When you walk into your favorite department store — let’s say Bloomingdale’s — did you know that most of the employees on the sales floor aren’t actually employed by the store? The associates clad in all black attire or white lab coats are often actually freelancers hired directly by beauty brands themselves.
Why? Well, in any industry, one of the hardest tasks is hiring the right candidate. Many employers would rather hire from within, or through their personal network, to avoid the onerous task of open application review. In retail, the task of vetting for great employees is very difficult, due to the sheer size of the industry and fluctuating staffing needs. It can be challenging to place the right person in the right store at the right time — but as we move into the “gig economy”, there lies a great opportunity to take advantage of the growth in freelance talent.
With hundreds of thousands of retail-based positions in the US alone, from beauty advisors and counter managers to brand account executives and education consultants, it’s no surprise that this market is complicated to navigate. Who are these people and where do we find them? The freelance retail talent market is largely hidden.
A Career in Beauty
As with any retail industry, beauty talent serves to provide an in-person experience, with hopes of inspiring the customer to purchase a product and build a relationship with the brand. Beauty, in particular, is all about teaching consumers about what products do, how to use them, and why your brand is the best. Freelance talent serves to educate, as well as play the role of a liaison between the brand and the customer.
Some freelancers earn their income through both a “traditional” job and a “side-hustle” – something generally geared towards a personal passion. Others freelance full-time, putting all of their efforts into becoming a professional in their passions.
Most beauty professionals start out because of a passion for the creative. Starting with yourself as your first customer, as your love for beauty grows, you begin to share your passion with others. The key to future success lies in sharing artistry tips and connecting with each other — often selling relationships and experiences more than the products themselves. As your skills and relationships develop, so does your career.
The Appeal of Freelance
It’s estimated that 34 percent of the American workforce is freelancing – that’s over 50 million people. So why are all of these people making the change from traditional employment? Freelancers have more power over their schedules, more control over their career growth, and a greater ability to balance personal interests — like traveling or starting a family. The four most popular reasons people freelance are freedom, flexibility, skill-building, and the pursuit of a passion.
Companies hire freelancers for many reasons — for one, the talent helps in providing a better experience for customers. In an increasingly online world, it’s vital for brands to create in-store experiences that draw in consumers to make purchases: 92 percent of global consumers trust earned media, like word-of-mouth recommendations, more than traditional advertisements. Through the use of social media, in-store talent can maintain relationships made on the floor, while also building their careers through exposure and bringing in new clients who find them online.
And if you needed more reasons to believe in the true potential behind these opportunities, some of the biggest names in beauty started out on the sales floor. Before launching her empire and becoming a household name, Bobbi Brown worked for seven years as a freelance artist — achieving her big break when she styled Naomi Campbell’s face for her American Vogue cover debut. Brown remains a loyal supporter of freelance talent, citing the flexibility and wide variety of experiences held by freelancers as two of the major reasons she considers them exceptional employees.
The bottom line? People become freelancers and people hire freelancers for the same reasons. So if you’re seeking a job that offers freedom, flexibility, and the chance to both learn new skills and exercise your passion, consider this hot field.
Glenn Laumeister is an experienced technology leader who is currently the CEO of AllWork, a platform for brands and retailers to find, manage and pay retail talent.