Five reasons you should bring in a freelancer rather than hire a new member of staff

With the demise of The Pool not so long ago, the once successful online magazine, there have been many conversations about the risks of being a freelancer, and the struggles that we face.

But as us freelancers will tell you, it’s not all doom and gloom, and actually for those of you in permanent employment, we freelancers offer something very useful.

Here are my top 5 reasons to bring a freelancer in when you get busy and need some help, rather than hire a new member of staff:

Experience - Freelancers do lots of different projects in a range of sectors. Since I’ve set up my business I’ve worked with local government, the civil service, in education, with charities, in healthcare, and with small businesses who do all sorts. I’m not stuck in a rut, doing the same job for years. Freelancers bring the benefit of that experience to you. And we also have lots of contacts, so if there’s something we can’t do, we usually know a woman who can. Or a man.

Flexibility - Freelancers offer flexibility. We’re used to it, it’s how we work. We are there when you need us and, when it’s quiet, we can disappear.


Speed - While I’m not saying all freelancers are quicker at doing the job (although I’d like to think we are) the very fact that we’re not tied up with the admin and bureaucracy of working in a business or organisation, managing staff, finance and legal and procurement (I speak from experience here!) means we are free to do what you need. And we’re also more likely to work outside the 9-5 to get the job done.

Value for money - Despite what you think are sometimes high day rates, we’re cheaper than your average employee. We’ve usually got low overheads, you don’t have to cover our pension, sick or holiday pay, and, if we’re not VAT registered that can keep costs lower still. And think about it, if you pay for the people you need when you really need them, it’s a much more effective use of your money.

Happiness! - Well I can’t speak for *all* freelancers here, but we’re usually a very happy bunch to work with. Give us a project and we’ll be pleased to see you, especially if we work from home alone a lot. We’re also less likely to get bored, as we’re not doing the same thing day in day out, so we’ll bring new insight into your work, and a positive approach.

And finally … We also usually own pets as we’re home a lot. If you can, get your freelancer to bring their dog with them to meetings, it’s a winner for everyone.

Cleo the Birdsong Consultancy office dog, under my desk

Cleo the Birdsong Consultancy office dog, under my desk

Four tips to make your communications more creative

My favourite bit of PR recently has been the KFC campaign, who also did my favourite campaign of last year. Truly living the ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ KFC have both embraced and celebrated their many, many imitators.


Ideas like this usually don’t just magically appear to people in the shower; they take time to come up with, develop, and implement. Working in an environment that nurtures and encourages creativity is critical to enabling those suggestions that are a bit different.

And it’s not just those with the big ad budgets like KFC that come up with the creative ideas. Blue light services, health and the public sector do some really creative work that I’ve blogged about before, and I really like this campaign from Greater Manchester Police on tackling drug crime (see right).

So here are my 4 tips to help you be more creative and come up with new ideas:

Consider the wild ideas, don’t dismiss them - If you’re really wanting to be creative, it’s a good idea to consider the wild ideas and suspend your critical judgement on those that you may usually dismiss as bonkers. The crazy ideas have value in them somewhere, it’s about finding what that value is.

In response to the anti-Mexican rhetoric from many senior American politicians last year, the reaction from Mexico’s airline, Aero Mexico, was to try and encourage Americans to come to Mexico, by challenging their often bigoted views in a somewhat unusual way. AeroMexico troll Texans with DNA test offer.

 If you focus on the difference and focus on the positive in your ideas, and think about how you could do something, not why you can’t do it, you may find moments of genius.

Connect the unconnected - Creativity is the practice of combining existing elements to create something new. This can be materials, products, processes, teams, companies, data or people.

So if you bring in outsiders to your project or problem, you bring in new experiences and inspirations and new ways of looking at your work.

You can also bring in new data that you wouldn’t normally look at, and combine it with information about your business.

This enterprising businessman thought that rather than just cleaning windows, he could do something a bit different and clean road signs as well, and he became rather popular as a result.


Ask the right question - If you’ve got a problem or challenge at work and can’t find a creative solution, find an alternative way of describing the issue. Ask the right question. Reframe the issue and ask yourself what the underlying problem is, the factors and the causes. Don’t make assumptions or try and find solutions too quickly. Think about your outcome, not the new product or what you want to do.

There’s a great example of this from 1954, when the first commercial TV network was launched in the UK, ITV. It was regionalized, so production companies were asking: “How do we get the broadcasting rights to the wealthiest geographical areas?” because they figured that the ad revenue would be higher there.

However British businessman and media exec Sidney Bernstein focused on areas where people spent the most time watching tv. So he asked the question: “How do I get the broadcasting rights where people watch TV the most?”. And where was that? The wettest parts of the UK, namely Manchester and the North West. Granada TV subsequently became one of the most successful tv production companies in history.

Have a hack - I’ve talked about hacks before a few times, because for me they’re one of the best ways to really generate new ideas, if you’re willing to free up your staff for a day or two. A hack is simply an event that looks to solve a business challenge by bringing people with different skills and experiences together, and giving them free rein to come up with solutions and suggestions, such as new apps, campaign materials or products. Read more about one of my favourite hacks.

Finally, if all else fails in coming up with new ideas, just rope in a fellow Hollywood A-lister.