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FT 061: Lessons Learned from Short-Term Design Placements with Prescott Perez-Fox

The vast majority of guests on Freelance Transformation either work remotely or have their own offices as agency owners. In this episode, we explore a different way to freelance and speak with Prescott Perez-Fox who has worked primarily on-site, that is, actually inside the client's building.

Prescott Perez-Fox started his freelancing career a bit differently than the typical path by working with a recruitment agency to find on-site freelance gigs at agencies and corporations that needed a designer for a few weeks at a time. As a result, Prescott had the opportunity to work on projects for some major brands and earn a diverse range of experience.

In this episode of Freelance Transformation, Prescott shares what it's been like working in these different environments and the lessons he's taken from each company's culture and workflow. We also explore the recruiter-based model of finding clients, the good, the bad, and when it might make sense to work with a recruiter.

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Prescott shares with us:

  • How the recruitment-based model of finding clients works:
    • Although after the 2008 recession, recruitment services have really changed, there are still a few out there. Before 2008, the services would link newbie designers and creatives with companies that needed extra hands on small aspects of a project. Now, the recruitment services are more likely to take on talent who are more experienced because the clients only want to hire people who will directly increase the value of the project, rather than doing short-term design work.
    • Advantages: Prescott recommends considering a recruitment service if you are new to a larger city with many companies and don't know anyone yet. You have the chance to see what it is like to work at a huge diversity of companies from high-fashion to pharmaceuticals to banks and figure out what works for you. You also get to learn about different ways of organizing workflow and creating company culture. A short-term project can lead to longer-term engagements, but you have to put in the extra work to build those relationships up front.
    • Disadvantages: Prescott found that the main disadvantage to working with a recruitment service is that the projects are often more about labour than talent, so if you want to grow professionally, you will still need to start networking and building your own client base. Prescott also found it frustrating that he was only working on a very small part of any project. He found that his involvement was superficial and he never got to see a project through from start to finish. He also says that it can be stressful because it always feels like it is his first day since he jumped around to different companies every couple of weeks or months.
  • How to create positive company culture:
    • Prescott developed what he calls, the Rule of Six for entering a new company:
      • After 6 minutes, you have found your space and started setting up your personal work area.
      • After 6 hours, you have met your coworkers and are getting comfortable in your space.
      • After 6 days, you are starting to see how the office works and can make out the hierarchies in the office.
      • After 6 weeks, you have a good sense about whether you fit in at that office and if you would like to work there full time.
    • When you start working with someone new, a client or another freelancer, make the first hour and first day seamless and easy for them to set the tone for a good relationship. Get their name right, and set up all the documents, logins, swipe cards, etc. beforehand.
    • Take time to have water-cooler conversations to diffuse the awkward early encounters and build personal relationships.
    • When you are in a leadership role, give good, positive and critical feedback and remember the human side of work-relationships. Feedback can be constructive or gruesome, so try to make it as positive an experience as you can.
  • How to create efficient and effective workflows:
    • Organization is critical when working with different clients. You have to adapt to their internal file organizing and make it really clear and obvious what each file contains.
    • Each office has their own rituals for kicking off and closing projects. Respect their workflow and make it as easy as possible for the client to understand the work you are contributing.

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