The last few years have each been hailed as ‘The Year of the Freelancer’ and ‘The Year of the Mobile’. It will certainly be true for 2016. Spending on mobile advertising will overtake its rival media for the first time. However, contrast the soaring adspend figures with the falling profits of most agencies as 2015 drew to a close. This sent the stark warning to agencies that, even with adspend rising, in this cut-throat market, technology will be the only currency that really matters.

Profit margins are being squeezed by a combination of economic elements but the major factor is the high staffing costs necessary to meet the demand for tech expertise. Media buying is increasingly software-driven. This makes the shortage of specialists the critical factor driving up operating costs for the agencies.

A 2015 report by Marketing Monitor said: “All this change has inevitably led to increased costs as agencies invest in new capabilities and technologies to modernise their offer to their clients.“The cost to an agency of training skilled engineers to build technology is prohibitive and, arguably is not and has never been in the DNA of the industry. The same applies to financial institutions such as online banks and other companies who must maintain an optimal online presence to meet the needs of their customers. Operating an in-house team of crack specialist engineers is simply uneconomic.  

The high costs of processing recruitment is a substantial drain on a company’s finances – up to 200% of the employee’s salary for each new employee and that is without any further training costs to keep pace with emerging technologies. Traditionally, creative agencies have taken on freelance developers to deliver the necessary cutting edge tech to stay ahead of the game in the fierce gladiatorial arena that is the advertising market. But as they continue to be squeezed from all sides by corporate cutbacks on one hand and rising costs on the other it has become clear that the conventional model is past its sell-by date. Taking on freelancers – even outsourcing to developers abroad – seemed attractive options in the past, but it is plain that the hidden costs of both can be fatal to the bottom line of even the most successful agencies.




“Communication breakdowns are a common pitfall of remote working arrangements, with Skype and conference calls often fuelling frustration. There’s no replacement for face to face meetings, so be prepared for a lot to get lost in translation when completing a project with remote talent. By outsourcing abroad, you’re also plugging time and investment into agencies or freelancers that could be seen as your competitors.” David King

A recent study found that projects using contractors took longer to complete and had a 20% lower ROI than projects using agency staff.  Sourcing, identifying and maintaining talent – even if it is feasible –  is rarely cost effective in terms of recruiter expertise and time.  Add in the issues that will always arise from poor communications between creatives, client and developers, together with the importance of security, and the conventional model of freelancing is shown to be outmoded.  

Reinventing freelancing has meant the creation of an entirely new paradigm. This is a model built on the understanding that expert technology makes the difference when it comes to creating beautiful digital experiences. A model precisely designed to take the industry forward into the era of mobile technology. A model that sees specialist developers as committed partners in the agency/client relationship.

There is much talk globally of the talent shortage when it comes to software engineers and developers. Controversially, we would suggest that this is something of a myth, here in London at any rate. There is no shortage of talent: there is a shortage of training for talented people. We see a vast pool of untapped ability; smart, clever and enthusiastic people looking for the opportunity to create beautiful projects on current platforms, using state-of-the-art technology. However, the cost to the industry of attracting, training and mentoring talented coders is prohibitive.  

Reinventing Freelance has proved to be a huge success. Successful agencies need a wellspring of talent as a go-to resource and this model gives them access to the very best in tech and tech services. Talented devs get the very best training and support from colleagues, mentors and peers. This has proved to be the way forward for the industry here in London and we are looking forward to seeing this model repeated with great success in Edinburgh in the coming year.


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