Improve Your Agency With Key Freelancers

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A few weeks ago our Ad Fed heard Cabell Harris speak. In the mid '90s Cabell founded WORK, a company he describes as a "Pop Culture Think Tank." Cabell is an über-creative mind who marches to his own drum,
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so he has always been someone I greatly admire. Seeing his latest work only reinforced that admiration.

Cabell shared his wisdom about how to attract and keep good people while doing better work in the process. One piece of advice he offered was to use freelancers that can help a small agency shine. A great talent who freelances costs more than the run-of-the-mill one, but you should view this cost as a worthwhile investment. Of course, finding those capable of bringing something special to the table requires a working knowledge of who's doing the best work as a freelancer. This is not an easy task considering many agencies don't want clients knowing they use freelance at all.

We recently completed a major rebranding for a client. It was a large project, so in addition to a creative team, I employed a very talented freelancer – Ernie Schenck. Ernie is well known. The former co-founder and creative director of Pagano, Schenck and Kay just finished his creative how-to book, The Houdini Solution. His wares aren't cheap for a small agency like mine, but well worth the short amount of time I could afford. A few weeks of developing a key approach with Ernie was not only great fun, it resulted in a defining campaign for my agency. My creative team is better today because of the experience. They were a huge part of the campaign's development, but Ernie helped them play loose. He was a powerful catalyst to making us better.

In the meantime, I'm working hard to recruit talent. It is no surprise to me that most people are unreasonably frightened of the unknown. The overwhelming reason people give me for not wanting to be a part of our group is that Albuquerque is too remote from the industry mainstream. This baffles me because the reason I came here was because ABQ is off the map. You can't put a place on the map that's already there. Sure it's risky. That's what makes it fun, exhilarating and worthwhile. It's hard to understand why people -- though wallowing in bad agencies without hope -- believe there is a huge risk in coming to a small market. The bigger risk is sitting in the mire of futility.

But, I digress. If you're a small agency trying to do great work, don't wait for people who can do it to show up on their own. Go out and get a hired gun. Sure they're expensive, so work a deal. If you've got a huge opportunity, they'll work with you. Your staff will -- improve and it will energize your agency to start doing better work. The right freelancer is worth the expense -- a hundredfold.
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