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Is on-site freelancing REALLY freelancing?

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  • Is on-site freelancing REALLY freelancing?

    I've been in contact with some agencies that claim they find freelance work for designers, but all of them deal with clients who want freelancers to be on-site during normal business hours, just like a full-time job. Freelancing should allow for designers to take on work on a project basis, and have the freedom to not have to commit to long-term employment. Working on-site for an agency's client during regular business hours seems to me to favor the agency's client, having full-time staff and being able to skip out on providing that temp employee (which is really what they are, not freelancers) benefits, vacation time, etc.

    This is becoming rampant for many opportunities that AREN'T on a project basis, or even used for evaluating potential employees on a temp-to-hire basis (which I think is more fair and a good business practice).

    I'm finding many employers use this for an indefinite length of time, and seems to be a way to cut down on a firm's headcount, so they don't have to show it in a budget. I got trapped into this situation at a huge firm over a year ago for an indefinite amount of time, and left them in a bad spot, which they deserved for not appreciating the work I did for them without offering me a full-time gig. Of course I did it with the agency's 1-week notice to be in good standing with them, because that's who was REALLY paying me anyway and you never know when you'll need them again. I'm just reminded of how poorly run that dept. was, and what a difference it would have made to me to offer me the same benefits as an employee received, and they would have saved money because I'd have been paid on salary and not the hourly with an overtime rate.

    I'm just perplexed by firms paying a higher rate per hour to the agency for the same talent they could get for the rate the agency is paying the indefinite temp. Why wouldn't they cut out the middle man and just give them the benefits if it isn't really a short-term need? I know benefits are expensive, but I can't imagine them costing large firms the same or more than the amount the agency charges on top of what the talent gets. Maybe I'm missing something.

    And why do agencies misrepresent this as a benefit to the designer by labeling it "freelance work," when it's really temp work? Is that just BS agency spin?

  • #2
    Umm, temp work, and freelance work are the same thing in my book. I have worked "freelance" for many many high profile agencies here, most pay waaaay above normal hourly rates because you are just there temporarily, and I don't see it as a loss when they tell me to get lost, I made my money, they made theirs, everything is peechy keen.

    I have looked into full time employment at one of the agencies I was doing freelance for, but I never followed through with it. I dont know what is so upsetting about only working temp for a company, who cares if they are losing money or not, as long as your getting yours.
    ‘Our great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately controlled. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of men.’ - Woodrow Wilson


    • #3
      Around here, Employees get paid the least but have benefits like sick pay and holidays. Temps get paid more, but no benefits and Freelancers get their own hours, really good pay, but no benefits.

      If you are being paid Freelance rates but working as a temp, then it's not entirely a bad thing. You just doing get to pick your hours right?
      It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" – Winnie the Pooh


      • #4
        Does it matter what they call it? All that should matter is whether or not you want to do it and whether they are paying you enough for it.
        Light a man a fire and he will be warm for a short while. Light a man afire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.


        • #5
          I wouldn't consider that freelance but rather contract or temp work. To me being freelance means I find my own work and invoice directly. If you find an agency that finds individual projects, you let us know. I don't think such a thing exists other than the joke websites out there that have you bid on jobs.


          • #6
            Agencies like that do exist for Illustrators. There must be one or two for graphic designers - BUT - the reason I don't know is because I know so many designers, why should I go to an agency?

            You work in-house, it's usually termed "contract work"


            • #7
              My experience with temp work was not a real great one, and I've found these agencies are good when you find yourself desperate and/or unemployed, but it's not a good fit for a designer, and it's certainly not what I've come to understand as "freelancing" in this industry.

              While sold as a "no commitment" benefit for both parties, I found the agency's clients often expected you to be there during all business hours, indefinitely, without a clear definition on how long they'd need you for, and didn't like it if you took time off to do things like interview (which of course, on the record, isn't the reason you're not there that day - it's always a doctor appointment or something).

              There was a real one-sided relationship there. When I found a full time job, the firm expected the same 2-week notice as a full-time employee would give (the agency expected a week, but of course, the assignment could end without notice or go on forever). It's very possible my experience was unique, and I just wasn't lucky enough to find a good fit for my needs, but I found the agency had a tendency to build false hope and were less than honest about what to expect from the experience.

              And I'm just pointing this out to reinforce my belief that they can often mislead the talent into thinking they're getting something they're not, as well as the fact that it really may NOT benefit the agency's clients by having a non-committed, unreliable temp working for them to save some benefits cost.

              One assignment I had for a few weeks involved showing up on the first day and waiting in the lobby for no less than 1.5 hours waiting for the contacts I was supposed to meet there! I think it got to the point where I had to call the agency and ask "I am getting PAID for this time, right?"

              I will tell you the pay was not significantly higher than finding a similar job in a full-time employee capacity, and in fact, if you land a full-time job, you often get annual reviews with salary increases, in addition to benefits, etc. The difference may have been a $1-$2 an hour more for temping, if that, but that doesn't nearly compensate for health insurance enrollment, paid vacation time, paid holidays (which REALLY sucked when the firm would close for a week at X-Mas and you're left scrambling to find work), etc. The agencies do sometimes offer benefits, but their requirements to even get health insurance coverage usually involved a prerequisite number of hours worked for them per year, which came to about 9 months-1 year of full-time work before you could enroll, and they weren't very good anyway.

              My "favorite" part while temping was when I was assigned to design an internal marketing campaign about how the firm was a so good to its work force (bragging about Fortune 100 status, etc.), and to encourage employees to take their vacation time to prevent burn-out (their way of focusing on retaining their workforce in a competitive market). I thought it was a bit inappropriate for me to be doing this assignment considering I benefited from none of this and came to actually resent it a bit. I didn't say anything, of course, but the lack of common sense there was startling.

              Temping is also a highly inefficient way of staffing, often providing the talent with someone else's computer or an old clunker that was lying around. Just learning a company's digital filing system alone was a learning curve, so you'd think once someone has been trained, it's in the company's best interest to make a long-term commitment to prevent wasted time/resources on training, etc. I would spend as much as several days learning a firm's brand standards, digital filing system, etc. I can't imagine the amount of wasted resources used for a revolving door position filled by a temp. Turnover is expensive for a company, and I think it's often over-looked.

              I associate freelancing as being an independent contractor in this industry, calling temp work "freelancing" can be misleading based on the agency's expectations of the talent, and even worse, the deluded firm's desire to have temporary staff, indefinitely, and expect reliability.


              • #8
                balou- its called "Aquent"
                ‘Our great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately controlled. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of men.’ - Woodrow Wilson






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