Freelance versus Employee

DMC, Creative Director

What’s the difference between an employed person and a freelancer?

Suit: The client doesn’t like it, you’ll have to do it again.
Employee: You couldn’t sell a hanging man a penknife, you useless twat.

Suit: The client doesn’t like it, you’ll have to do it again.
Freelancer: No problemo, Kemo Sabe. Kerrching!

Okay, so it’s a bit glib. But there’s an element of truth in there. Perhaps not as superficial as first seems though.

When you’re an employee, you’re passionate. (Or should be.) It’s your vocation. And when you’re a freelancer you are a service provider. And therefore, more versed in the black art of diplomacy.

In my experience an employee’s motivation is for the[ir] work. While a freelancer’s motivation is for their client’s satisfaction.

It doesn’t mean that freelancers don’t care about doing great work too. (I hope I can vouch for that.) It’s just that, as a freelancer I am less “attached” to my work. Get 20 creatives in a room with the same brief and chances are you’ll get 20 different solutions. Ergo, there’s always another way.

I saw this interesting post about ‘Freelancers Worth’ on the Creative Times website. And, being a freelancer of slightly longer teeth than most, I concurred wholeheartedly.

The bottom line is: What are the merits of Experience over Value?

“Did this ad take 10 minutes to conceive, or 25 years?”

When you employ an experienced creative, you’re not just buying creative solutions, but experience of similar problems / solutions encountered before. You’re probably also buying a bit of strategy thrown in for good measure. Not to mention maturity and the realisation that the work has to sell, not just win gongs and adorn someone’s book. If it sells well enough and creatively enough, the gongs will follow.

“The thing about paying someone slightly less, is you’re probably not getting value for money. Spend £1 on an experienced freelancer get £10 return. Alternatively, spend 0.85p on a less experienced freelancer and get £5 return.”

The maths do themselves. But read it for yourself.

P.S. I don’t charge £1 per day.


Filed under Advertising, Design, Digital, Ideas, Inspiration

2 responses to “Freelance versus Employee

  1. There’s certainly some truth in what you say – for some employees and for some freelancers.

    Employees can be passionate, and have great ownership about their cause, and that was certainly the case for me – especially when I worked in local government in my home town and felt I was genuinely improving quality of life for my friends, families and communities.

    But there are also a lot of people on payroll having meetings about meetings, and discussing what they’l have for tea that night… for 2 hours.

    My blog suggests that when you bring in a freelancer, especially if their retained for the long term eg 2 days pcm for 6 -12 months – they have a long term commitment to you and your cause, but are also picking up ideas and contacts in their days off (other jobs) that employers are getting for FREE!

    I welcome comments at

    Cheers, Coral x

    • Good point. One of the good things about retained freelancers is that when they go into work – that’s what they do – work. Now, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have ‘water cooler’ moments, but I know from experience that when I go in as a freelancer I’m paid by the hour/day to work, not to make friends.

      I put this post on another blog I write for The Drum and I think some people confuse being ‘client centric’ as being a ‘yes man’. If that’s the case, then I haven’t articulated myself properly. Just to clarify:

      I don’t approach a brief with any less desire to produce good work when I’m freelancing, it is how I subsequently present that work to a CD or Account Handler that differs. I would imagine most CDs are grateful for employed creatives vociferously defending their work. Indeed, that is probably one of the reasons why they are employed in the first place. But when you’re a freelancer, that usually isn’t within your remit, nor what is required from you. I produce the work, give my opinion/advice then leave it to the directors to decide what they want to present.

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