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Marketing Brew: Staffing companies expect recession to boost shift to freelance and temporary work

Originally posted on Marketing Brew by Katie Hicks, June 30, 2022.

To be or not to be, that is the question…of the next recession. It’s not clear yet if CEOs are right about a looming economic downturn or if it’s just bad vibes.

Yet one thing does seem clear: staffing companies expect a recession to boost what they say is already a growing shift to freelance and temporary work.

Jason Chitwood, general manager at MarketerHire for Agencies, which provides temporary workers to companies like WPP and GroupM, told Marketing Brew he expects business to grow faster if and when a recession hits.

“We’re anticipating a positive impact for MarketerHire,” Chitwood said.

Since he came into his role in January, he said he’s seen many agency clients scale “quite dramatically,” some bringing on 4–6x more freelancers.

Demand for workers has ranged from lower-level media buyers to senior-level strategists.

“They’re worried about recessions, they’re worried about all these things, just like everyone is, so for them, the safer they can be and the more folks they can bring onboard who are not full-time employees, the safer they are in terms of having to reduce their risk of layoffs,” he said.

Layoffs have already started happening at agencies like The Many and R/GA, and eMarketer recently said that more job cuts in the industry “could be on the way.” Plus, companies like MicrosoftP&G, and Ford have reduced ad spend for different reasons this year.

As agencies grapple with these downturns, they might rely on short-term workers more frequently. “It’s not as though these companies can stop doing business, but it may be that they unfortunately reduce headcount and they’ll be looking to freelancers to fill that,” Brent Messenger, VP of public policy and community engagement at freelance platform Fiverr, told us.

Holly Wasson, chief community and marketing officer at We Are Rosie—a “flexible career platform” for marketers, as she calls it—told us she’s seen an uptick in bookings over the last several weeks. One reason, she said, is given economic uncertainty, more brands and agencies are looking at “burst capacity” hires rather than full-time employees as marketers look at budgets on a quarterly, rather than full-year, basis.

According to Wasson, We Are Rosie works with “every media holding company,” as well as brands like Hulu, IBM, and Bumble.

Brian Dolan, CEO and founder of WorkReduce, which also provides marketing staff to agencies and brands, said the company tripled its revenue over the last year. While he hasn’t heard of clients slowing their hiring, he said that could change if consumer spending goes down and ad budgets are cut.

“What we experienced at WorkReduce during the pandemic was holding companies laid off their workers, and then kept hiring ours because we’re not a capital expenditure for them,” Dolan told us.