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Why I'm proud to have created a 'Free for Freelancers" platform  - where jobs are free to apply to, open and accessible to all - and why The Talent Manager’s freemium model has levelled the playing field for production companies too, by Sarah Lee.

When The Talent Manager launched back in 2011 the TV production’s recruitment culture was like no other.  

To find work, freelancers had little option but to pay.  

Whereas companies in any other industry would pay to advertise their jobs on sites like Monster or Indeed, in TV the imbalance in supply and demand – lots of people seeking work relative to the number of jobs available – meant they did so for free. Instead, jobs were advertised on sites where freelancers had to pay an upfront subscription even to see them, let alone apply. Effectively, it was down to the freelancers to fund the cost of running the industry’s recruitment platforms.

And this was only for those jobs that were marketed openly. The last-minute nature of much TV recruitment inevitalbly meant that many opportunities were simply handed out behind closed doors on the basis of recommendations between friends and colleagues.  

I set out to help change that with The Talent Manager.  

Nearly 10 years on, I'm proud of our achievements.  

The TM’s core principles were two-fold: to help professionalise recruitment by creating a platform that gave recruiters the tools to be more forward-thinking, strategic, creative and inclusive in their recruitment, and to do so in a way that was free for freelancers.  

Today, we have over 100,000 freelancers using the TM site and mobile app to apply for jobs, network, to research companies, get ‘live’ information on rates, and to access training, opportunities, industry news, webinars and events. All for free.  

Yes, the TM has a paid-option  – like LinkedIn, this gives access to stats, some extra bits of functionality, and additional promotion when companies are searching for talent. But when companies post a job there is absolutely no differential between applicants who are  Basic or Pro.  

Over 95% of freelancers use the TM entirely for free. Even for those that take up  'Pro’ , our aim is that it should be a zero-sum game. Pro freelancers get discounts on training, kit hire, events and other services so that many actually save money overall. 

This ‘freemium’ model is, we believe, fair in an ecology as complex as TV production. (Most of the paying freelancers are senior professionals who, use the TM as their digital Roladex to keep track of potential future hires.)  

It applies to companies too. While we’ve shifted the balance so that recruiters do now contribute most of the cost of their recruitmentwe know too that for every Super Indie there are scores of micro-producers struggling to get by.  

Like the PACT model, our company pricing is tiered based on size. Broadcasters or Indies with multi-million-pound turnovers pay more, small producers less, and most nothing at all. Of more than 4,000 companies using the TM to search for talent, post jobs, use our applicant tracking system and diversity search, an overwhelming majority do so for no cost.. There are no gatekeepers and the cost of running the platform is shared in what we think is a progressive way.  

At the same time, the TM is open. Jobs posted on our site are indexed on Google, so discoverable even by people doing a general internet search who are not TM members. Anyone can then register and – as long as they have some relevant experience or skills – can apply directly.  

Of course, TM Is not an Indeed or Monster. We’re a tiny diverse, dedicated team.  

I’m really proud of our record as an innovative, responsive and responsible company not least the pioneering suite of ‘’diversity search and reporting tools’’ which Simon Albury, chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality, recently called ‘the Holy Grail.’  

The testimonies from key industry figures – MDs like Laura Mansfield, Laura Marshall and Pat Younge, talent managers like Julia Waring and Elsa Sharp, campaigners and academics like Riaz Meer and Marcus Ryder - suggest we’re getting more right than wrong. What’s particularly satisfying though – given the potentially tricky tightrope we walk between employers and freelancers – is that support is matched by our community.  

This year is likely to be challenging. The economic impact of lockdown and the reassessment of freelancer welfare and diversity in light of the ForgottenFreelancers campaign and BLM will take time to play out. For our part, we’ve been working recently with the UK’s leading equalities QC to develop our diversity tools further and will shortly be launching new networking functionality that will have ‘kindness’ and ‘peer support’ as key features in its algorithm.  

Hopefully, together, we’ll emerge better, healthier and happier. 

Founder, The Talent Manager

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