How should a freelancer get a staff gig?


An experienced freelance broadcast producer was having a hard time being taken seriously as he applied for staff positions in ad agencies and the like.  The hiring people viewed his freelance background as a negative.

Here is what I told him. Being a producer on staff is a very different game from being a freelancer. It’s not just about producing the work – there is more to it than that.  There are all sorts of office politics and handholding to be done. You have to manage up and manage down and across in a way that you haven’t had to do as a freelancer. And don’t forget – big difference – you have to show up at the office every day and pitch in and play the game.  So that is one factor the hiring folk are considering: will you be able to do that.  And you need to consider that too.

They are also probably figuring that if you were doing well as a freelancer you wouldn’t be trying to come in house. So they are going to be wondering why you want to make this change. So here is the crux – it is incumbent on you to make a great case – first to yourself and then to them – as to why you want to come inside.

Your story has to be about them and their work – and how you will be able to contribute to their success. Your wanting a regular paycheck is not a driver that interests them – that is your issue, keep it to yourself. So be very clear about the successes you’ve had: your high profile gigs, the complex problems you’ve solved, your budget and logistical coups, your creative brilliance, your consistency, your expertise in genres (international, comedy, beauty, cars, whatever)

Then pair those successes with some good ambitious reasons to want to come in out of the cold. Here are some possible reasons for you to think about.

  • You feel that the better projects go to the insider and that’s the work you want to be doing.
  • You’ve gone as far as you can in the freelance world and see the opportunity of working in a consistent team as being the next step in your creative/producing development.
  • You know you have the skills and experience that comes from a whole variety of one-off gigs – but you want to get more involved with a brand or team.
  • You feel that on staff you can get more input in the decision making early on and so have more of an impact on the work and do a better job.
  • You admire the creative work of the teams at your chosen agency and you believe you could make a good contribution to its success.
  • Your taste and style is in sync with the agency and rather than work all manner of different jobs with different teams, this is the kind of work you will get excited about.
  • You believe you can do better work and make a stronger contribution when you have built longer relationships with the creatives and have a deeper understanding of the client and the brand.
  • You are really at your best when you are integrated into a team and can have the creative and production efficiencies that come from knowing the issues and the people.

These are some ideas – you should form your own and be clear and persuasive. Over to you. Good luck.