A new site is trying to take the guesswork out of freelancing -- for both independent professionals and the agencies that hire them.
"Working Not Working," hopes to streamline the process of hiring and getting hired through a social-network-like platform and some handy tools. It was created by Justin Gignac (right), freelancer, artist and former art director at agencies like Toy, Fallon and Ogilvy & Mather and fellow Ogilvy alum Adam Tompkins, CD at DraftFCB who also worked at Amalgamated.
Freelancers who sign up create profiles that include their availability status as well as job titles, years and categories of experience, location, "vouches" from hiring managers or other freelancers on the site and, of course, rate. The last can feature a single dollar sign (up to $49/hour or $499 day) to four (upward of $150/hour or $1,500/day). Participants can share the love and recommend others when they're committed or otherwise unavailable. Hiring managers can "follow" and "favorite" freelancers they are interested in, and do searches based on filters.
The site is in beta and free but will be behind a paywall starting Monday. Then, for $275 a month, hiring managers can get an unlimited profile, with access to all the site's freelancers.
The idea came out of a tool that Mr. Gignac had on his personal portfolio site, a "freelance status apparatus" on his personal portfolio site. It had a blinking neon sign that showed whether he was available; when his status changed, he would send a message to his Twitter and Facebook followers.
"Justin's freelance status apparatus was the first tool I saw for an individual freelancer," said Mr. Tompkins, who used a more traditional method of finding work: "tons and tons of desperate emails."
The duo did an informal survey (they sent 50 emails to agencies and got 40 back). They found that 60% of responding agencies used outside resources to find freelancers last year and spent more than $25,000 in fees. Moreover, 45% said they returned to the freelancers they had used only "some of the time," for various reasons. Mr. Gignac also said that hiring managers' freelance Rolodexes are as big as the number of people in their office. With no filter or way to manage their lists, he said, "if they need someone quickly, they'd get the first warm body available." And the freelancers are often able to get their portfolios only in front of people they already know or have worked with.
Freelancers have been a staple in the ad industry for a long time, but as Ad Age previously reported, their numbers have been swelling as shops look for more staffing flexibility. Roo Rogers, president of Redscout Ventures, estimated that a quarter of the 16-million-strong freelancer workforce is composed of creatives, and that number is set to grow.
The site is set up as a one-way street , with hiring managers getting all the control. They are the ones who pay to look at profiles, and they initiate contact. "We didn't want to give the site a bad name and give people access to managers to make it more hectic," said Mr. Gignac.
While Messrs. Gignac and Tompkins have been curating the freelancers on the site (600 are on there now), as it grows, ultimately, they know they won't be able to sift through everyone. That's where the vouching system comes in. Through that , the founders believe the most talented people will rise to the top, and survival of the fittest will help to keep the site user-friendly. Of course, this means this might not be the right place for those just coming out of school with little or no experience--no matter how talented they are.
The partners hope the site's paywall system will help prevents problems with freelancer payments. As sites like the Freelancer's Union's "World's Longest Invoice" show, unpaid invoices are a major problem for independents. "If agencies are paying a monthly subscription, we hope they are serious about the work," said Mr. Gignac. "Anything that will help the [freelance] industry get a little structure will be good."