An Agile Workforce Is The Future

May 20, 2020 Susan Marshall

Marketing leaders across industries and geographies are feeling the pressure to answer tough questions about the future of work, like: How do we attract and develop the new talent we need? How do we scale and accelerate the pace of change? How can we ensure that the people with us now don’t get left behind? And how do we make the right investment in our people to prepare them for the future? An agile, modern workforce depends on a people-first strategy that embraces tech. Leaders need to play a driving role in supporting the development of an agile workforce if they want to survive the digital transformation. The businesses of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs have become leading examples of why an agile mindset works, hitting home the importance of implementing methods that get things out the door for testing quickly (like rapid prototyping or the sprints we do here at Torchlite). Rapid innovation is key — there’s always time to hammer out the minor details after you can prove that a concept is valuable. BMO’s chief transformation officer, Lynn Roger, put it best: “Speed is the new business currency.” Adopting an agile talent strategy allows you to: Bridge the gap between current employees and the skills they’re missing An agile workforce looks “more like highly orchestrated networks and ecosystems with a multitude of approaches to mobilizing, orchestrating, and engaging talent, skills, leaders, and ideas,” according to Deloitte. This business model is especially attractive to companies with talent gaps. No one employee can know it all, which is why more and more businesses are turning to freelancers to supplement their teams. The role that a freelancer plays on a team varies based on the needs of your company. Some on-demand experts augment teams on a single project basis, while others enter into months- or even years-long working relationships. Freelance talent is also used to manage variable demand for companies like agencies whose workloads vary based on client needs. These experts also work in both extended, long-term projects as well as one-off project roles. According to Accenture, “up to 40% of companies experience talent shortages impacting the ability to adapt and innovate.” Understanding that your potential talent’s experience comes from a variety of locations — taking breaks to pursue further education, building a side hustle as a stay at home parent, interning, traveling — and not just traditional corporate jobs, is key to building a diverse and effective workforce. Drive collaborative innovation New perspectives are refreshing. When your team recruits help from the outside (via freelancers, consultants, or any number of other methods), you’re opening the doors to potentially game-changing ideas. When you’ve been neck-deep in a problem for a long time, you start to lose perspective. A fresh set of eyes can unveil solutions you’d never come up with yourself. These “outsiders” can also be pivotal to driving innovation. They force you to answer the question “why?” — and that’s never a bad thing. When they ask questions, they’re trying to get to the root of the problem so they can help develop new solutions to test. This experimentation is the key to actually getting things done instead of just discussing them. These on-demand workers allow you to test ideas on the fringes and fail fast. Focus on what you’re best at while building a happier workforce The benefits of working with freelancers can be obvious — like the fact that you’re checking tasks off of your marketing to-do list. Equipping your team with the right tools, including access to on-demand experts, allows them to focus on their goals and get more done. Freelancers act as a second line of defense for your internal team, allowing you to focus on what you do best while the experts knock out projects quickly and effectively. Some benefits, however, are less obvious. It’s true that on-demand experts allow you to focus on what you do best, but did you know that they also create a happier workforce? Freelancers are “often able to pursue a broader set of goals, whether those are about family, a creative pursuit, a side interest, or community involvement,” according to Deloitte research. Perhaps the concept is best understood as Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor at Yale School of Management and workforce researcher, shared with Deloitte: “They care about money, and they worry about money, but they’re not doing this just for money. In fact, money is a problem they have to solve so that they can do what’s really driving them.” Partner with others to provide value for customers And now, tech companies, agencies, educators and brands are all looking for ways to better access, manage and pay freelancers at scale. Our own customers are building and managing private marketplaces to manage talent and produce great results. From training programs to martech vendors, customers of all sizes and from many industries have leveraged the Torchlite platform to empower their own customers: One martech vendor found that a private marketplace provided access to the talent that their partners and customers needed. This increased their time to value, reduced customer attrition, and ultimately led to happier customers. Another marketing technology vendor took advantage of a private marketplace to create a new revenue stream. While freelancers involved in the private marketplace make money and provide value, companies are also able to monetize the ecosystem. One digital marketing academy CEO turned their custom marketplace into a tool for graduates of their program. The students want to put their certifications and skills to work immediately, and their marketplace allowed them to showcase expertise and find gigs. How do I start? Before you can set any changes in place, you must first expand the concept of the modern workforce. That means understanding that some of the most valuable contributors on your team can extend beyond a 9-to-5, office setting. Modern marketers recognize the ability to source talent in new ways is key to competitive agility, and that means incorporating tech and other tools into the talent-hunting process. Put your team on the path to success with a single source that allows you to access, engage, and manage expert on-demand talent. After all, success depends on having the right people at the right time.

