Some 35 guests attended the EVCOM Freelance Forum at Trickbox TV in London on 5th April. A mixture of agencies and freelancers enjoyed networking and an informative discussion involving a panel of leading employers of freelance specialists: Alistair Barton, Event Executive from mdevents; Des Good, Managing Director of Grosvenorfilm and a Director of drp, Jonathan Brigden, Managing Director of The Giggle Group and Michelle Sally, Partner at Briffa.
EVCOM Chairman Steve Garvey opened the discussion with a brief overview of the industry valuing it at around £50 billion, the event and corporate communication industries in their totality amount to 2.5% of the UK’s GDP. He then went on to explain how EVCOM was developing quickly as an organisation, with a deliberate programme of engagement with corporate client teams which had seen this area more than double in membership in the last few months. Freelancers now amounted to nearly 15% of the EVCOM membership and the number was growing. A continuing programme of networking events as well as the larger award events meant that EVCOM members now had the greatest opportunity to meet event and corporate film and digital agencies.
Highlights from the panel discussion:
“It is beneficial for mdevents to have a flexible workforce of freelancers and employees”
Event Executive Alistair Barton introduced the MD Group. The group enjoyed a good engagement with freelancers, including in event support and graphic support, which helped to give the company a very flexible workforce particularly during peak business times.
“At our Christmas party Freelancers are invited alongside company employees”
Des Good explained that he straddled both the film and digital sector through Grosvenor and the event sector as a Director of drp. drp had grown from an SME to a company employing over 185 people within 15 years and whilst the company had great employee expertise, freelancers added to the creative capacity of the business. Although the company focussed on its in-house resource, it was impossible essential to use good freelancers across both sectors and these were made to feel a big part of the company.
“We have a staff of 10 at The Giggle Group – so as we continue to get busier we look to bolster our talent with freelancers”
Jonathan Brigden explained that he had built a previous businesses on freelancers but that the ideal combination was a solid permanent team supplemented by specialist freelancers. The Giggle Group as it continued to grow and expand in the animation and video sectors was reliant on good quality freelance work.
“So important to set the rules of engagement in the first instance”
Michelle Sally explained that one of the biggest issues confronting freelance engagement was the lack of a comprehensive contact prior to employment. Michelle said many freelancers depended upon verbal agreements or e-mailed/implied agreements which would not always stand up to scrutiny and that many expensive problems could be avoided if a contract was put in place early. Michelle confirmed that Briffa would be supplying EVCOM with template contracts that would be made available to EVCOM Members as a benefit of membership. These should be available shortly. The group also discussed copyright and IP issues which again could often be resolved or avoided by pre-engagement contract.
“Phoning us every day won’t work!”
The panel was asked what is the best way for freelancers to showcase their work and get in front of agencies. They agreed that hounding everyday by phone or e-mail didn’t work! Alistair Barton said MD Group have a database which tracks all their contacts with freelancers so they should get themselves on this list first – even if work wasn’t available for them at the time. One contact was all that was needed. The panel agreed that social media such as LinkedIn was a good starting point but that networking events and award events was where most of them eventually did their hiring. Most agencies would not hire a freelancer they had not met.
Des Good advised people to show what benefit they could bring to the organisation and said it was astonishing how few freelancers and job applicants tailored their pitch to the company they were targeting. Jonathan Brigden added that face to face meetings at networking opportunities was purely and simply the way to get work. The panel agreed that Freelancers had to build a relationship and gain trust. He also felt that the best freelancers gave a good deal of “aftercare” as well as providing the initial contracted work and it was those that did this that were often recalled when needed.
“Freelancers should be made welcome through partnership”
Kath Goodson, from WRG was asked how their large organisation made freelancers feel welcome. Kath explained that WRG treats freelancers the same as employees and saw them as partners in the business.
“What can EVCOM do to help Freelancers?”
Angela Law from business consultants Every Sense asked how EVCOM could help both agencies and freelancers. Steve Garvey explained that the association was organising more networking opportunities than ever – both small, large and sector specific as well as the annual awards and a major annual conference. He also announced that the association was keen to develop its website to allow more specific searches of members. This would allow agencies to find freelancers that matched their specific needs. Dave Comley (EVCOM) added that in the meantime the association were happy for agencies to recruit members through him via the website and direct mailing.
The meeting ended with drinks and networking with the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London as the backdrop. Steve Garvey thanked Trickbox TV for their support and advised that another great networking opportunity was available on 12th April at the EVCOM Breakfast Session in Covent Garden.