DPEM Explores: The Freelance Experience in the COVID Era

Events take a village and when we bring them to life on-site, our team is largely made up of freelancers who lend their unique expertise and experience to the success of each project. Our often years-long working relationships have truly made each freelancer a part of our DPEM family and we could not do what we do without them. We trust them to execute the vision by understanding the goals of each event, using their knowledge and expertise to make it the best it can be, navigating the curveballs, and acting on behalf of DPEM. As we continue to explore the changing event landscape, we wanted to check in with our independent contractors who are, by nature of their chosen professions, experts at pivoting.

While agencies have been scrambling to adapt to these unprecedented times, our freelance team has also had to define what their pivot looks like and lead with resilience. As sole proprietors they are each leaders in their own right, responsible for their own paths forward. Before COVID, live events required massive teams of people on-site, but with the industry pivoting to virtual, where does that leave the event freelancers? We were awed, though not surprised, by the ingenuity and positivity that flowed through the conversation as each person shared their story of life, both career-focused and personal, over the past four months.

“There is no ‘I can't’ and that is the way it is on show-site too. That is what we do as a team. We pivot constantly," begins Jessie Brady. We listened to countless examples of freelancers taking the skills and work ethic from the event industry and redirecting that energy in varying successful ways. Calvin Michael West immediately saw an opportunity: “The world may have changed, but the big moments in our lives keep coming.” He has launched head first into virtual opportunities and even expanded services to include web-development and special event planning that allows clients to, as he says, “keep the rituals we have and make them virtual.”

Paul Martinez, shared that when the quarantine order took effect he knew immediately that he needed to challenge himself to find new uses for his talents. As the owner of Sova Gardens, a venue in Northern California, Paul often finds himself creating props or furniture to improve the events they host. With more time available, Paul has been able to give his attention to his wood-working, selling his pieces through word-of-mouth recommendation. Meanwhile, Amanda Pinkham, co-owner of Montperi Catering, has not been able to be on-site producing so she has turned her energy to adapting her catering business to provide meal prep, delivery, and virtual cooking classes. All four of these freelancers have creatively identified and built out new streams of revenue in quick response to the challenges that have been set before us this year.

So what can we take away from this emotional and uplifting dialogue? We are surrounded by the most incredible team of people, but they are more than just an extension of our team. Our freelance community is our most valuable resource. They allow us to be nimble and adaptive, and with a variety of specialties and interests, independent contractors are glowing examples of how to leverage peripheral skill sets to create new agency offerings. While we may have little opportunity to work on in-person events together in the near future, we are spending this time reconnecting, ideating, and sharing resources to provide opportunity wherever possible.

DPEM Explores is a weekly conversation series that discusses different challenges facing our industry and cross-pollinates ideas with a curated group of experts.