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Lee Willoughby



Retaining Top Talent in the Freelancer Market: A Guide for Marketing Agencies

We find ourselves amid a hypercompetitive labor market. At the time of writing, unemployment is extremely low, less than 3.4% in the US and just 6.5% in the EU (the lowest it’s been in Europe for the last ten years). In fact, worldwide, the number of people actively seeking work is just 30%

Coupling these facts with the findings of a 2022 LinkedIn report that said marketing roles, in particular, had some of the highest turnover rates, regardless of actual responsibilities in the marketing sector - and it’s safe to say that marketing agencies are in a precarious position.

The bottom line? It’s increasingly difficult for marketing agencies and other businesses to attract new workers. As a result, instead of focusing on making new hires, the onus for marketing agencies has shifted to keeping the workers they already have. 

When talent is hard to come by, retention is vital to stay competitive.

This is where creating and nurturing a freelance talent pool comes in handy for increasing the likelihood of ensuring consistent staffing levels.

If that sounds good, stick around as we explore the intricacies of maintaining a freelance talent pool. There’s lots to cover, so let’s dive straight in!

The Ins and Outs of a Freelance Talent Pool

Before we go any further with this blog post, let’s ensure we’re all on the same page about what a freelance talent pool actually is:

In short, a freelance talent pool is a centralized resource that HR managers can dip into as and when a role is vacant. That way, agencies don’t have to start from scratch whenever they’re looking to make a new hire. Freelancers can be from various industries and specialties, including marketing, design, writing, technology, etc. (whatever your agency's needs are).

There are tons of perks to creating and nurturing a freelance talent pool (especially when the labor market is so tight!); for example: 


Hiring and training new employees is far more time-consuming and expensive than working with freelancers from an existing talent pool. In fact, Upwork reports that, on average, companies could save up to $21,401 a year when hiring a freelancer over a full-time employee. 

This isn’t surprising when you consider that when you take on a full-time employee, not only do you have to maintain a consistent workload to ensure they’re worth the cost of their salary, but you also need to fork out for extras like social security, medicare, paid time off, etc. 

By retaining talented freelancers and working with them as and when the need arises, marketing agencies can avoid these costs and instead focus their time and money elsewhere. 

Flexibility and Scalability 

As we’ve already hinted, freelancers offer a high level of flexibility because you can hire them for specific projects for pre-defined time frames. Where marketing agencies are concerned, this enables them to adapt to changes in workload and/or project requirements without incurring the costs and rigidity associated with hiring full-time employees. I.e., marketing agencies can quickly scale their freelance workforce up or down to meet fluctuations in demand, which can be especially useful during busy periods. 

Plugging Skills Gaps

Freelancers often bring specialized skills and expertise to the table that can be difficult to find in-house. 

By maintaining a pool of talented freelancers, marketing agencies ensure they retain access to the specialized knowledge they might need to execute future projects. 

Extend Your Network 

Freelancers often have networks and connections with other professionals in their field. So, you may be able to utilize your freelance talent pool to expand your network.

Maintaining Continuity

This builds upon the scalability and flexibility point we just mentioned. Turnover is disruptive and can affect your agency's overall quality of work. However, by ensuring your agency has access to a wealth of talented freelancers, you increase the likelihood of projects getting completed on time and to a good standard.

Enhancing Morale

Stretching your in-house staff to their maximum capacity is a recipe for burnout, poor morale, and high employee turnover. 

In fact, a 2021 report from Indeed found that burnout is experienced by 52% of employees. This represents a 9% increase in pre-pandemic burnout levels. Fast forward to 2023, and The State of Workplace Burnout report found people aged 18-24 experience the highest levels (47%). Unsurprisingly, 57% of people who feel burnout report being less productive in the past year.

One way to alleviate some of the pressure is to utilize professional freelancers to pick up some slack. This should make your in-house team feel more supported and consequently help maintain a positive and productive work culture.

Retaining Freelancers

With Forbes reporting that the freelance workforce is set to reach nearly 57 million in the US alone, many businesses are looking forward to accessing its vast talent pool. However, while 74% of business leaders believe freelancing is critical to their organization's success, only 30% believe they’re sufficiently prepared to manage these workers.

When hiring freelancers, you need to consider the long game. If your freelancers aren’t happy to work for you, there’s little point in creating and maintaining a freelance talent pool.

Whether freelancers collaborate with you again largely depends on their experience working with you. So, for example, if they’re met with inconsistent communication, poor pay management, and/or confusing onboarding, etc. - these red flags could deter freelancers from working with that client again.

