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  • Writer's pictureTonic Consulting Group

The Freelancer - Agency Challenge


Recently we’ve spoken with several freelance event professionals who are telling us that working with agencies has become much more difficult. In fact, in one instance, we heard of a seasoned, successful freelancer taking on a full time staff position.

Why? They were tired of being treated like a tool. They wanted an end to haggling over rates and undefined scope of work; to bookings getting cancelled near show date and the agency then negotiating – or not -on a cancellation fee; they were fed up with poor onboarding and difficulty in deciphering haphazard processes while being expected to keep the work moving forward and the end-client happy. We also heard of freelancers more regularly “firing” agencies and never working for them again.


On the agency side, we’ve been working with our clients as they navigate the challenge of a lot of work without long-term commitments from clients. Clearly live event demand is up, but the competition for client work, which is always fierce, has now been made more so by a significant turnover in the client base post-Covid.

This has led to less long-term client/agency relationships, and therefore less revenue predictability (and we didn’t have much predictability in the best of times). Without those annual commitments, we’re advising caution to our clients regarding hiring more staff and are encouraging them to use freelancers to help answer their sporadic needs.


Now it’s true that the event industry has always relied heavily on freelancers. This is because of the general lack of retainers available to us vs. public relations and advertising agencies (although those agencies are also seeing less retainers and more project work). Any project-based industry needs to have a flexible staff base which can grow and shrink as projects come and go. That’s the huge benefit of using freelancers. You pay for the project time, not the down time.


But things are now quite different in the freelance world. First of all, the Boomer generation is retiring from the industry. The generation behind it, Gen-X, is smaller and experienced 2 recessions (2001-2003 & 2008-2009. Both were particularly hard on the event industry, resulting in a lot less demand for freelancers so people sought work in other industries.

Also, junior and mid-level people were laid off from event agencies and many went on to find careers elsewhere. All of these folks would be seasoned, senior professionals today, either on staff or working as freelancers. So, there’s less experienced talent available now, which means good freelancers can be choosier and more demanding of the things that will help them be successful.


So, we’re now coaching our agency clients to invest in their freelance relationships. We’re encouraging them to onboard more effectively, have clear, well-documented processes, and consider assigning someone who can provide coaching and real-time feedback to their freelancers. The goal is to build a long-term relationship with the freelancer that’s beneficial to both parties.


If you would like more information on this, take a few minutes to read another article we wrote on this topic: While it was written during the Pandemic, it provides a foundation for successful agency / freelancer relationships so that you can become the agency freelancers want to work with.



Tonic Consulting Group works with live event agencies and related companies providing the insights, expertise and direction necessary to create enduring competitive advantage. We work with leaders to build new pathways to growth, create high-performing operations and develop companies people love working for.


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