A few years ago, I was working as an editor on a website project at a major company. This business had decided to write new copy for around 300 new web pages. . .from scratch! It was all going okay but at times the project manager was getting frustrated trying to manage the input and schedules of nine different copywriters. They were all working freelance, all remotely. To solve his headaches, he wanted to get them all in a room where he could see them. And that, I’m afraid, was when I had to intervene:
“You’re wasting your time,” I said. “These people are all good. That’s why you’ve employed them. But they live all over the place and they value their flexibility – working in their sheds, in the Outer Hebrides, wherever. They’ve all chosen how they want to work and where they’re going to do it for a reason.”
Eventually, the project manager accepted that his plan wasn’t going to work and saw my point - to get the best out of your employees, sometimes you have to think a little differently.
I was reminded of this experience recently when I was talking to the team at Flexology. During our chat, I was expressing my frustration at the amount of companies, large and small, who are currently advertising for full time copywriter positions.
I know the business world has gone ‘content’ crazy, but really? Full time and in the office? I know the job pretty well and I'm quite sure the majority of businesses don't need someone sat behind a desk writing stuff 9 to 5, five days a week. By advertising for a full time copy writing role, businesses are automatically limiting the pool of talent from which they will be able to recruit. Most copywriters have chosen to do what they do because they value a certain level of career freedom and flexibility. Going back full time just won't interest them. They’re not going to apply for these full time jobs, even if they have all the relevant experience and skills needed.
Companies would get a much better deal by seeking to recruit more experienced people on a part time or flexible basis. The quality of output of those people is going to be high, they're not going to require supervision, and their flexible working arrangements will help them to be highly productive in a fraction of the time. While they value flexibility, a lot of copywriters would love the reassurance of regular guaranteed income for part of the week, while they keep their other clients going.
To me the message is clear: when you're looking to fulfil certain kinds of roles, it will always pay (and will in fact sometimes be necessary) to think a little differently. Just as that project manager was persuaded to do a few years ago. Of course, the proviso is that I only speak from my own experience and about my own sector, but I can’t help wondering whether the situation for other roles is the same?