Agencies have a freelancer problem

Most organizations waste money by forcing freelancers to find their own footing.

Don't be most organizations.

Start properly onboarding freelancers and watch as:

  • Time-to-proficiency accelerates
  • Projects run smoother
  • Money goes further
  • Churn gets smaller
  • Smiles replace frustration

In the time before the coronavirus halted all IRL interactions, I once kicked off a new engagement with a mid-size creative agency and the process of getting ramped up was painful.

All I wanted was to meet my new colleagues and dive into the work I was hired to complete, but that's not what happened.

When I showed up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (as I do on every new project, of course) I was greeted with a smile—and immediately met with barriers, challenges, and roadblocks.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  1. No introduction to the people with whom I would be working
  2. No agency email address for 3/4 of my first day
  3. No access to an instant messaging platform to chat with my new colleagues
  4. No ability to print (yes, I print a lot materials that are required for my work)
  5. No external computer monitor like every other employee in the office
  6. No knowledge of where conference rooms are (to compliment the calendar invites that kept arriving at my personal email address)
  7. No understanding of their culture of communications (is email, chat, or shoulder tap preferred?)
  8. No understanding of the norms for showing when I am, and am not, available for meetings to be dropped into my calendar without any notice or request
  9. The list goes on, but let's get back to the story.

For years now I’ve been working in non-traditional ways

Consultant, Freelancer, Coach, Independent Contractor, Interim VP—from my responsibilities to my titles to my roles, I’ve experienced an array of engagement styles.

While my work often falls into categories labeled “knowledge worker” and “creative,” I’ve managed to make a living beyond the standard 9 to 5, where there is no “normal” nor regularity to my work.

Every project I take on and team I engage with is unique to that moment in time, which creates diverse and dynamic circumstances full of variables both known and unknown.

Projects have ranged from 1-day workshops to 6-month engagements, from becoming a contributing team member to leading entire engagements, and from independent 1099 to temporary W2 employee. I've worked directly with clients as well as alongside agency teams.

No engagement is ever the same.

By no means am I the first person with a livelihood of this manner. That said, I have experienced and observed enough frustrations and challenges that I’ve decided to share my thoughts on where organizations can improve the way they onboard, integrate, and support freelance talent.

Whether you're on the agency-side, client-side, or freelancer-side, there's something in here for you, so do keep reading.

This writing intends to call attention to the experiences and challenges of the initial onboarding and integrating process that occurs between agency and individual.

My objective is to help both parties improve these interactions so that the organization kicks things off more effectively, supports individuals to ramp up quickly, and everyone feels better through much smoother processes.

Oh—and help agencies stop wasting money with inefficient onboarding processes full of downtime and confusion.

Shall we begin?

Jumping in head first, into the deep end, and figuring out how to swim

For one individual to rapidly integrate themselves with both the project context and the culture of a tightly-knit team, without any structured onboarding that’s typically offered through the standard full-time new hire onboarding and training experiences, is a work of art that takes tremendous awareness, agility, and adaptability.

As independent freelancers joining teams on ad hoc bases, we are mostly outsiders:

  • We have very few, if any, existing relationships within the company
  • We have never experienced the culture of the organization and thus do not know the norms, values, and behaviors that are most common
  • Most of the organization does not even know we exist, let alone know that we’re there to help their colleagues—and possibly themselves—deliver quality work

We are an afterthought, except to the one who hired us—and even then we can quickly fade into the distance, since we are not typically on people’s minds, even though the work we’re delivering is considered of a high-enough value to warrant significant investment in external experts that will make sure it moves forward.

Compounding all these circumstances is the fact that we most likely have zero history with the agency’s client, and therefore have extremely limited context to inform the work we must deliver.

All these factors roll up into an experience where the odds are stacked against us—yet each and every time I have been able to deliver exactly what my agency partners need in ways that keep things moving on time, within budget, and in line with expectations.

In an effort to help agencies improve these experiences and stop wasting money and time—both the agency’s and the freelancer’s—I’m creating resources and toolkits to help agencies take steps to immediately begin improving how they think about and support the freelancers they’re hiring at an increasing rate.


The Agency Freelancer Kit is designed to guide you through the initial processes of addressing the issues and challenges I’ve written about above. If you’re ready to get started making real progress, grab your copy of The Agency Freelancer Kit now and begin immediately improving internal operations in ways that make your freelancers more effective while helping your agency save 10-20% in wasted expenditure.

? Learn more about what's included via the links above and below?

If you're not ready for the in-depth kit, you can signup for a free worksheet and mini-course to help you better understand how the growing independent workforce impacts your agency and its operations, and what you can do about it right now.

The short version is that you can begin designing better ways of working that fully integrate freelancers into your operations. The Agency Freelancer Kit can guide you through that process, and the free worksheet and mini-course can get you started.

I encourage you to at minimum download the worksheet, experience the mini-course, and carve out some time to start thinking about how to improve processes and operations as they relate to freelancer engagement.