It’s a great time to be a creative professional. For a lot of us, we’re able to choose the type of work we do and where we do it from. The options available today are abundant, and that’s great news for designers and the creative industry as a whole.

However, these new opportunities bring their own set of challenges for organizations trying to adjust to the new rules of hiring. If the current trends continue, we could be seeing more freelance design specialists working side-by-side with established creative teams.

The design specialist vs. generalist debate

Over the past few years there has been a lot of debate around what’s a better skillset for designers—specializing in one area of design or casting a wide net? I won’t go in to detail here because this topic has been covered ad nauseam.

However, I would like to point out that the overwhelming majority of organizations are looking for design generalists when hiring in-house designers. They want people with a natural curiosity who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when something unexpected comes up.

Design specialists have a honed and specific skill set, typically revolving around one specialized aspect of the design process.

Design specialists are typically the opposite. They have a honed and specific skill set, typically revolving around one specialized aspect of the design process. Think UX Researcher or Onboarding Specialist.

But over the past few years I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in the creative industry. Organizations in competition to get their product to market understand the need to move quickly. This fast-paced product landscape, coupled with an onslaught of new technology, has left plenty of seats at the table for freelance specialists.

Freelance design specialists are looking more attractive

With the rapid pace of tech change, creative departments are quickly realizing they’re exposed. Technical and creative gaps within their teams show up faster than ever. In order to address their distinctive needs quickly, organizations are turning to freelance specialists to fill the void.

In fact, a recent survey by The Creative Group and AIGA reveal that 37% of the creative teams they reached out to will rely more heavily on freelancers through 2022. The top areas of hiring include graphic design, web design, video production, and photography.

What this means for today’s creative freelance specialists

With this new work place emerging, it’s more important than ever to hone your craft. Agencies and in-house creative departments are looking for specific skills, and the gap is closing rapidly between candidates. With the rise of personal skill development and the speed of proficiency, the marketplace for these niche roles will become more competitive.

As the creative industry adapts to this new way of working, they’ll become more efficient at noticing when and where they need help. You’ll need to be ready to answer the call when that day comes.