Freelance v. Temp agency (Creative Circle)

Am I crazy, or should we be boycotting Creative Circle? A friend forwarded this today:

Job Description:
Our client is an agency with a need for a freelance Industrial Designer with 3-7 years of experience to cover a vacation from 5/5-5/18. You should have a laptop to bring onsite with the 3D software of your choice.

Candidates should have experience as an industrial/product designer and should have really solid hand-sketching skills.

You’ll be working on sketches, concepts and storyboards for a home-goods product.

Candidates should have a Laptop with their preferred design software.

If you feel you are qualified for this position please send your resume (and samples if applicable) to:

Best wishes!

Creative Circle

So, for a two week gig, covering someone’s vacation, you are expected to:

1- Share some unknown percentage of your wage (30%? 40%? more?) with a temp agency while you…
2- Provide a workstation
3 - Provide software licenses
4- Oh, and be at a senior level.

I know these agencies have sales teams who are going after clients but haven’t we as designers created a presence where businesses can easily find good talent?

And please, if you are a hiring design manager, please offer the fair wage to freelancers out there and not to some temp agent who doesn’t know Photoshop from Photoworks!

WOW!! the ad tells exactly what i am currently doing at this freelance job !!

if you dont mind me asking you, what do u think is a good hourly rate for a graphic/industrial designer?

btw, why would u boycott them? in my opinion, this posting can help lots of people that are coming out of college even if it says 3-7 years exp. maybe i am wrong…but when its hard to find a job, i am sure many will take it…

Sniper…thanks for the reply. Rates are going to vary based on your experience, location, type of work…But my point is that whatever you think is worthwhile to take on a job like this, the client is willing to and is actually paying 2-3 times this rate to Creative Circle. For their part, CC is simply forwarding an email to designers who could have connected with the client by simply looking on craigslist or coroflot.

When using an agency, the company avoids all the problems of having to offer contracts, holiday entitlement, sick pay etc. You can be hired and fired very easily. Even though they have to pay the agency (usually the same amount as they pay you) they save themselves loads of red tape and paper work, so it’s more money but less hassle. If you employ someone and it doesn’t work out, the procedures for getting rid of them are time consuming - verbal warnings, followed by written warnings, pay offs etc. When using an agency, you just ring them up and say, we don’t like this person, get us another one - and he/she’s gone. Plus you don’t have to go through the time consuming procedure of interviewing, shortlisting, inviting back for second interview, contacting those who haven’t made the cut (doesn’t always happen) getting the chosen one to agree on a start date etc.

Using agency’s from an employers point of view has benefits, but for the people working for companies through agencies, they can be a complete bunch of blood sucking parasites.

Product Tank,

I am not talking about headhunting for full time employment that requires sick pay, written warnings, severance etc… I am talking about FREELANCING. The temp agency does not pay the freelancer anywhere near what they are charging hourly to the client. I am imploring the corporate design managers to work DIRECTLY with freelance designers. They will have an easier time meeting an on-the-ball freelancer via Coroflot or Craigslist (with readily accessible portfolios to view) than they will going through an HR agency whose staff is MOST UNLIKELY to know anything about design process, software compatibility, project management etc…

In the end, the client pays more, the designer makes less and someone is brokering a deal that is predicated on some notion of ‘industry contacts’ and with little added value. Give a good independent designer the opportunity to build a solid relationship with a client. They are not hard to find , to hire, or to stop calling if they aren’t cutting it.

Ok, I get it now, and I agree, freelancers should get more opportunities, but it begs the question, if the direction the client has chosen is to go with the agency, why…?

I just want to identify the problem. Is the company not aware of the freelancing websites etc. I haven’t seen or heard of any stats from freelancing sites saying how many companies browse them for freelancers, is it just an issue of perceived professionalism, trust or time?

It’s fine to emplore design managers to work directly with freelancers, but they probably don’t browse the C77 boards, so unless someone is selling the benefits of the freelance listing sites to them, they probably don’t know their options. Once a company does do this, and takes a cut/finders fee, they become an agency, which brings us right back to the problem you are identifying?

So do you want a site that has a freelance membership which takes a small joining fee that goes towards serious marketing/advertising to companies. Or you pay a small finders fee to the site (much less than the rate an agency takes) for any jobs you get?

Also from a corporate design managers point of view, I think one of the problems is choice. If 1000 freelancers join a site and a search narrows them down to 50 (based on location, specialism etc), that’s still a lot of decision making and confusion. If you employ the agency and they give you six - easy. From an employers point of view it’s about saving time.

