Introducing Run by Rosie, a new agency model Learn More

Rosie in the news

Ad Age: We Are Rosie speaks on Marketing’s Gig Economy – Everything Ad Professionals Need to Know

by | Apr 3, 2024

graphic of person working on a laptop at a desk with email icons flying out of the laptop screen

Originally posted on Ad Age by Lindsay Rittenhouse on April 3, 2024.


This is the first in a recurring series of stories aimed at educating readers on how to break into advertising and marketing, or land a new position.

The continuing wave of industry layoffs has led to opportunities for seasoned freelancers and fractional executives to step into the breach.

Wripple, a freelance network for the marketing and advertising industry, experienced 78% growth in project volume last year from its clients, which include Coca-Cola and Home Depot, according to its co-founder and CEO, Shannon Denton.

“A common theme we’re hearing from marketing leaders in our network is that the traditional agency relationship has so much overhead built in that it’s bulky and overkill,” said Hope-Elizabeth Sonam, head of community at We Are Rosie, a consulting platform and freelance talent network that works with brands and agencies. “Hence the need for specialized freelancers that can execute key projects and deliver great work without the constraints of a multi-year retainer with unclear fee structures.”

But the opportunities are still uneven: While marketers are ramping up in the gig economy, fewer freelance opportunities are coming from agencies, a market Denton described as “spotty.”

Megan Farquhar, the executive creative director and partner at former Mojo Supermarket Managing Director Kendra Schaaf’s new consultancy, Schaaf, criticized shops for reducing freelance budgets, calling the move “short-sighted.”

The former DDB executive said part-time talent can especially help big agencies because “as they’re scrambling to pitch, they’re utilizing teams that are across other accounts, and those accounts either suffer or the talent suffers or a combination of both.”

Denton said there are still plenty of projects to go around for both full-time freelancers and those who are taking on part-time projects for extra income alongside a full-time role, which more people are opting to do. There’s the ability to control your hours and money to be made—many of Wripple’s freelancers make six-figure salaries, Denton said.

But it is competitive.

headshot of Hope-Elizabeth Sonam, head of community at We Are Rosie


“Competition is high across the entire talent market right now, given the amount of layoffs and shifts we’ve seen lately,” Sonam said. “There is a lot of brilliant talent out there that wants to work in any capacity, and some who might have not considered freelancing in the past are now open to the idea. My best advice is to stay visible on the platforms likely to connect you with hiring managers, and keep in touch with your network.”


Below is a guide to navigating an industry career as an independent contractor.

What is the difference between a freelance and a fractional job?

Both freelancers and fractional workers are self-employed and take on projects on a contract basis. The difference between a freelancer and a fractional worker is that freelancers are contracted on a project-by-project basis, while fractional executives are more integrated into a company, taking on a part-time position for typically anywhere from six months to three years. Both options give workers flexibility and the ability to take on more than one job at a time.


What kind of skills are most in demand?

Companies are hiring fractional executives in everything from diversity positions to chief marketing officer roles. Freelance jobs also range widely.

The majority of companies Wripple works with, or 87%, are hiring freelancers for marketing and creative; 78% for technology; 75% for media; 74% for data and analytics; 74% for experience design; 71% for artificial intelligence; 63% for strategy and planning; 51% for multimedia content; and 36% for project management, according to a pair of Wripple surveys conducted among 200 freelancers and 214 companies in October 2023.



Denton said artificial intelligence skills are becoming increasingly valuable to companies looking for freelance talent. “Clients don’t see AI as replacing writers or designers, but they’re looking for a writer that knows how to use ChatGPT or other tools to be more efficient,” he said.

We Are Rosie has gotten “consistent requests for paid media talent across all digital areas [including] social, programmatic, search; strategists in pretty much every specialty function [including] brand, social, email, paid media; copywriters, designers and project managers,” said Sonam.


How much experience do you need?

Denton said that freelancers typically need five years of experience to land projects in the ad and marketing space, but he’s starting to see more people with only two or three years of experience getting jobs. A lot of young professionals, including those just entering the workforce, prefer freelance over full-time, Denton said.

Jobs filled by We Are Rosie usually require at least three years of experience, said Sonam. She said most clients need mid-level and senior talent.

But that shouldn’t deter young professionals, Sonam said. “You can gain experience in many forms. Have you been handling communications for your sorority? Or social media for the local dog rescue in your community? All of it matters and would appeal to the right employer in the small or mid-market client segment.”

Although Schaaf typically works with more senior freelancers, the firm has “brought in new talent that graduated in the last year to help on smaller projects to bring fresh thinking or a specialization in something like gaming,” Farquhar said.

She said you don’t necessarily have to have five years of experience to freelance, but you do have to know how to market yourself; that can be done by promoting passion projects or internships.

“The ‘About Me’ page is where I always go first,” Farquhar said. “I want to know what they’re passionate about.”


How do you get started with a network?

Freelancing networks such as Wripple and We Are Rosie make it easier to get and manage freelance work. Denton, the former global CEO of Razorfish, founded Wripple in 2019. It currently has 3,500 freelancers in its network and services up to 50 different roles. We Are Rosie has had more than 30,000 independent industry executives join its network since its founding in 2018.

Wripple pairs companies with freelancers who match their needs and the workers can then choose to pitch the project, according to Denton, who added that freelancers are “fully vetted” before being allowed on the platform.

For freelancers to be admitted onto the network, they have to apply, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes, connect their LinkedIn profile and ideally showcase a variety of work they’ve done for agencies or brands, Denton said. If they score high enough on an algorithmic scale of zero to 100, they are brought onto the platform.

Wripple helps freelancers organize and gain essential information on projects before committing to them, including how much time each job will take, Denton said. This helps freelancers plan how many jobs they can juggle at a time, he said.

We Are Rosie helps negotiate salaries for its workers, one area that might prove difficult, especially when first starting as a freelancer, Sonam said.


What challenges should I be aware of?

As a freelancer, you are ultimately your own boss, said Christopher Santoro, a freelance contractor who has his own branding and design studio, Santoro Design.

Freelancing is not for “the faint of heart,” Santoro said. “As a freelancer, you have to keep keen eyes on all the details—macro and micro, respectively. You’ll have to be comfortable wearing numerous hats, including the ones you’re not as savvy with, while ensuring high-quality work. You’ll have to be flexible and adapt to changes that occur within the project.”

He advised other freelancers to be honest with themselves and clients on what projects they can reasonably take on.

Sonam said the biggest challenge for most freelancers at first “is getting and staying busy, as most people who are new to freelancing have some fear around whether they can sustain themselves for the long haul. My advice is to build momentum by building relationships with people who may hire you or can connect you with opportunities,” she said.