B&T: Freelancing & the Gig Economy will no longer be dirty words

In this guest post, communications consultant Heather Mollins speaks with Tash Menon from MASH, Andrea Clarke ex news reporter, author and founder of CareerCEO, and Jeff Sanders founder of Fifty Not Out agency about how COVID-19 will irrevocably change the industry…

COVID-19 is testing individuals and businesses on their ability to think on their feet and adapt to increased social distancing rules. Those who can adapt and change quickly, will not only survive the next six months but will thrive according to Tash Menon, Founder and Director of MASH – a company that handpicks heavily vetted freelance creative experts based on individual client briefs.

According to The World Economic Forum, 12 percent of the Australian workforce is made up of creative freelancers. This number jumps to 35 percent in the US and 16 percent in Europe. Just last year, Forbes reported a reduced demand for a generalist mindset saying “many organisations are seeking specialist creative team members, making the full-service style of agency feel not only outdated but redundant”.

Menon thinks businesses need to adapt with coronavirus and embrace today’s new playing field. She predicts organisations will open their eyes to a new way of working by utilising the gig economy and engaging freelance problem solvers for specific briefs as opposed to heavy head counts. Unlike a collective of freelancers, Menon and her team curate experts (known as ‘Mashers’) that include brand strategists, B2B communications experts, digital experts, creative directors, social media managers and videographers who work remotely from around Australia and across the globe.

“COVID-19 will reframe our industry. Freelancing and the gig economy will no longer be dirty words as businesses ditch large, traditional agencies in favour of hand-picked, highly curated teams of individuals. Full transparency and agility with budgets will be non-negotiable leading some agencies to sink rather than swim,” she added.

Andrea Clarke, former news reporter, author and founder of CareerCEO says COVID-19 will accelerate new ways of working by around 10 years. She believes that once a sense of psychological safety returns, Australian’s attitudes will quickly bounce back. With eyes open to new ways of working, Clarke believes employees will have the confidence to demand looser and less structured workplaces.

“COVID-19 is an extraordinary case study of how adaptable Australians can be. Businesses have been spending huge amounts of money and time on ‘transformation’ projects. Now, they are being forced to transform at superspeed and with this will come a different mindset on how we do business.

“Social distancing is an opportunity for many of us to reach our full adaptive potential. We need to hone our ability to be alert and engage with the new world around us, activate optimism for change and release anything that might be holding us back. For some people right now, that could mean letting go of ego or being humble enough to cut our losses,” said Clarke.

Jeff Sanders, owner of Fifty Not Out, a collective of positive ageing advocates and marketing realists says COVID-19 will separate the industry’s talent exposing workers who need to be “told what to do” and those who are self-starters. Whilst Sanders predicts clients will move to more flexible business models, he says there will be no replacement for human contact.

“In creative agencies, younger people are often hooked on the culture of what an office represents – from the free bar, ping pong tables and time spent getting coffee with their work mates. We won’t ever be able to replace the value of human contact for internal culture or client service. The best way to build trust [with clients] is to deliver big business building ideas, persuasively, and in person – something that is making new client relationships a challenge whilst we’re keeping our distance,” said Sanders.

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