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Finding the Perfect Marketing Freelancer

Mar 26, 2019 Emily Brungard

Finding the right freelancer can sometimes feel like an endless game of match-making. Sifting through experts with acute knowledge in the right niche or industry can take far too long. However, finding the right marketer can make all the difference and open up new avenues for campaigns, growth, and opportunities. But you can’t just add anyone to your roster — it has to be the right partnership. Freelancers vs. In-House vs. Agencies Finding the right marketing solution and partnership for your business is a comparison game. You’re likely trying to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer, a new team member or partnering with an agency. You’re not alone. The changing tides of business have created new avenues for productivity and it is now possible to succeed without a physical location or a comprehensive in-house team. Project-based teams, freelancers, specialized agencies and white-label partners have opened up the doors for new business opportunities. But there are certainly pros and cons for each of these options. Cost Effectiveness Agencies Agencies often offer project-based or retainer based partnerships. These are more expensive than freelancers but less expensive than hiring a new employee (at least over time). In-House The cost of an in-house employee is often underestimated. This option seems attractive because building an in-house team is great for collaboration and culture, but the overall costs can come back in droves. Taking into consideration factors like training, salary, benefits, PTO and possibly turnover — the expenses start adding up quick. Freelancer Hiring a freelancer is the most affordable option (by far). Professional freelancers come equipped with the right skills, resources, and tools to do their job efficiently. Vetting and selecting an expert in your niche is really the only hidden cost. Expertise Agencies Agencies are typically specialized and have team members that reflect that particular niche. Design agencies have designers and web-design agencies have developers...so on and so forth. While these are typically good options for specific expertise, the very best talent typically prefers to work as a freelancer or in an actual operational role within an existing company. In-House Finding in-house talent is a game of cat and mouse. The shifting landscape of marketing has created new specializations left and right. Social media coordinators, PPC managers, SEO experts — these are all necessary components of a successful digital campaign, but one person can rarely do them all. This means you will be hiring a lot of employees. Freelancer Freelancers are great for expertise because you can pick and choose exactly what you need. This widens the scope of any project your client may need because you can hire a freelancer to complete tasks you don’t have the capacity for. Manually searching for freelancers is a headache, but that’s what an on-demand expert marketplace is for! Communication Agencies Depending on the particular agency, this one is a coin-toss. Some agencies pride themselves on constant communication while others are overloaded with work and may take longer to respond. You are also limited to one or two points of contact and work on a delivery, review, revision, delivery schedule. In-House As you may have guessed, communication with an in-house hire is almost flawless. The ease of having someone in person without having to worry about alternative means of communication or even time zones makes this one a breeze. Freelancers This is something you can’t really control unless you have done your due diligence during the vetting process. If communication is a make-or-break factor for you, it should be discussed as an expectation from the start. On the positive side, freelancers rarely put aside a set time to respond, which means you can sometimes converse outside of a strict 9-5. Quick Freelancer Checklist If you have decided to go the freelance route, there are some things you should consider before selecting your expert. Here are the basics: Full-Time Professionals You want to look for freelancers that are professionals in their own right. What do we mean by this? You’re looking for full-time freelancers. This is a big one because professional freelancers have mastered the craft of handling multiple clients, projects, and deadlines simultaneously. Yes, it’s important that the freelancers you choose are well-versed in the field you’re looking for. But it’s equally important that they are vetted for their expertise in the freelance field. Google Check This is a given, but it can easily shine a light on any red flags that may be looming in the background. It can also show you a lot about a freelancer’s qualifications, past work and how they market themselves (the proof is in the pudding). What to look for: Do they have a website? Do they have an LLC? Do they have social media accounts? While all of these aren’t a necessity for whether or not you should hire a specific freelancer, they will give you some insights for what you are getting into. Get References and Evidence Any freelancer you are considering should have no issues giving you references or past work examples for you to evaluate. Past work can really help narrow down your search for a freelancer by illustrating the style and diligence they convey through their career. Verify Their Skills This can be done a few ways, but it's definitely worth doing before hiring a new freelancer. Verifying their skills with any tools or software in question is never out of the question. Ask about any certifications they may have or courses they have completed. Depending on the type of expert you are looking for, you may want to test out their skills with a small test project. Once you have gone through this checklist you’re ready to start interviewing or selecting the perfect freelancer match. Asking The Right Questions First things