

AdAge just released an article featuring a recent survey of creative talent led by Working Not Working that, quite honestly, puts data to what we all could’ve told you from personal experience – no duh.

No one’s happy working 60-70 hours per week. It’s not sustainable.

No one’s happy consistently seeing really creative ideas die the slow death of a thousand cuts. The red tape, politics, and generalized anxiety disorders of the account team will eventually push top creative talent out the door – or cause them to play it safe.

Both, extremely tragic.

But, this is good news for brands!

You don’t need a big fancy agency anymore for big ideas and world-class executions. You can go directly to the source.

The survey said: almost half of creatives believe they’ll make more of an impact going out on their own, either as a freelancer or by starting their own company.

And the creatives who are still willing to work for an organization? They’d rather work with brands than agencies.

(To be fair, brands with clout like Nike, Google, or Apple.)

There are a few ways to take advantage of this mass exodus.

For brands who want to grow creative talent in-house:

  1. Consider launching a startup studio or creative studio trained in design thinking. It’ll be more compelling for creatives to choose employment with you, over being their own boss, if there’s a playground and culture for creativity within your organization.

  2. Make a legitimate investment in teaching non-creatives in your organization how to give creative feedback. Simple education surrounding subjectivity, identifying the problem vs. offering solutions, etc. will go a long way in keeping creatives and keeping them happy.

  3. Invite creatives to come up with creative solutions to build a culture of creativity. From refreshing your onboarding experience to annual company-wide or team events, give them the reigns to think outside of the box a bit.

For companies who want to tap creative freelancers or independent contractors:

  1. Get honest about if you’re really able to set freelancers up for success. Are you able to adequately vet creative talent? Is there a process in place to onboard them, brief them, and ensure their success? Or will you be accidentally using and abusing them like the agencies they just left did?

  2. Respect that, if they don’t have a full time contract with you, they have other work on their plate. Freelancers are not employees. They can’t move mountains at the drop of a hat. Make sure that your timelines and communications are mindful of this.

  3. Realize that a freelancer is only one person – they’re not an agency. You’d be surprised how often freelancers hear, “You’re a designer, can you redo our website?” To have a website (of quality), you need a team. Copy, SEO, UX/UI, design, development. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on the people you pull in. If you need a team, there are agencies like Jumpsuit who are powered by independent contractors, but who can also provide the cross-discipline support.

This is good news for creatives, too.

You’re living in the midst of the Great Resignation. Check in with yourselves, right now, and figure out what it is that truly makes you happy.

Is it a flexible schedule so you can spend more time with your family?

Is it the ability to work anywhere, so you can travel more?

Is it the type of work that you want to say yes to, because it aligns with your values?

Figure it out and go after it. You have all of the leverage.


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Nicole Ayres

An ex-agency Creative Director, now happy founder

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