You Can’t Keep Travel And Events Freelancers Down: U.S. Freelance Voices From Cadre

By Jon Younger, Contributor
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When the full-force of Covid-19 was finally understood here in the US, my wife and I were in Florida in the last week of a month’s vacation. Our older son called on March 5 2020 and said, “Wherever you are this coming Monday is where you’ll be for the next several months.” He was right. We drove back to NYC, visiting supermarkets along the way preparing to be shortly in quarantine.

As a writer and teacher, I was inconvenienced but my work went on. Other freelancers weren’t far less fortunate. Among those most challenged, the travel, hospitality and events professional community had the toughest time. The Wall Street Journal reported over four million hospitality workers lost their job in the US alone. One respected publication noted, “65% of all US jobs lost in 2020 were from the travel industry.”

But, I’ve learned something about travel, events, and hospitality freelancers from my research for earlier Forbes articles I’d written. Moreover, our global survey on freelancing, a recently completed collaborative study of 77 freelance platforms and communities co-sponsored by my Agile Talent Collaborative and the University of Toronto reminded me of that lesson: You just can’t keep the freelance travel, events and hospitality community down. Despite the obvious challenges, almost 50% of this community were highly committed to freelancing as a career path. More than 60% described themselves as “ambitious, determined to succeed.” 78% said they were “flexible and adaptable, and comfortable with change.” 75% believed that they show “real grit; and are resilient in the face of difficulty and adversity.” 79% agreed strongly that these freelancers are proud “problem solvers.” And, 78% were proudly optimistic, “I believe in myself and what I can achieve.”

Which takes us to this article, the fifth in my series of “Freelance Voices.” Each post spotlights and celebrates the experience of freelancers in different nationalities or professions. For the travel, events and hospitality community’s participation in this series, I’m grateful to Todd Taranto and his team at Cadre, a freelance platform and community serving travel directors and event planners. Cadre’s clients include many of the largest companies in the world: AT&T, Google, J&J, and Microsoft are some of them.

Here are US based travel and event freelance voices from the Cadre community:

Tiffany Steele, NC

“How many people can say they worked in the basement of a Dallas convention center on a Thursday to a safari game drive in South Africa by the following Monday? I never truly appreciated being an event freelancer until I lost the ability to travel during the pandemic. Every place I travel to now will never be taken for granted again.”

Aaron Rhodes, NC

“For me, the freelance lifestyle is pure freedom. One week I am on an Icelandic cruise and the next in Hawaii. The life doesn’t have its shortcomings; long days, inconsistent work, and time away from home. COVID-19 causing work opportunities to evaporate has made the life even harder. Freelancing is not for everyone. Scheduling personal appointments or even having a pet can be tough, but with these sacrifices comes the opportunity to travel and build a skill set few others have.”

Robert Eldridge, PA

“A typical month starts at 4:30 am for a flight to Las Vegas. Ten days later I’m repacking for Kona, then London, and then San Francisco. I’ve been “gig” working for 20 years. I love the freedom and diversity, it never gets old! The days can be long, and by the end of a program I’m exhausted, but my reward is helping an organization meet its goal.”

Jodi Schwartz, NJ

“I’ve been a freelancer for 25 years now. The flexibility I enjoy lets me balance my family life and my business. The challenge is the peaks and lows of working a lot and then the droughts. You have to be able to budget accordingly. Cadre allows freelancers to pick and bid on locations and jobs that excite them.”

Therese Lombardo, FL

 “I’ve been a full-time freelancer for many years and my client portfolio helped me navigate and survive the pandemic. I stayed in touch with them all and offered to “stand in the hole” to fill whatever job needed to be done to keep their meetings moving onward. Doing freelance work will always create financial uncertainties. But for me, the positives – flexibility to work as needed, opportunity to create a diverse client basis, and the ability to manage my personal time into my professional work and travel schedule - outweigh the negatives.”

Tracey Bey, NV

“Becoming an event industry freelancer has given me such a larger platform to work on. I use and learn so many more skills and different aspects of my profession than I used to do sitting behind a desk. Dealing with COVID, and the loss of business is tough, but I’ve adapted and become more flexible than ever before.”

Lemeatrice Hurt, NY

“Being a part-time provides great schedule flexibility. I connect with so many different meeting professionals and organizations. The main challenge is mindset. When you're hired during turbulent times, the ups and downs require a shift in thinking. You have to diversify your portfolio and cultivate greater versatility."

Michael Garrido, FL

“Freelancing presents challenges that a typical 9-5 does not. In our industry, you must engage with clients and attendees, and maintain relationships with agencies. And you need to build your own brand-identity. 2020 really hurt. The industry went dark, many connections were lost, and we must refresh the partnerships we’ve developed.”

Alyssa Perna, OH

“I left the corporate world to pursue the freedom of freelance life. It was a bit scary to leave the security of my job, but freelancing was the best career decision. It’s a challenge getting and keeping clients, but I’m always working on something new—festivals, technical conferences, social events and more—keeping me motivated and engaged.”

Gail Orfanos, IL

"I manage corporate and non-profit programs nationwide. I bring my expertise and experiences to each, and learn something new with every event. During the pandemic, clients pivoted to virtual so my challenge became figuring out how to bring value by adapting my services to support meeting organizers now and post-pandemic."

 Kimberly Stansell, CA

“I ditched my HR job and set out to create a working lifestyle based on flexibility and control over the projects and people I engaged with. The pandemic challenged my business model. I lost my projects in one day. Sure, it took time to build back up my client-projects, but it is so worth it, and I again have a regular stream of engaging and fun projects!”

Stacy Stokes, CO

“As an events freelancer, I wear many hats—planner, negotiator, organizer, etc., and I’ve learned you truly have to love it to do this stuff.  COVID decimated my business: I lost every piece of business I had contracted. The pandemic, and the uncertainty that came with it has raised the stress ‘only being as good as your last gig’ as we all try to rebuild our industry—an industry built on a core tenant of bringing people together.”

Susan Scully, FL

“Freelancing gives me the freedom to live the lifestyle that I choose, but in the event industry it’s not always easy to balance ‘having a life’ and ‘make a living’. The tradeoff is so worth it though! I get to travel the world and leave a little bit of myself everywhere I go. It’s well worth exploring!”

Joy Polhemus, WA

“Being an event industry freelancer requires all my multi-tasking and organizational skills. I get to make my own schedule, travel internationally and domestically, and enjoy the frequent flier miles. The challenge? I’m not home for family events, sometimes even emergencies. Being on the road when a family member is ill is heartbreaking.  I can’t often cancel my contract and go home to support them.” 

Viva la revolution!

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