Just my musings on the problem. :wink:

Thanks for indulging me. All valid points you have made. I feel as though the barriers to convenience that agencies are selling just feels a little ‘old world’ to me.

I see you are UK based, perhaps it is different there, but in the States, even the stodgiest, old-geezer firms are looking on Coroflot for new talent.

The idea that senior designers and managers are ‘unaware’ of where to find talent seems unlikely. Today, most designers are able to maintain an up-to-date web-presence that is timely and accessible to the global design communities.

Here, I see Creative Circle- pursuing high level execs or HR departments and hard-selling them on some industry insight and contacts that don’t exist. This snake-oil corporate sell relies on very young designers who are willing to work for anything and are likely to be unreliable (Ive heard the stories). If sold from the top down, even the design manager’s hands are tied.

Ironically, a company that requires a designer to show up with software licenses and their own hardware (CHEAP) is paying way too much for the level of work they are receiving. CC commonly lists design jobs in Chicago for $25-30/hour. You can bet the client is paying $60 to Creative Circle, but could get top notch talent for $40-50/hr. with very little effort.

Try it yourself. Go to craigslist and punch in some keywords like Adobe CS4 or Solidworks and see how long it takes to find a good portfolio and phone number.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but don’t see the issue.

CC, like any other recruiting firm has been contracted by a company to find talent. The advantage for the company is not having to spend hours searching through coroflot (I’ve done it while hiring - it can be very time consuming), not looking through tons of emails/portfolio (again, very time consuming), and in return the recruiter is compensated for the time/effort. As a bonus, the recruiter may have many potential candidates on their records that may not publicly be searching for a job, or those who don’t have a coroflot or other portfolio (not all do, and certainly not 100% of designers are on coroflot - imagine how much work is involved to check 5 different portfolio websites - coroflot, behance, styleportfolios, etc.)

On the flip side, the candidate gets a direct link to the recruiter who has a position available. More often than not the dialog between a recruiter and candidate can be more open than if you were to inquire direct to a company (in most cases, all you’d get is “send us your stuff”, whereas a recruiter may have more information and be able to better advise you if you a good fit - afterall they get paid if they find the right person so have a vested interest in it).

As for compensation to the freelance person, like anything else, you will be paid what you are willing to accept. If you think the job is paying to low (regardless of if a recruiter is involved) nobody is forcing you to apply/take the job. In actual fact, if the company wants to find the best person, they most likely are paying the recruiter OVER AND ABOVE the fair rate for the position. In this particularly (a short term gig that they need urgently for a vacation fill-in), this is most likely the case. I’m not sure where you get the impression the $ for the recruiter is coming from the salary of the job?

To the last point, which is requiring the applicant to have their own software and hardware… put it this way - what good freelancer already doesn’t have that? Heck, what student doesn’t have the tools to be able to work on their portfolio and personal projects?

I just am not understanding all the hype here… do you have a personal issue with CC?


I totally agree with Richard. There is only an issue if you choose to make it one. Creative Circle is doing their job. You either take it, or you don’t. I appreciate the bridge to work/contacts, that you probably wouldn’t have found otherwise, that Creative Circle, and Aquent offers. I can’t complain about the pay I’ve gotten most of the time either. I just ignore the low-ballers.

Yes, I understand that these guys are ‘just doing their job’ and that ‘I am not obligated to take any work’ etc… I must disagree on several points though…

  1. I do think that design managers (directors and senior staff) are well aware of what and who is out there mainly because it doesnt take much time to peruse the various forums for talent or ask a colleague if they know anybody…Nobody is placing an ad in the paper, cattle-calling and booking 2nd interviews like its 1986. The temp agency is modeled on this antiquated notion. Further, they are not experts (or anywhere close) in the areas for which they place. As such, their “service offering” is hugely diminished and…

2)…overpriced. Creative Circle hires temps as EMPLOYEES ( i9, w4…the whole bit) and EMPLOYEES submit their hours to CC. Are you under the impression that they are simply receiving a flat fee to place someone in a job? They are billing out those hours to the client at twice the rate or more. So, in effect, the client is paying $50 and hour, poor old skinny jeans is making $25 and the other half…you get the idea now?

Furthermore, I am greatly concerned that the onus of purchasing expensive software licenses and keeping hardware up to date is put on the designer. I don’t know of any job where EMPLOYEES are expected to provide their own tools (have you looked at the price of CS4 lately?). CONTRACTORS, of course do this, but then you’d be dealing directly with the CLIENT and negotiating your own rate.

