Stan, first off, can you tell everyone a little about yourself and what you do in Hong Kong?
Hello, ok let me think where to start!
I am a french guy and I have been living in Hong Kong for more than 20 years all together. I came here in 1995 with my family and spent a lot of my formative years in Hong Kong. Long story short, I studied at the French International School and ended up studying Hotel Management in Paris after graduating. This brought me to London to work at different luxury hotels there, and after some time I realised this wasn’t the path I was looking for. I went to study Graphic Design at the London College of Communication where I finally found what I wanted to do for a living.
Fast-forward a (little) bit and I am now a freelance graphic designer in Hong Kong, specialised in Branding and Web Design. I work mainly with small to mid-size companies meaning entrepreneurs starting their business in Hong Kong or companies looking to expand their services as they grow larger. I have a very varied range of clients, from food & beverages to b2b industrials and design agencies.
As freelancer here in Hong Kong, what do you think Freelancing means and how does it play alongside other forms of organisations?
I feel freelance does not get the publicity it deserves. For some people, freelancing has a pejorative connotation, and for others it’s very much valued. Isn’t it strange that it can be both extremes like this. Something tells me the misconception comes from low-value experiences.
Freelancing is for me a great word to describe a work setup as well as an action or method of work. On one hand being a freelancer means that you are self-employed. You work for yourself and do not belong to a company as such. That’s where the “free” from freelance comes from as opposed to “free” as no value like “free stuff”.
On the other hand to freelance is for me very much action based. It describes well how you work, by offering a service and solution to companies looking to solve a problem or improve something. It’s project based, and freelancing can be done in multiple places simultaneously, either temporarily within the client structure, or from outside as independent provider. In both case, you run your own show.
Freelance can have many facets, from being a one-man show to a fully grown company collaborating with a network of creatives to serve large scale projects effectively. The rise of self-employed creatives in the past 10-15 years proves that it is here to stay, and it surely is shaping a new economy that we simply cannot afford to deny.
How did you come about starting the Loose Bunch freelancer directory?
A place like Hong Kong is special in many ways. One thing that sorts it apart from other places is the density of people and density of projects. In many ways, it is a hub where many projects get started. That creates wonderful opportunities for creatives to catch and thrive on. I am thinking retail brands, bars and restaurants, tech companies, shipping and distribution, etc…
Now the difficulty for freelancers and any self-employed person is to juggle between doing creative work and constantly finding the next opportunity. Perhaps one of the most challenging task for us. Understandably, we want as little downtime as possible, so we know it needs to be done in parallel of projects we work on. We are creatives after all, not born business developers so naturally it is difficult at least for me.
It’s that constant challenge that got me thinking about ways to reduce the gap between freelancers and entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. What makes it harder for people to find each other, how could we shorten the distance between projects and work? That’s why I came up with this idea of a simple, free and open to everyone freelancer directory.
Freelancer Directory and job platforms are not new. If you search online you can find many platforms doing just that. What makes the Loose Bunch different to these?
True, and that’s something I knew when starting this. During my research I found out not so many people search for designers on Google in Hong Kong. Discussing with many fellow designers, I realised a lot of work comes from word-of-mouth and recommendation. Those are great but they shouldn’t be the primary way of engaging with new work.
Existing directories are often not so open if you look in details. From Chambers of Commerce directories that come at a high annual fee, to online directories serving as middle-man for hiring creative through bidding, etc… Most of them add limitations like account creations, fees to access database, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are good for many things and I am not suggesting to replace them. But I feel there is a space for a more honest and simple platform, to facilitate finding and be-found activities, outside the hands of recruiters.
I believe entrepreneurs are looking for such place where they can quickly browse and find a pool of people to get in touch with. During their early research phase, when they are not necessarily ready to invest or still unsure of what they need.
You mentioned a network of freelancers when you talked about the different facets of freelancing. What did you mean by that?
One of the wonderful thing about freelancing is this capacity to adapt to projects and situations. Freelancers can go from being solo to being many on a project. That is providing they are able to bring in other creatives from their network. In fact I would argue that freelancing and collaborating goes hand in hand. And I would even argue it is the only way for freelancers to tackle large scale projects effectively.
The Loose Bunch freelancer directory is a perfect place for growing your network. I believe the directory is as beneficial to freelancers than entrepreneurs. What better way to connect with creatives from different backgrounds and skills than by finding them based on these criteria? Such platform are ideal place to get access to random profiles you would not necessarily find through word of mouth or time consuming internet scraping. I also believe being part of the same network automatically facilitates contact and communication.
We cannot avoid mentioning the elephant in the room: Covid19. What impact it has on freelance work and how do you see it go?
Well Covid19 is a challenge for the economy and the the gig-economy alike. In this stress period, businesses are naturally investing less, and tend to push the development of new concepts to later. That definitely affect freelancers and self-employed creatives.
I don’t have the solution to this problem, but I would say companies and brands should try to see beyond Covid, and prepare for the rebound early. Investing now in a new brand identity, a new website, introducing e-commerce capability to your sales, etc… all solutions which may sound at first like more expenses, will most likely mean greater return in the long run.
I think in this more challenging times, creatives should look deeper into collaboration. How can joining forces together can help us come out stronger than before? This is the sort of questions we should be asking ourselves.
Once Covid19 recesses, we will all come out of it differently. That’s what the “new normal” is about. We must design this new normal the way that works for us, and now is definitly the time to do it. I’m hoping this new freelancer directory can help doing just that.