first, remember that you are looking for help because you are lacking the time, resources or expertise to complete a necessary project or campaign. Start your search by evaluating the holes that you are trying to fill. This will help you narrow down exactly what kind of freelancer you are looking for and the expectations you have for them once they get started. Next, you should ask these 8 questions to assist in the match-making process. There is no such thing as a shortage in preparation when it comes to finding the perfect freelancer — especially if you want results. Are they taking a holistic approach to understanding my problem? Do they have the strengths and expertise needed to achieve my marketing goals? Do they understand my brand and messaging? How will they communicate and collaborate with my in-house team? Will I have the visibility to track projects and approvals on a frequent basis How and how often will they report on the performance and results of their marketing efforts? Can I seamlessly modify my marketing plan and add or change project experts as my needs change, or will I need to find a new partner? What can I expect from the first 90 days of this partnership? Setting expectations is a two-way street. Not only is this important for your own project transparency but also for your freelance partner. Creating clear expectations frees up freelance talent to creating the very best result within the scope of their own multi-client workload. Working with someone who shares your values and will execute your vision is what you want. At the end of the day, you’re looking for a trustworthy partner who will help your team succeed. Project Transparency One big hurdle that we often see companies trying to overcome with freelancers is project transparency and setting expectations. It’s a big deal so we understand why it’s a topic of discussion. Businesses are reluctant to utilize freelancers for a few reasons. They don’t trust people that they haven’t worked with before They have been burned by a freelancer in the past They think it reflects poorly on their business to utilize outside help The truth about these three reasons is that the freelancer could certainly be to blame — but more often than most people would like to admit, the fault is double-sided. Relaying project expectations is 100% the responsibility of the person hiring the freelancer. If you have been burned in the past by a freelancer underdelivering or missing a deadline, it could have been a bad hire. Not your fault. But it may be worth revisiting whether or not your company relayed the necessary information to the talent. Hesitating to hire a freelancer because you aren’t sure whether or not they have what it takes is certainly a concern we understand. That’s why expert marketplaces like ours take pride in finding experienced, skilled and passionate freelancers to offer their clients. Freelancer Time Management As we mentioned, your first step in the vetting process is to find a professional freelancer. Not only is this to ensure that the talent you have acquired is official, but also experienced in handling multiple projects. Now, you’re not going to be able to manage your freelancers time for them. This is entirely up to their process. But we may have some freelancers out there that are reading this article, so this part is just for you! If you’re not a freelancer, feel free to skip this section. Learn to say no This is something that many freelancers learn the hard way over time. Freelancers want to get hired again, especially if they have built a good rapport with a client. Because of this, it’s often difficult to say no even if you know you’re going to be overloaded with work. But this is something you have to nip in the bud early. Just like it’s important for you client to relay expectations effectively to you, it’s equally important for you to relay your availability to them. Get rid of distractions This is a tough one. Productivity is your currency and you will go broke if you have too many distractions limiting your time. Email, funny YouTube videos — even your cell phone can take away from your workday. Try to segment your day so that you check in on important contact platforms at certain times, that way you’re not distracted by requests Treat it like a job You may be thinking “Well it is my job!”. We know, but creating your own work schedule, routines, and limitations are how you can remain happy while doing freelance work. Trying to adopt the workstyles of all your clients can scramble your brain. You definitely want to work as an extension of their team, but you may need to communicate some boundaries as to how you prefer to work. Freelance Cost Effectiveness Our marketing team has saved more than a quarter million dollars over the last year by leveraging our own business model. By harnessing the power of the Torchlite Marketplace, we throttle our marketing team when and where we need it, allowing us to create the output of a larger organization with more resources. Onboarding a new employee costs, on average, $4,000 and takes between three and four weeks. When you factor in all of the costs and the time it takes for your new hire to reach peak productivity, you might ask yourself if it’s all worth it. Freelancers can be productive immediately, and they’re only paid when you need specific work done. There’s no need to hire a full-time web developer, for example, if you only need occasional work done on your website. Companies that use freelancers also save on benefits like insurance, retirement contributions and PTO—freelancers aren’t employees, after all. This saves companies an average of $4,708 per employee per year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If a company can hire ten freelancers instead of ten employees, that adds up to $47,000 in annual savings on healthcare alone (that means an entire additional employee!). Add to your bottom line without adding to your headcount. Reach out today to find your project's perfect match!