This subtle but damaging trend is only harming our community of designers and undercutting our value in the marketplace. Along with, sponsored events, conferences and fairs, we have built a technological infrastructure that could and should quickly and easily facilitate relationships between manufacturers, design buyers and the design community DIRECTLY. No need for middle-men brokers on our street.

The agencies are a barrier that the companies rely on to shield them from legal, and administrative, hassles. Your points have validity, but you can’t remove that reason that most of these companies use the agencies for to begin with. And, because places like Creative Circle, and Aquent, often provide benefits, is $25 an hour really that far off from what an average skinny jeans might be realistically making, getting benefits, etc, at any studio?

This problem is not specific to the design field. Every company out there is trying to figure out how to cut corners to keep from hiring people full time, paying fair value, and providing benefits. Have you not seen even design getting outsourced now? I have and it makes this little freelance conundrum pale. These agencies are just filling a hole created by the corner cutters that are already trying to figure out a way to take it out of the freelancers hands too… then what do you have?

It’s already a struggle to convince all but the most progressive of the value of good design. The average Joe project manager at Acme corp is just itching to give your job to some design sweatshop in China for $5 an hour. They don’t care if it comes back with tons of mistakes, weak design, and poor typography… hell, it only cost $5 an hour after all!!!

I’m not discounting what you’re saying, but there are much bigger problems afoot than creative staffing firms.

And, regarding the whole provide your own hardware/software deal… Any place that expects that of you, excepting the rare, last minute, remote job, is a total joke. Just don’t take that shit. They, without fail, are Mickey Mouse operations that are just as likely to give a rat’s ass about good design. But, that’s has just been my experience in the few times that I’ve agreed to do them. The lion’s share of the time, I’ve gotten a nice workstation, and been paid well.

Thanks to all for the spirited and relevant discussion…civil too. Now, back to work. Cheers.

I was thinking the same thing that CG articulated so well… an agency specializing in design would spend the time to sort though the applicants and find good candidates for the job, making the process convenient for the company. There might be an assumption that they have a network of available people ready to go. You don’t want to waste 2 weeks interviewing finding & people to cover for a designer for just 2 weeks

to add, one thing that sometimes happens in a contractor situation is that you often get paid more per hour than full time employees, but with limited benefits, just because it’s more temporary.

I found this discussion very interesting and had been trying to figure this out myself for a long time. I have an idea as to why companies
are using temp agencies when they can easily run a freelance ad on Craigslist. Here it is.

I have FREELANCED for several corporations over the years and have numerous contacts there. They were always happy with my work and fee.
They are well aware that I still freelance. What I’ve found is they all use temp agencies now. This seems to have gradually happened in the past
few years. So, instead of pay me $40-50 per hour, they pay MORE to the temp agency, perhaps $60-70, and the temp gets $25-30.

Here’s my guess to what has happened: our US government is well aware that people are freelancing and paying QUARTERLY taxes.
Freelancers also have write-offs which lower their taxes considerably. 30% of the US population is categorized as “self-employed”
Because of the huge deficit our government doesn’t want to encourage this. They’ll take their taxes WEEKLY, thank you. So the US
government collects more taxes and collects them quicker.

By perhaps forcing companies to hire through temp agencies, you are put on a 1099 and you pay your taxes weekly. The Freelancer,
now made a Temp, has no write-offs they can utilize. :smiling_imp:

This is my theory.

I’ve used agencies before. Both times where when work was expanding, but headcount didn’t keep pace… but I always provided hardware and software, and would usually be for a 3 month stint, not to cover a two week vacation. That is the only part that is a bit odd to me… but hey, some things can’t wait I suppose. It would seem easier to just put a post on coroflot, but as was mentioned, some companies don’t want to deal with all the contracts and what not.

CC isn’t doing anything different from a pay scale then any other design firm. Many of the big name design firms charge anywhere from $100 - 250 per hour on projects at times, and they don’t necessarily modify the rate because they have a jr designer working on the project. And I can guarantee that the junior designer is not getting paid close to $100 per hour. The only big diff. for CC is that is seems as if they do not have to worry about having full time employees thus they get the benefit of not having to pay insurance, ui and a variety of other things that firms and corporations pay their employees.

As to companies just going onto core to find someone to do a freelance gig it is not that simple I am sorry to say. If you have ever been part of the hiring process or in charge on freelance people you would understand. For every one that is great there are many that are not and it is a lot of time to sift through the pile, this seems to be were CC steps in and handles that for the companies. Like many temp agencies they interview and test the talent before ever sending them to a clients.

Chevis W