Agencies and freelancers: inventory

Freelance creatives from South Africa are in high demand. What can agencies learn from them, and what can South African freelancers learn from how they are perceived by the local industry? The creative world has changed in the past two years and creative people have had to evolve with it. Belinda ‘Bill’ Murray, Founder of The Bill Murray Pty Ltd, confirms that South African freelance creatives have never been in greater demand, both locally and internationally.

When Covid-19 hit, international market demand went ballistic, but the majority are also working on local accounts. But they have more choices now so it’s up to marketers and agencies to respect their work and their autonomy. After all, they are independent contractors, entrepreneurs, running their own successful businesses and enjoying unprecedented demand for their services at home and abroad.

In an effort to bridge the gap and help both agencies and freelancers, Bill asked his independent contractors and clients about the value of freelancers, what agencies can do to retain their full-time staff and where independents can do (even) better. .

Five things freelancers want to say to local agencies

Here are the most common spontaneous responses to questions asked in an anonymous survey of freelancers:

Please inform correctly

“If you don’t really understand the brief, how are the creatives supposed to understand it? »

“Know what you want from the start. In short clearly. So trust the creation.

When asked how often they received poor briefs, 47% checked “Usually”, 40% answered “Sometimes”, 10% chose “Rarely” and only 3% chose “Never”.

Pay your employees correctly and on time

“Not all freelancers are the same. Therefore, not all freelance rates are the same.

“Don’t undersell or underestimate freelancers. Understand the value of creative work/experience and try to compensate accordingly. »

Trust and enjoy your creations

“Believe that I have thought deeply about your problems.”

“Being kind. I’ve been able to create the best work of my career in the past year because I’ve been around really caring, kind people. Egos are old news.

No, you don’t need us in the office all the time

“Working out of the office gives us the space to think more clearly about your business and what you need.”

“Less meetings, more action.

We miss the camaraderie, but we don’t miss…

“Toxic culture, stress addiction, ego, no flexibility.”

“Hierarchy. Ego. Lots of wasted time. Hurry up and wait. Fake ads during awards season.

“The lack of borders. The regular expectation of work on weekends and late at night. Having to jump through hoops with complete disregard for people’s personal lives. »

The perception of the agency

  1. 45% of agencies surveyed ‘absolutely’ think they get good value from freelancers, and 35% say ‘mostly good ones’. (20% said half and half)
  1. Challenges encountered when working with freelancers include the perception that vouchers are always booked (25%), cost too much (21%) and tend to juggle too many customers, which can impact deadlines (33%). (13% prefer not to work in the office, 8% take the time to understand the brand / catch up on briefs)

Remember that the majority of freelancers are former ECDs or CDs and the quality of their work is excellent. They are paid what they are worth. This, combined with their speed and efficiency, means that they actually run cheaper than their in-house senior counterparts.

Truth be told, they would be much more affordable if agencies planned and booked in advance,” she adds. “Planning ensures the best talent at the best price. It also gives you time to assess whether you need a senior team for an entire month or just a week with a cheaper team for deployment/non-concept work. »

Some freelancers take on too much. Those who juggle too many jobs will burn themselves out or just burn out.

  1. 42% of agencies said their favorite freelancers were reliable and delivered quality work, 29% said they were faster and met deadlines, and 21% loved their drive and passion. (8% say they are more flexible)

Freelancers don’t have traffic or project managers and look how good they are doing. No job bag, no one manages their agenda. They are old people driving their own lens.

When it comes to skills development, she says, “freelancers work with international agencies, so they MUST drive their own development to make sure they’re relevant.”

  1. 63% felt the work produced by full-time and freelance creatives was of equal standard; 25% said they got better work from freelancers; 8% were unsure; and 4% felt they were getting a better job from their full-time staff.

“The important result here is that 4%. Something agencies need to consider,” Bill says.

  1. 41% said they found freelancers easily adaptable to agency-specific platforms and 41% agreed that this was not a problem. (18% said they did not fit)

My advice to SA agencies

  • Local agencies will always be supported by our freelancers – there are enough of them. It is now important to reserve the best creations faster and for longer. Plan, plan and plan I say.
  • Competition with international agencies is actually good for all of us, but consider the concerns of these independent contractors about compliance and prompt and fair payment.
  • “Respect is the watchword. Respect for their professional level.

My advice to SA freelance creatives

Freelancing is difficult. You are certainly as good as your last job. There is no hiding place, there is no escape, there is only you and your work. Relax and you’re tickets. Produce bad work, you are tickets. It’s high-pressure, customer-facing, and there’s no one to manage your time, schedule, or lunch. It’s just you now. And it was time. You can do it.

  • The international work is there and growing, but the trick is to win this race slowly and steadily.
  • Greed will kill this opportunity if all we want is money. Get great briefs, work hard, get paid fairly, stay in South Africa and gain international exposure. It’s a win-win. And don’t take too much. Be honest about your workload or whether you’ll have to work the night shift to handle it. So no one will get burned.
  • I like working with professional creatives who communicate strongly, those who demand more work, who don’t care, who go above and beyond. They shine and they will always find work. Still.


Belinda Murray. Creative outsourcing. Process consultant. Belinda helps companies around the world improve the way they work. It also outsources the best creative talent South Africa has to offer.

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