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Opinion: In Defence of Freelancers

Peter McPartlin, co-founder of the Indie List, replies to Steve Connelly who penned an opinion piece about the role of freelancers working for ad agencies on Adworld.ie last week.

Dear Steve,

It seems like you’ve had a few too many sleepless nights worrying about those “meanie” freelancers.

Let me offer a different perspective as someone who has spent most of their career in agencies and more recently working with hundreds of freelancers who actually love working with agencies.

Firstly, the notion that freelancers are mere “hired keyboards” lacks appreciation for the depth of investment and passion many freelancers bring to their projects. Freelancers often choose the independent path precisely because it allows them to immerse themselves in diverse sectors, challenges and brands, constantly pushing their creative boundaries.

Far from being transient “mercenaries”, as you call them, many freelancers build long-term relationships with agencies and clients, becoming a trusted resource and go-to experts.

I certainly haven’t heard Indie List freelancers label agencies as “expensive, slow, inflexible, and Neanderthal”. While that’s not to say those perceptions don’t exist within the marketing community, I do know that they don’t reflect the reality of many modern agencies. They could stem from a genuine desire for efficiency, flexibility, and innovation by clients — traits that freelancers often exemplify.

Regarding the idea that agency culture is not important, it’s not that freelancers dismiss the value of a cohesive team environment. Instead, they bring a different kind of cultural richness — one born from diverse experiences across various industries and market sectors. This diversity can bring new ideas and approaches to agency teams, fostering a dynamic and innovative culture rather than replacing it.

Freelancers thrive on being agile, adapting quickly to new challenges, and bringing fresh perspectives to each project. This doesn’t make agencies obsolete; rather, it suggests a complementary relationship where agencies can leverage freelancers to enhance their offerings.

Freelancers and agencies are not adversaries; they are part of an ecosystem that is mutually dependent. Agencies offer stability, a breadth of services, and the power of a collective brain trust. Freelancers bring specialised skills, fresh perspectives, and the ability to move quickly. When these strengths are combined, the result is a versatile, responsive, and innovative approach to meeting client needs.

Hopefully you’ll agree, Steve, that the future of our industry lies in collaboration. It’s not about choosing one over the other; it’s about leveraging the strengths of both to create something truly exceptional.



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