Vanessa Liell, executive director, Commtract and co-founder Herd MSL
The three words of advice: Specialise, Specialise, Specialise.
If you are a director of marketing, corporate affairs or communications and are crying out for highly technical skills for short term projects from proven experts, then fear not - you are not alone.
The most striking trend we have seen since COVID struck a year ago is that, more than ever before, companies, government departments and not-for-profit organisations are hitting us up for virtuoso contractors with specific capabilities.
It is part of a broader trend. Big employers want to hire high quality generalists for full-time roles but then outsource specialist projects to niche whizzes who can turn things around quickly and reliably without the distractions and daily demands of an in-house marketing or comms role.
This is very good news if you are an accomplished contractor who can provide a laser focus on a specific discipline. If you are not, but you are pursuing a freelance portfolio career, our advice is simple: “specialise, specialise, specialise!”
You will likely be in high demand if you do because, when it comes to most outsourced projects, organisations tell us they want experienced people with the know-how, clout and contacts book to do the exact job required.
They want experts who can solve the problem which they either do not have the skills for or simply do not have the time or the in-house resources to do well enough.
The market is responding to this surging demand:
• Many good copy writers are now specialising by sector and some even by topic.
• Many PR professionals are carving deeper niches in particular industries and even in specific geographies.
• And a host of dedicated proof-readers, editors and speechwriters are in the marketplace, earning good money from that particular thing that they are best at.
These are not necessarily people that organisations need 24/7 but are individuals that can be relied on to deliver the job with minimal fuss. It comes as relief to their clients, and they often get repeat business as a result.
Which begs the question, what sectors are the most lucrative to specialise in then? Well, the opportunities vary by sector and we have seen some marked shifts in the past 12 months.
As a snapshot, in the first quarter of 2021 we saw a 166.67% increase in roles posted within the communications sector (public relations and marketing) versus a year ago.
We also saw a 125% increase in roles posted within the resources and energy sector and a doubling in the number of roles posted within the logistics sector - possibly due to the increase in online shopping since COVID.
Conversely, we saw a 75% decrease in roles in the education and training sector, plus a 33% decrease in tourism related roles, one of the sectors hit hardest by national, state and territory border closures.
We’ve also seen a 69% decrease in government roles, but this was a cooling off from the all-time highs we saw in 2020 as the COVID crisis hit and governments needed additional resources.
Which speaks to my next point: all of these results are cyclical and very often they swing around quarter by quarter.
So, whilst it is important to be savvy about what you specialise in if you are a marketing or comms contractor, the most important trend to follow is to develop a speciality in the first place.
I would do it this way: work out, what you are really good at? Ask yourself: what comes easy to you that may be hard for others and which they will value as a result?
Work that out, then get better at it.
Commtract is the online marketplace for marketing and communications professionals.