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Everyone knows that work and mental health can make an uncomfortable partnership. Now that people have started to speak up honestly about their levels of stress in the fast-paced, multi-tasking 21st century workplace, it may seem that working for a living causes much more friction and discord than people previously acknowledged.
But, is the life of the freelance necessarily much better? You may construct your own work/life balance without the archetypical overseer boss, but does that really give you time to smell the roses? What if you’ve no idea where the next project is coming from? Or, conversely, you’re up against killer deadlines, with no certainty of success? And what about those late-arriving pay checks?
This is the work-life of many freelances, especially those who work in the creative sphere, such as designers, videographers and filmmakers.
Vidsy is a startup which is trying to create a better world for creatives worldwide — and to get their work seen and paid for by the biggest brands around. Their creators can work in Bali, Bogota or Brooklyn and still get the gig of creating commercial content for the likes of L’Oreal or Barclays. But there are still those downsides to the freelance life.
Tied in with National Stress Awareness Month (April) Vidsy has launched a programme to help their creatives guard their own mental health. Its genesis came from working with the co-founder of mindfulness app Calm, mental health’s first unicorn, Michael Acton Smith.
‘Working with Calm was a lightbulb moment for us,’ explains co-founder and CEO, Gerard Keeley. ‘We were providing opportunities and education for creators, but the missing part was how we could help creators deal with the stress of being a freelancer in this new digital world.’
This lead to ‘creator wellness’ content created specifically for Vidsy’s platform and VMag, aimed at helping creators understand what they can do to protect their mental health.
The response has been good so far. As one of the creators said, ‘Vidsy is providing some much-needed common sense in a hustle-driven world.’ Another feels that becoming part of the Vidsy community also makes them ‘feel less alone and be a better designer’.
Vidsy has around 5000 creators in more than 70 countries. Recently graduated from university, these are digital natives who understand how places like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram engage and relate to users, something that more traditional advertising agencies do not.
‘Our creators have grown up on YouTube, they know about every type of tech, and the quality they can produce is amazing. They don’t want to work in agencies. They want to be free to travel, just working with a laptop and a camera,’ says Keeley.
These are people who understand vertical platforms, know the best practice of the various platforms, and come to Vidsy to be seen by companies looking to tap into their creativity and knowledge of the zeitgeist.
For example, a business delivers a brief for a new lipstick. Vidsy publishes it and selects around 15 creators from those who have shown interest. Every one of those who is chosen to work on the project is paid, and then different versions of the work are tested and learned from until it’s clear what’s working.
The co-founders met at a hackathon four years ago. Gerard Keeley, 30, from Perth, Australia had worked in project management, Archie Campbell, 26, was a filmmaker with his own production company, and Alex Morris, 26, had worked in student events, which introduced him to the power of brands’ communities.
‘We realised that we were seeing creators doing amazing things but these were people didn’t know how to sell themselves. We wanted to give them opportunities to be seen by big businesses, and make an impact,’ says Keeley.
The business has been doing well, with offices in London and New York. It’s a global creative partner with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter, and in 2017 it was awarded Facebook’s Global Innovator for Creativity in Video.
Recently it started to consider what more it could do to help its creators. ‘When working with Calm we could see creatives asking us about work protocols, anxiety and confidence issues, why didn’t my creative get chosen, and so on. And it all clicked. We could see how important wellness could be for creators in the industry, how we could help them deal with the pain of being a freelance.’
Speaking from San Francisco, Calm’s Acton Smith approves whole-heartedly. ‘It’s a wonderful thing if companies are offering wellbeing and mental health services to employees or freelancers. Wellbeing at work is such a huge growth area. Relatively recently it’s gone from being something companies barely thought about to becoming a key part of the strategy to attract and retain a great team.’
Fifty staffers working in the London and New York offices of Vidsy aren’t missed out either. When designing their offices in Whitechapel, Keeley and co employed Eudiamonia philosophy, helping employees achieve a state of wellbeing and achievement, by separating out areas of work from relaxation spaces.
So the next time you’re looking at Snapchat or Instagram and you see some stunning work for Barclays, or Vodafone or NowTV, it’s good to know that the creators behind the images are protecting their own mental health at the same time.
April 25, 2019 at 11:28AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs