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Loving The Alien - why Freelancers need to embrace AI now

The fields of marketing and creativity have been buzzing with interest and hype surrounding the use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing, and Midjourney. These cutting-edge technologies have sparked the imagination of marketers, advertisers, and creative professionals by offering a new framework for content creation and customer engagement. According to digital asset management platform, Bynder, over half of major global brands are currently using AI tools in content production, suggesting that AI integration in the marketing service industries is well underway.

The ability of these tools to automate creative processes, enhance productivity, and deliver tailored experiences has been met with a mix of excitement and trepidation. The potential for generative AI to upend traditional approaches is immense with companies generally more focused on cost-savings and speed while individuals are naturally more concerned about jobs, embedded skill sets and years of investment in their careers.

In July we did a short survey to take a temperature check with The Indie List community to ask about generative AI, amongst other topics.

This nicely coincided with a similar poll amongst members of the UK creative services and freelance sectors by digital agency, Empower.

These are the topline numbers from Indie List members compared with their UK equivalents:

  • 75% of respondents have used some form of generative AI personally. (66% in the UK)
  • 65% have experimented with AI in a professional capacity. (41% in the UK)
  • 38% of respondents were either moderately or very concerned about the impact of generative AI on their industry or profession. (48% in the UK)
  • 88% of respondents felt it was moderately or very important that creatives have at least a basic understanding of generative AI. (77% in the UK)

On the face of it, freelancers in Ireland appear to be more receptive to generative AI tools than their UK counterparts. Not surprisingly, there are also many who have concerns regarding them but perhaps without possessing a complete understanding of their capabilities and limitations. This is no time for complacency.

There are many different types of AI tools that can help freelancers to thrive:

  • Content creation tools:  Tools like ChatGPT, Bing and Midjourney not only speed up the writing and ideation process but also stimulate creativity, aid in topic research, and enhance content optimisation for search engines.
  • Project management tools: These can assist in monitoring freelancers' time and progress on client jobs. They can also help to detect possible risks and opportunities, and make smarter choices about their projects.
  • CRM tools: These can help freelancers stay in touch with their clients, handle their contacts, and make more sales. They can also help freelancers know what their customers want and like, enabling them to offer a better service.
  • Marketing automation tools: These can assist with running freelancer marketing campaigns automatically, target more effectively, measure outcomes, and improve their conversion rates.

These tools do not possess supernatural abilities; rather, they function as processes. In the same way that photography did not render painting obsolete, AI is unlikely to be coming for your creative job anytime soon but it is important to use the time now to consider how you can adapt and master them.

It is important for clients too to strike a balance between these opportunities and a deeper appreciation for human effort and creativity. AI is a remarkable phenomenon, posing a raft of challenges that may even surpass the impact of the internet itself. Policy makers, therefore, will need to address the significant ones related to privacy, copyright, and the potential for bias.

Early indications suggest that a person who is empowered by AI will achieve more, will be more creative and create more value.  As HBS Professor, Karim Lakhani, said recently, 'AI won't replace humans.  Humans with AI will replace humans without AI.'

So, there will be displacement and some people, roles, and industries, will get left behind which is why embracing AI is the only way through and honing things like soft skills and leadership capabilities will be more important than ever.

Guaranteeing a secure and efficient integration of AI doesn't come with a magic formula, but what we've learned so far tells us that ongoing learning is absolutely vital to stay ahead. For our own part, we hope to announce some help in this area for Indie Listers soon. In the meantime, embrace the alien.

Peter McPartlin is co-founder of The Indie List

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