Neil Lewis - Innovative Entrepreneur

Solving problems by growing profitable businesses @neil_lewis

Freelancers – the home of innovation?

I’ve got a funny feeling that freelancers are the home of innovation?


Not only are freelancers more likely to contribute new ideas in any of their roles (our research has shown this, PCG’s research has shown this – and if you don’t believe it, just ask a freelancer…) BUT also, their way of working shows masses of innovation too.

Last night I attended a Northern Soho – creative, media and marketing freelancers of the North – event  which was centred on a huge interactive innovation project.

In a couple of Fridays (3rd of June), Manchester’s Mad Labs are opening a Freelancer Friday event where any freelancer can turn up and use the wifi, drink free coffee and pay (a suggested) £5.

Interesting and novel ways of working!

Put this alongside something called ‘Jellies’ where freelancers (often, web developers or Techies) gather at an agreed location (could be a Starbucks, could be the local innovation centre or business hub) and just work alongside each other.

Now, these events aren’t set out with specific outcomes in mind – but they are clearly designed to bring people together – physically – to allow new and exciting stuff to happen.

Yes, I say ‘stuff’ because it really is unformed.

By which I mean to say that it is really hard to describe (in words, that is) what happens when people come together physically (ie not online), but somehow, some interesting stuff really does happen, you just have to be there to see it happening…

Which reminds me…

Which reminds me that interesting stuff also happens when you bring a small group of talented freelancers together and place them in a room for a couple of days and then set them an unreasonable objective – such as, create, design and build key communications for this new product launch. Or launch this new product and make sales!

Somehow, human beings, when brought together can achieve amazing things.

Relay working

Now, the traditional way of working with freelancers is to brief each freelancer independently and separately – keeping them apart from each other. Let’s call this a linear or relay process – that is, only one freelancer can work on the project at one time and then has to hand it over to the next.

The consequence of relay working is that none of the freelancers in the relay know when they will be handed the baton, nor quite what to expect when the receive it.

Some freelancers will spend a third of their time trying to understand what they have just been passed, a third of their time implementing what is required of them (eg. copy or web build or creative design etc…) and then spend the last third of their time write the brief to hand over the baton again.

In this case, the client is like the spectator at the finish line – they don’t really know what’s going on the other side of the track and it isn’t until the last baton holder crosses the line do they know what they are going to get.


Okay, is there a better way?


Team working

Get all your key people in a room and let them thrash it out – in real time.  It’s called team work and it really does work.

What happens is that the creative comes up with a good idea, which helps the copywriter incorporate that idea before the web developer finishes the page – which helps the business development person understand the choices being made about the communication and so on and so forth.

True, this form of working is much ‘freer’ – but my experience is that it doesn’t require endless briefs and re-briefing. Instead of two thirds of effort being involved in handing over the work, suddenly all the effort is focused on the work.

Freelance team work really does work better. A team of freelancers really can deliver more than a series of singular freelancers briefed one after the other.

So, why doesn’t it happen more often? Courage. It just takes a bit more courage to allow the more free-form nature of a team packed in a room for a couple of days, to do their thing, because you can’t control the outcome but have to let things evolve.

Yes, this free-form approach is scary to most control and command businesses, but the results, if you allow it, can be amazing.

That’s why, in my view, freelancers are leading business innovation. Do you agree?

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Written by Editor on May 22, 2011 and filed in Entrepreneurs, Freelancers, Innovative Entrepreneur, Opinion , , , , , ,

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