At this point, it’s worth highlighting that one survey found that some of the top client complaints by freelancers were:

  1. 68% finding consistent clients

  2. 30% getting paid (i.e., missed payments, poor payment rates, etc.)

  3. 25% staying productive (as a result of hiccups like poor management, communication tools, and other issues that make it challenging to get the job done)


So, now we know what freelancers hate, you need to provide the opposite experience. 

But how?

In short, it’s imperative your agency has complete control over hiring, managing, and communicating with freelancers and have systems in place that empower you to execute these tasks quickly and effectively, all the while providing freelancers with a first-rate experience. 

If that sounds like a tall order, it is. So, that’s why using the right software to support your freelance retention plan is imperative. 

Cue freelance management systems (FMSs). If you’re not already using one to streamline the creation and maintenance of your freelance talent pool, this could be the solution. 

For the uninitiated, a freelance management system is a software that allows you to supervise freelancers from one place. You can use it to hire talent, stay in touch with freelancers without switching between multiple systems, track freelancer invoices, and pay workers upon project completion.

In short, using a high-quality FMS should result in less paperwork, less time spent on freelance management, and more organized operations.

How Can an FMS Help With Retention Issues?

Below we’ll explore just a few of the many ways using a high-quality FMS could help your agency effectively retain talented freelancers:

Centralize Your Freelancer Database

First and foremost, your freelance management system should make it easy to create a centralized database of freelancers who have consented to form part of your freelance talent pool. 

Ideally, freelancers should be able to create their own profiles where they can list their skills, experience, portfolios, and availability. 

Then with all this information compiled and ready to go, your agency should be able to utilize its FMS to add, search, and identify freelancers that match their specific project requirements. 

Of course, this is super handy for HR managers, but on the flip side, it’s great for freelancers, too, because they know there’s a possibility of securing future work, which goes a long way to cementing your working relationships with your contractors.

Ensuring Freelancers Get Paid on Time

A decent FMS should include an invoicing and payment system that (ideally) automates freelancer payments. 

To illustrate how this could work, we’ll use Bubty as an example:

  1. The freelancer uploads their invoice

  2. You approve the invoice

  3. You pay the invoice with just a click


You can also opt to either pay each invoice individually or select multiple invoices and pay them all simultaneously.

Simple, right? A system like this allows you to keep track of all your freelancer invoices in one place and in real-time. It also helps guarantee that freelancers are paid promptly and accurately and that payments are tracked and recorded for accounting purposes. It can also help businesses maintain GDPR compliance, providing that all financial and personal data is kept securely and adheres to GDPR regulation (which, incidentally, Bubty does).

Facilitating Effective Communication

As we’ve already hinted, a best-in-class FMS should facilitate communications between clients and freelancers. Effective communications are crucial to ensuring smooth collaborations and reducing the likelihood of confusion and misunderstandings. 

That’s why features like the ones listed below are so important.

  • In-built messaging

  • Project management tools like being able to create a project quickly and filter through your FMS to match, invite, and assign the right person to the work

  • Time tracking


When combined, the above tools better position agencies to deliver more effective briefs, monitor project progress (so they can intervene if necessary), provide more constructive feedback, and communicate with freelancers in real time.

Bubty - Freelance Management Made Simple

One such FMS solution is Bubty.

In a nutshell, Bubty's freelance management system is a comprehensive platform designed to support marketing agencies (and other businesses) in creating their own freelance talent pool and retaining said talent.

Amongst its many features, Bubty makes it simple for agencies to add, search for, contact, onboard, and assign tasks to freelancers. Agencies can also track which freelancers are available via their calendars. In addition, you can use Bubty to send freelancers a request to update their details, communicate with freelancers throughout the onboarding process, and notify them when compliance documents need signing.

You can also view each freelancer’s profile and leave a comment on what it was like working with the person in question. You can add the pros and cons of working with someone, give them a 1 to 5-star rating, and comment on their work rate.

On top of that, Bubty provides agencies with all the tools they need to keep track of freelancer invoices from the convenience of one localized repository. You can also connect invoices to projects, ensuring a high level of transparency with the added bonus of easy one-click payments. 

To summarize, with the help of FMSs like Bubty, agencies can forget the days of working with spreadsheets to manage their network of freelance talent. Instead, freelancers can create profiles within your database that display their profile photo, availability, contact details, etc., all in one place.

Plus, with just a few clicks, you can invite, find and assign freelancer's projects - simple, right? So, if you’re trying to build a freelance pool and retain your top talent, visit us today to learn more.