Within a decade, more than half the workforce will consist of freelancers. As this shift happens, building the right marketing team might actually mean building the right project team for a specific product launch or campaign rather than staffing up long-term.

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Finding qualified freelance workers and integrating them into your company culture—even for a short time—can be incredibly challenging. But the gig economy is here, and marketers need to be ready.

I invited analyst and speaker Jeremiah Owyang, founder of research and advisory firm Kaleido Insights, to Marketing Smarts to talk about how agencies and marketers find and manage freelancers. Along the way, we explore how the gig economy will affect marketers' career trajectory, how to protect your intellectual property while working with a team of gig workers, and more.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

As "the gig economy" grows, freelancers will be an integral part of your marketing organization, but make sure to keep critical institutional knowledge in house.  (07:20): "There are two key things to retain inside your organization:

  1. The institutional knowledge, which can include the clear product road map, the brand voice, the creative voice and all the requirements. That needs to be really well, thoroughly vetted and documented on an ongoing basis, because you're going to have a revolving door of creatives or freelance marketers coming in and out, so that needs to be done really well....
  2. Secondly, it is cultural abilities. Identify people that are going to work well within the team. Find people who can provide real-time communications when needed, but know when to back off when the team is moving to the next phase. It's a very transitional workforce that's coming in and out in order to make that happen.

Create a style guide, brand guide, and other documentation to help freelancers get up to speed quickly (but don't overdo it) (15:18): "I would suggest that enough materials, maybe 30 minutes of reading and input, for a creative or a freelancer to intake remotely. Then have a 30-minute call to answer any questions and to reiterate the goals and expectations, and have a dialogue. An hour of prep is probably the right amount when it comes to integrating freelancers into your workforce. That's just based on my experience, how I like to get my teams prepared."

Your company isn't what it used to be—it's so much more (23:24): "We're going to see the nature of businesses change. Zoom out at the CEO level. We see companies crowdsourcing information for new products. We see companies crowdsource customers to be their marketing advocates, influencers. We see companies crowdsourcing marketing reviews and ratings and putting that straight on the corporate website. 'Rated 4.5 stars by Yelp' or Stitchfix or Amazon.... Companies are living by their Yelp reviews, good or bad. And we see companies outsourcing freelancers in the supply chain or even in retail or contract workers.

"In the end, we might see even very mature organizations have this very loosely organized model of the crowd. Even their own customers are now a part of their workforce It'll be hard to tell the difference between employees and customers. They might be the same in many cases....

"The former way of thinking about a corporation as a monolithic building with a square box and employees go in at 9:00 and they leave at 5:00 and the old industrial factory era, that's going away. It's becoming more connected and interconnected and people and employees are working from all over. So the very nature of a company changes.

"The core [intellectual property] and the logo and the brand still stays core to the company, but all of the human resources, and even intellectual and creative courses, are spread between the customers. The end result, a CMO and a CEO should love this because it means your customers and your employees are so engaged that they're so involved in the brand in many ways. I see this as a bigger evolution of the brand story, and even the story of what a company is."

To learn more, visit KaleidoInsights.com, and be sure to follow Jeremiah on Twitter @jowyang.

Jeremiah and I talked about so much more, including tips for managing freelancers and tools to help you find the right freelance workers for your team, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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