The Indie List takes a talented and creative approach

The Indie List provides a matching service between SMEs and more than 300 talented freelancers across creative, strategy and digital services.

Launched in recent weeks, The Indie List is very much of its time, explains co-founder Peter McPartlin.

“Along with so many other sectors of Irish business, freelancers in the marketing services and related sectors suffered an economic ‘double whammy’ from Covid-19. As well work from the ad agency sector, their other regular income stream from SME’s also dried up.

“We have close to 350 people signed up covering a diverse range of disciplines from digital and e-commerce to marketing, advertising, PR and the full gamut of creative services”

“Freelancers comprise the highly creative people whose often-uncredited work graces the many TV and radio stations, reviews and opinion pieces that we admire; the ad breaks, poster ads, websites and social media content that we engage with and the brand packaging and logos of products and services that we buy.”

Matchmaking talent

McPartlin says the total addressable market for the global gig economy is estimated at $1.5trn, with North America accounting for over half of the world’s freelancers.

“Marketing service freelancers are a substantial subset of this. By our estimate there are around 2,000 people in Ireland who might be classified as working in the commercial marketing, creative and digital freelance sector. It is growing as more people choose or are forced, for economic reasons, to take the freelance route.

“We’ve had a notable upsurge in talent signups on The Indie List in the areas of digital, strategy and e-commerce in the last month. Indeed, a recent report from Forbes suggests that ‘the freelance revolution is large and growing, and Covid-19 and the shift to remote has been an accelerant’.”

McPartlin says that what has been missing in Ireland, is a freelance talent platform which represents the interests of this diverse community and most importantly, enables prospective clients to find them quickly when they need them.

“That’s what The Indie List is positioned to do.”

To connect and to serve

At its core, The Indie List is like a matchmaking service which makes it very easy for businesses to access the broadest range of freelance talent in the Irish market. The independent talent signs up for free by completing a simple registration process on our site.

“Our database is automated to capture the various strands of information and importantly, the skillset of the freelancer.

“Clients who want to hire someone also do so initially through the website where we ask for a basic outline of the type of talent and also the challenge that the business has. We follow up with a call to understand the brief a bit more and having done so, we then trawl the database to identify the most suitable people, talk to them to check availability, and then make the introduction to the client.

“When the client engages with the freelancer, we charge a basic finders fee and on completion of the work, we levy an additional 10pc charge on the freelancer’s cost,” McPartlin said.

Instinct to create and connect

The company was started just eight weeks ago by McPartlin and his business partner, Úna Herlihy.

“We’ve seen amazing energy and ideas come from individuals and smaller teams of people, who see the opportunity to create something that is meaningful, rewarding and hopefully helps to sustain local employment”

“Both of us have a background working in large ad agencies across well-known brands. Úna’s focus has been on client management with companies such as Aer Lingus and Coca Cola. She also set up her own consultancy to help brand teams create the conditions for them and their agencies to develop brilliant work together.

“I have primarily worked on the media strategy side of the advertising business as well doing a lot of work with publishers and broadcasters including running Today FM for a number of years.

“The dynamic nature of the advertising business encourages individuals to think laterally and creatively and both Úna and I had run our own businesses or had been part of start-ups throughout our respective careers.”

McPartlin explained that the spark for The Indie List originated from an initiative by Úna who started a list on LinkedIn for freelancers who were available and in search of work during the depths of the pandemic.

“It quickly gathered momentum and we both decided that in order to make it work properly and to capitalise on what is a global shift in work towards independent talent, we decided to set it up as a proper business. We knew that there was a growing pool of incredibly talented people in the Irish creative, marketing and digital sectors and that The Indie List could potentially be the community hub which would represent them.

“In the space of those eight weeks we have close to 350 people signed up covering a diverse range of disciplines from digital and ecommerce to marketing, advertising, PR and the full gamut of creative services,” McPartlin said.

A critical rethink is needed

McPartlin believes that despite all the disruption caused by the Covid-19, one possible benefit could be that it has helped supercharge an entrepreneurial spirit amongst all sorts of people and all types of businesses.

“Established businesses have been forced to rethink many of their traditional beliefs about their market and their customers and to look at new ways to cater for them. At the same time, we’ve seen amazing energy and ideas come from individuals and smaller teams of people, who see the opportunity to create something that is meaningful, rewarding and hopefully helps to sustain local employment. This is particularly important as foreign direct investment becomes scarcer.

“I also have to compliment the effort that bodies such the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland are doing to help equip start-ups for success. And to be fair, I think the banks too deserve some credit for being more receptive to good business ideas.”

A revolution requires a change in thinking

Both McPartlin and Herlihy are funding The Indie List from their own savings.

“We have an open mind on our future funding requirements but for now, we believe that we can scale the business within our own resources.”

His advice for fellow founders is to also be open-minded about how they charge. “Don’t be afraid to change your previously held views on the potential market and pricing of your product or service. We’ve had to think long and hard about creating a model that is fair and equitable for all parties – freelancers, clients and ourselves. We’ve also had to fine-tune our thinking on who we’re really aiming to appeal to. There are lots of potential customers in every market but sometimes who have to realise that your offering is just not for everyone so aim to super-serve the ones who will value you and come back again.”

His advice to fellow founders is to mine their network of colleagues and customers for advice.

“We have had incredible support from people that we are now representing and people who are doing business with us. In order to craft an offering that will appeal and sustain itself, you do need to talk and listen to the parties who will ultimately determine its success. While you don’t have to take everything they say on board, you will at least be able to defend your proposition in a stronger way when you bring it to market.”

The Indie List is an entirely cloud-based endeavour, says McParlin. “All transactions, registrations and client briefing come initially through our website, using Typeform on a Word Press site. The talent database is automatically updated for us on Dropbox. We use Google Docs for sharing data and presentations and then software such as Mail Chimp to streamline regular communication with our indies.

“Given the nature of our business and the fact that I’m located in Dublin and Úna is based in Kilkenny, you just cannot get by without mobile and daily contact using Zoom or WhatsApp video. Technology can help but you still can’t beat the old-fashioned route of picking up the phone and talking to people,” McPartlin concluded sagely.

Pictured at top: The Indie List co-founders Peter McPartlin and Úna Herlihy

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 24 August, 2020