How We Are Rosie created an 800-person freelance marketplace for brands and agencies

As the in-house movement continues to gain traction and new agency competitors spring up, a new company is offering an on-demand “marketplace” for brands and agencies.

Atlanta-based We Are Rosie is a network of 800 marketing experts who desire flexible work schedules and thereby complete freelance assignments within brands or agencies. Over the last nine months, We Are Rosie has worked with 48 clients (three out of the six big agency holding companies) and launched about 650 media campaigns. The team has also helped with marketing strategy, brand building and communications work, said We Are Rosie founder and CEO Stephanie Olson.

The idea is to offer flexible schedules to people who want to work in marketing, and also let brands and agencies have a network they can tap into on a project basis. For brands, it’s a good way to not have to pay for a full-time agency or build an internal team, as well as have a way to fill in for workers on leave.

The brand Phobio has been working with We Are Rosie to help with creative and communications. The company began as a device trade-in service but then expanded to offering workforce communication tools and hadn’t really holistically looked at its branding. Stephen Wakeling, Phobio’s founder and CEO, said he had hired creative agencies for small assignments before but hadn’t been impressed by their ability to deliver.

“We had this mix of internal and external, and they all were fine, but they weren’t everything. We didn’t think we were getting everything we could get out of it,” Wakeling said. Instead, We Are Rosie worker Holly Wasson is “effectively our CMO,” who works with her team, remotely, to create and help execute a marketing strategy.

Olson was inspired to launch We Are Rosie based on conversations with her peers in the industry. Some agency workers, especially older women, wanted the ability to work from home and not necessarily between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Others were just frustrated with the current agency model. Olson had experienced burnout herself when she worked at AOL from 2007 to 2011 and had to travel six days a week.

Wasson, who spent more than 15 years in marketing at Turner before moving to Edelman and then SunTrust, decided to join We Are Rosie last year because she wanted more flexibility to work from home and create her own hours. A friend had connected her to Olson and We Are Rosie.

“As soon as I met [Olson] I knew she had something special. After working for agencies for a really long time, what’s special about We Are Rosie is that we are neutral to the solution and we only bring you what you need. We don’t stick you with an entire team you’re paying for whether you need that expertise or not,” Wasson said.

About 60 percent of workers at We Are Rosie were most recently in agencies while the rest come from in-house agencies at brands. The team has former CMOs, CDOs, COOs, ad buyers, planners, analysts, data scientists and public relations professionals. We Are Rosie doesn’t collect demographic info, but Olson said her network ranges from ages 23 to 62 and estimated that about 70 percent are women.

Last year, ad agency 22squared hired We Are Rosie workers to cover for employees who were on maternity and medical leave. 22squared has since expanded that relationship to add temporary workers for project-based work or short-term new business assignments, said president Brandon Murphy.

Of course, not every brand or agency may want to add freelancers whether it’s an issue with cost or company culture. And not every worker wants a job without as much structure. But We Are Rosie is looking to meet the needs of clients and workers who do fit the niche.

Olson said she’s looking to grow the company by adding more members and establishing more of a mentor-mentee program and continuing education. She also wants to offer insurance and other benefits in the future.

“We don’t need to be everything to everyone. I want everyone to have a good relationship with us. We’re only 8 months old, and so far we’ve been able to handle every single problem,” Olson said.

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