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Why “Right People at the Right Time” is Critical to Company Success

Jan 23, 2019 Susan Marshall

I’m lucky to work with a team that embodies the Torchlite mission and vision. Our team has taken the “3 Cs” (our core values — communication, collaboration, curiosity) to heart, and they demonstrate them every day. Building a team of customer success, marketing, sales, development, and professional services experts that share our mission of helping customers achieve their goals has been both challenging and rewarding. Building a team has taught me the value of having the right people at the right time. In a startup, it is difficult to know exactly when you’ll need an extra set of hands. It could be the difference between a successful product launch and missed deadlines. It’s also taught me the importance of asking for help when you don’t have the expertise you need. With the right team and the right resources, marketing results are sure to follow. The Right People: Your Internal Team Our people are critical to our growth. At the core, culture is all about people, and we’ve built a team of driven contributors who share our company’s core values. You can hire a team of A-players, but if you don’t give them the tools and support they need, what’s the point? Before we bring anyone on board at Torchlite, we ask them what they need to be successful. Equipping our team with the right tools (including access to on-demand experts) and lines of communication, allows them to focus on their goals and get more done. The Right Time: Highly Skilled Technical Experts With the right people on your team, you can weather any storm. That’s not to say that your team has to be perfect — you must have the right mixture of people, processes, and technology. But sometimes you can’t deny that you need an extra hand. In fact, the best leaders recognize when they (or someone on their team) needs help, and they facilitate getting that help. The first step in recognizing that you need an expert to fill a gap is understanding that you don’t know it all, and that you don’t have to. With so many tools and technologies available, no one person can be an expert in everything. Why settle for piecemeal marketing results when you could test, change and analyze your marketing techniques more efficiently and effectively with the help of an expert? The type of expert you choose to work with depends on your marketing team’s goals, but making sure that you have your “bread and butter” marketing tactics down pat is a good place to start. An on-demand workforce can increase the efficiency and quality of content produced to meet market demands. If you want to implement a new channel or campaign, freelance experts can be onboarded to help you prove revenue potential before hiring permanent employees for long-term execution. And when your team is occupied with more pressing projects, a bench of on-demand digital experts can make sure that all of the pieces of your marketing puzzle stay together. Since independent contractors tend to focus on a specific platform or skill, they tend to be more up-to-date with the latest product releases, trends, and “must haves” in their field. That means they’re efficient, results-driven, and that they can save you money. Our own marketing team is made up of event and digital marketers, product marketers, and designers. They’re pros at what they do, but sometimes we need an extra set of hands. That’s why they use Torchlite’s marketplace of digital experts to fill the gaps. For our team, that means working with technical experts who have a deep knowledge of Salesforce and Pardot, as well as a digital advertising whiz who helps us target the right people at the right time. From Pardot implementation and support to lead generation campaigns, our own solution has helped us scale our marketing team without increasing our headcount. It’s not just our team that has realized the value of on-demand experts — we’ve worked with hundreds of brands to help them unlock the value of their marketing technology. It's more than building another software solution. It's about bringing people and technology together to create an agile and tech-enabled approach so marketers can get more done and compete in a digital world. Need an extra set of hands? Contact us today and we'll connect you with the top 4% of digital experts.

