I hate to add to the droves and droves of commentary and confusion around the fact that our economy is, well, not doing so well.
So I’m not going to talk about it.
What I am going to talk about is my view on how it will affect me, and my corner of the industry, my friends, and my peers.
I hope that I’m not naive in my estimations, because I’m neither an economist nor have I weathered an economic downturn like this. I’m just making my own predictions based on what I believe to be true from the past experiences I do have, and the ones that I’ve observed.
Here’s one way I see this playing out, from a couple of different vantage points:
It’s pretty well accepted that the first things to be cut from the agency side of the industry are going to be: marketing budgets, and contractors. That doesn’t mean that work doesn’t exist for contractors, or that marketing doesn’t need to be done, it means that the agencies aren’t the ones that are going to be the ones in the middle.
Let’s be clear: just because the economy is in the hole DOESN’T mean that companies are going to stop selling, and advertising is part of selling. What does change is that they’re going to need to be more efficient in their expenditures, and large agencies with big overheads and process process aren’t going to fit the bill anymore. And bringing the work in house…well…we all know how that usually goes.
So back to the agencies: I firmly believed they are going to be pinched at both ends. Their clients will be looking to cut costs, and that not only puts accounts at risk but it also puts agency employees at risk. I think that this will lead to many agencies dissolving or downsizing to a core focus that is sustainable through the downturn.
In the mean time, with talent leaving the agencies (on their own or by force), that leaves a smattering of independent talent in the same arena as the companies that recently fired their expensive, lumbering agencies and are looking for a cheaper, more agile (albeit, potentially riskier) solution.
So far, so good, right? Only the most focused of agencies stick together, and the talent that’s newly independent has plenty of work available…if they know where to look, and how to get their hands on it.
That’s where…you guessed it…coworking comes in. As communities of freelancers form, the stratification of experience in freelancing within those communities becomes an asset. The experienced independents help the newbies get better at whatever they are trying to get better at, and the newbs help the experienced weather the influx of newly available work.
If constructs like coworking allow independents to be SMARTER and MORE EFFECTIVE freelancers, to bridge the harder gaps to cross when getting your legs as an independent, they have the best chance of enduring through economic crisis. In fact, the freelance market will not only survive the trying circumstances we’re in, but I think it will actually thrive.
Unless, of course, you suck. My entire thesis is based on the fact that you are good at what you do, and you focus on that. Agency or independent, this is based on your willingness to work your face off. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s massive opportunity if you’re willing to hustle and stay focused.
On the other hand, if you’ve been riding the coattails of your coworkers, or slacking off at your cushy agency job. Then the odds are…
yes. You’re completely screwed.