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APCO: OnDeck freelance bench creates stability and team mentality

Written by Amanda Saber on August 2, 2022

APCO Worldwide has built a deep freelance bench with our OnDeck service, giving them quick accessibility to trusted creatives who know their agency culture. This has created a time-efficient and cost-efficient way to work with talented individuals while simultaneously supporting their own team.

Our year+ relationship with APCO Worldwide has been such a wonderful experience. While they had been working with freelancers before partnering with us, they wanted to extend their team to add stability and create real relationships with each of their freelancers. 

Enter our OnDeck service, a system designed to build a creative bench, all onboarded and ready to jump in. We’ve helped APCO build a deep OnDeck team, working with more than 15 of the creatives in our network on nearly 100 projects over the last 13 months. 

We wanted to check in with Svenja Herrmann, Creative Production Coordinator & Video Producer, to see how things have been going over the past year. Read highlights from our conversation below.

What were some of your pain points that led you to Uncompany? 

We’ve used freelancers for a long time, and they’ve always been very helpful. But every time we had another need for a freelancer, we connected with a new person. That makes it challenging because it’s a time-consuming process to find, vet, and onboard someone new. We always had to start from scratch explaining our agency processes, getting them set up in our systems, and introducing them to our people. There’s a learning curve when adapting to a company culture that slows things down.

Can you share how Uncompany, specifically the OnDeck service, has addressed or solved these pain points?

For us, having a freelance bench has created stability with our own team, helped us make strategic staffing decisions, and reduced administrative time typically involved in freelance arrangements. 

Uncompany has been really open to understanding our needs and diving in to find the right fit. We’ve been able to test out different people in different roles, so we’re able to get to know them, learn their strengths, and find the right projects for them, as we would with our own staff. And once these folks are on our bench, we can directly access everyone through the simple system and quickly tap into our bench for immediate needs and overflow work, which is a huge time-saver. 

We’ve also been able to fill specific skillsets needed for unique projects, quickly, when it might not make smart business sense to hire a full time employee with those skills—which also takes time. This makes Uncompany’s service unique from other staffing agencies.

Why would you recommend Uncompany and/or OnDeck to other agencies? How has your agency benefited from it?

If you’re a creative business, you’re getting trusted creative professionals, which is important to your success. Uncompany is a one-stop shop for management and invoicing of our freelance team, making that piece so much easier. They are also available to intervene and support us if any issues arise with anyone we’re working with. 

Having consistent freelancers is truly time-efficient. Understanding the agency is just as important as understanding the project. Working with people who understand what you do and what your processes are makes things easier across the board. If an employee is sick or we need urgent help on a project, we can easily pull someone in who already knows us.

What would you want other clients to know about working with freelancers?

Working with freelancers can be beneficial for your own team’s work-life balance. Since freelancers manage their own schedules, and get paid for all of their time, you may be able to pass off a task to them rather than overwhelming your full-time employees by asking them to shoehorn it into their booked day or work late. If you don’t have freelancers you know and trust, you might have to lean too heavily on your staff.

However, it’s not just about executing tasks. If you want to grow your people, you should be trying to grow all of your people, including your freelancers. Make them feel like part of your team. A few tips:

  • Bring them in as early as possible and invite them to team meetings about the work.
  • Give them a clear brief.
  • Introduce them to the client and let them present the work.
  • Be open-minded to their suggestions. They know their tools and trade, and they also want the best outcome for their work.
  • Give them constructive feedback about the work and/or their communications and presentations.
  • Follow through and let them know how the work led to various outcomes. What worked and what didn’t? They deserve to know!
  • And do your best to spark joy with whomever you work to get the best product.

So how do you incorporate freelancers into your agency culture? 

We treat them as an extension of our team and fold them into our culture. We do a full casual intro to many folks on our team that they’ll likely be working with and ask them to provide candid responses to the following:

  • What do you love working on the most or what do you wish you had more opportunities to work on (deliverables, sectors, etc.)?
  • What do you literally never want us to call you and ask you to do?
  • What can you do well enough, but we’d be better to ask another freelancer to assist with?

Then we pair them with art directors and project managers and try to find those opportunities to interact with clients. We want to make sure they are growing as individuals. Just because they’re freelancing doesn’t mean they don’t have personal and professional goals. Our bench’s growth is just as important as our staff’s growth. 

Are there certain traits that you see in freelancers that make you want to keep working with them? 

Each project requires a different skillset, and we need to consider the level of independence a project requires, such as using a junior-level freelancer when we have more bandwidth to support them versus needing a more seasoned person who can step in and take ownership. 

Generally, however, we love working with people who are comfortable with some ambiguity and complex projects, very responsive, and excited about the project they’re working on. 

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We look forward to building upon our relationship with APCO and continue to help them seamlessly fill needs with their freelance team. If Svenja’s comments have piqued your interest in building your own OnDeck bench, reach out to Richelle to discuss how we can support you! 

About APCO

APCO Worldwide is an advisory and advocacy communications consultancy. We partner with public and private sector organizations to help them catalyze progress, act with agility and build organizational reputations, brands, relationships and solutions to succeed. APCO is an independent and majority women-owned business.