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Retaining Top Freelance Talent: It’s Like Dating

Jul 18, 2018 Emily Brungard

When you find top freelance talent, you don't want to lose them. It's hard enough to find a full-time employee, let alone an amazing freelancer who understands your industry and your specific business. In that way, it’s a little like dating—you have to learn someone’s preferences, talents and expectations in order to click. And for freelancers, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Deloitte Insights’ research suggests that employee retention and engagement are the number two concern in the minds of business leaders, second only to the challenge of building global leadership. This statistic isn’t just relevant to full-time employees—it’s a trend that has made its way into the 1099 workforce. Workers are more like free agents than ever before. So how do you keep them engaged? Allow Ramp Up Time Hiring a freelancer helps you save on recruiting costs by getting to work sooner, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need ramp up time. If you truly want the best quality work from your on-demand help, give them a chance to learn your preferences and learn about your brand. If you routinely switch freelancers after just one project, they may not have the chance to ramp up properly. After your first project, be sure to set a meeting to provide feedback, review expectations and see how you can work better together. It can be as simple as spending five minutes at the end of an engagement discussing what went right and what went wrong, but more frequent feedback is even better. Set Expectations Early Consider offering your freelancers a fixed monthly retainer if you like their work and plan to keep sending projects their way. Include a set amount of work in the monthly retainer, and get their rates for any work that falls outside of it, so they can bill you the extra as needed. Don’t fall into the trap of making your relationship with freelancers purely transactional. If you want to get to work with them again in the future, make sure to treat your freelancer like they’re a true extension of your internal team. Communicate Frequently Treat them like they’re a part of your team, even if they’re not in the office next to you every day. Don’t just rely on written text. Schedule a video or voice call to convey more details. While it might seem like it takes too much time, doing this up front can actually improve clarity, prevent misunderstandings, and save time later on. This also helps you establish a closer connection. Don’t limit interactions with freelancers to just your own. Connect them to more team members to help them learn about your projects and business. Understand You’re Not Their Only Client Because you’re likely not your freelancer’s only client, you have an opportunity. When was the last time you asked for their advice? With a diverse portfolio of work, it’s likely that the freelancer(s) you work with can provide a unique perspective on the content you’re putting out. In the same vein, remember that the freelancers you work with could be working with several clients at the same time, including you. One of the advantages of freelancing is flexibility, so if a client frequently shoots over urgent last-minute projects or expects the freelancer to be available 24/7 (unless specific times of availability were agreed upon), chances are that freelancer will look for work elsewhere. Pay on Time The best freelancers are in very high demand. They can pick and choose their clients. In fact, freelancers might decide to stop working with you entirely if you don’t treat them well. More than 70 percent of freelancers have trouble getting paid at some point in their careers, and 29 percent of freelance invoices are paid late. It’s not difficult to get ahead of this problem: be transparent with your freelancers about how your company’s fiscal year runs, how long it typically takes to process invoices and how it pays its contract workers. The keys to successful freelance relationships are a lot like what it takes to be successful in any other relationship: transparency and communication are key. By setting expectations early and reviewing those expectations often, you set yourself and your freelancer up for success.  Implementing these tips may nurture what could ultimately become mission-critical relationships for you and your company. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Are you a freelancer looking for your next gig? Sign up and join Torchlite today.  

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