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Welp, we’ve made it to the one-year mark. 2020 will go down in the history books – a raging global pandemic, a massive economic recession, a worldwide reckoning of systemic racism and the urgency of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a relentlessly exhausting U.S. election cycle.

Through it all, how we work has come into sharp focus. Beyond that, WHY we do what we do has a new sense of importance in the wake of a pandemic that has reminded us all that life is short. As we looked back on 2020, we realized a few things:

One, this is the only time in history we’ll be able to make a “Hindsight is 20/20” joke and be literal about it.

Two, there were some major shifts in work trends that have set a new trajectory for the freelance industry.

2020 lessons for 2021 and beyond

Ah, Darwinism. Questionable theories abound, but we know that adapting really does lead to thriving. If you’re adapting your marketing approach to meet new industry demands (hello, 2020!), there’s no quicker way to *pivot* than to bring on expert freelance talent. Whether it’s a stop-gap solution or part of an organization-wide training approach, hiring the right freelancers can make a massive, near-immediate impact on your ability to meet changing market needs.

How many times have you needed to hire a freelancer and gone straight to your phone’s Contacts? We’ve all been there – it’s a tight Rolodex (dated reference there…) of people you trust (and who probably live nearby). Now that we’re all WFH indefinitely, we don’t need to “recruit for the commute” – brands and agencies are able to expand their freelance search by time zone, nationwide or even globally, giving them access to a *much* larger freelance talent pool.

Whether it’s adding a social media content team or an SEO expert, you’ve got to have the right players on the field to win the game, so to speak. In 2020 – amidst distance learning, remote caregiving, and a never-ending stream of Zoom meetings – the time and space to focus is a true luxury. When you hire the right freelancers for the job at hand, you are able to reap the rewards of THEIR focus as much as the space it allows for you to focus, too.

2020 was a bad year for suits, and pretty much anything else constricting, too. We learned that rigid ways of doing work are bound to break, and that flexible teams can help solve short-term challenges as much as they can contribute to long-term initiatives. The ad agency industry has reeled from massive consolidations and layoffs because the traditional agency model (that locks in rates for retainer-based staff, slick office overhead, and wining-and-dining budgets) can feel like a ball-and-chain relationship for brands who are striving to become more agile. The solution, broadly speaking, is freelance talent. But the logistics – finding the right people for the job, managing contracts and payments, and wrangling a project through to completion – can be daunting unless you have a go-to freelance management partner (cough cough).

Oh 2020. Time IS precious. Hold your loved ones close (proverbially)! Last year took most of us through some sort of existential debate, and whether or not we’re doing impactful work has been top of mind for the past 12 months. Are we using our time at work as wisely as possible? What skills, perspective, or elbow grease do you need on your team in order to succeed? Freelance experts give you the option of bringing in exactly what you need when you need it, and can help free you up to do your most meaningful work. Win/win!

2020 taught us how to work remotely. Sure, remote work was gaining steam well before the pandemic hit, but the almost-overnight adoption of Zoom meetings, Slack, and shared calendars was practically universal across major brands and agencies as cities shut down a year ago. Learning how to work remotely effectively – and set boundaries to draw the line between work/life when both are happening in the same space – was a massive learning experience for most teams. The question now is, who even wants to go back to the office?

There were massive job losses in 2020, which was painful for folks who lost their jobs as much as it was for people who got to keep theirs but were expected to take on even more responsibility. For studio leaders, creative directors and anyone who’s *not* HR doing HR-style work, the effort to find and manage freelancers can take anywhere from a couple hours a day to a full-time job. When you’re hiring more than one or two freelancers a month, it makes sense to bring in a partner (ahem, again) to help manage the recruiting, vetting and contract management work that goes into finding the perfect fit.

Remember back in 2019, where listing an office location in a job listing was the norm? How old-fashioned does that sound now? We called this a long time ago, but remote recruiting lets brands and agencies find the very best candidates for the roles – not just the best options within driving distance of the office. Of course, this opens up a “needle in the haystack” conundrum, which is why finding a partner that knows your business needs is crucial. Whether it’s for a full-time role, a single freelance position, or an entire freelance “department”, Sandy was built for this from Day 1.

It’s hard to feel connected when you’re not seeing the same people every day. For remote workers – and remote freelancers, especially – finding the right community is critical for sanity, support, and growth.

While it’s always been true that having a broad skill set can make you more valuable (either as an individual contributor or as a collective department), 2020’s relentless “Pivot! Now pivot again!” battle-cry made that even more true. Finding freelance experts to help expand your teams’ existing capabilities is one way to fast-track learning, share knowledge, and get work done faster in a post-2020 era.

We’ll say it loud for the people in the back: WORKING HARD IS NOT THE SAME AS WORKING SMART. Finding ways to unplug and separate from your inbox is critical to being able to bring your best self to work, which is even harder to do when you work from your couch. Figuring out how to bring in support when you need it can help you (and probably, your team) stay sane and focused in these wild, gray-area times.

The biggest 2020 lesson: We can work from anywhere now. In 2021, this will still largely mean “home”, but once it’s safe, working from the beach, a log cabin, a treehouse or even a new home abroad will all be on the table. Learning the tools, habits and flow of remote work en masse this past year has prepared us for an exciting future; one where our life outside the “office” fuels the creativity, problem-solving, and efficiency that goes into creating stellar work.