We don’t need to tell you that the interactive world is fiercely competitive, right?
Keeping ahead of the curve, and in the know, should be part of everyone’s career action plan since changes are constantly afoot.
That’s why we chatted with Los Angeles agent and former interactive producer Robin McKee-Clark to pass along some of the inside information she’s seeing on the emerging jobs landscape.
What are the coolest new types of freelance jobs you’re seeing?
Probably the coolest thing I’ve seen is eBook/iBook Development. These are projects that need a team, project managers, designers, etc. who really get the whole eBook platform. And we’re not just talking adult’s books, but children’s books being adapted for the iPad, Nook, Kindle, and Google’s Nexus 7. Though I have yet to see a lot of these positions come though, there aren’t a lot of agencies out there whose staff have these skills. My guess is they’re going to start to need them soon! (Just imagine when all those high school and college textbooks start to move online.)
Also, folks who work in Responsive Web Design, namely UX designers and developers. Clients don’t just want to see wireframes anymore, they want to see 3 or 4 visuals for layouts for different platforms. Companies are beginning to recognize that many users don’t want to download their app to access information, they want CSS media queries to recognize what platform they’re on and create a page just for them.
And even though the role has been around for awhile, the need for Social Media Specialists is still huge. It’s squarely planted itself in the market, but the role changes almost daily. With the speed of technology and the greater understanding of why and what people share socially, each platform is continually progressing. (Think about how often your apps need updating.) Every time the technology changes, a new plan is put in place to reach a brand’s audience. It's not completely recreating the wheel but the spokes keep getting shinier!
Maybe a silly question, but why do you think we’re seeing these freelance positions now, versus 5 years ago?
(Laughs) Well, eBooks didn’t exist 5 years ago. Same as social media - Twitter only started 6 years ago, right?
Why is there a trend in social media? Because that’s where we’re all spending our time. Why do we need responsive web design? Because more and more people are accessing the Internet from mobile devices. It’s predicted that sometime in 2013 mobile will overtake desktop computers as the primary way people get to the Internet.
Ads have gone from print to radio to TV to web and now to mobile. Companies need to advertise where their consumers are, and as the consumer technology advances, new skills are needed, new positions are created.
Savvy freelancers need to be aware of where those positions are being created and get the skills to handle those positions to stay competitive in the job market.
Speaking of which, what’s your advice on getting the new skills for these jobs?
Since these positions are so new, don’t expect to see classes offered anywhere. So you’ll have to make your own way.
The easiest, and luckiest, way is to be freelancing someplace when they get that kind of work, so then you can learn on the job. But that’s not always going to happen, right?
My advice is to get involved, learn by reading and doing. Read everything you can on the topic. For responsive web design, check out Ethan Marcotte, who (literally) wrote the book on the subject. There are a lot of resources at lynda.com and github. For social media, look to the American Marketing Association for webcasts and sign up for the Social Fresh newsletter to get access to daily tips, white papers, and webcasts. Oh, and use it. By being part of online communities such LinkedIn Groups or simply connecting to people you admire on Facebook or Twitter, you stay on top of industry trends and learn how users interact with them.
Meetups are also terrific resources. They host speakers who come in and talk about their areas of expertise. It’s not only a great way to learn, but a fantastic way to meet other people who are involved in that area.
You can also go to conferences. There are hundreds of face-to-face networking opportunities in every community. Just do a little research and get out there.
What you want to do is become an expert in your area of interest, so you can prove to a hiring manager that you have those skills and add value when you’re actually hired into a role.
If you had to guess, what do you think is the next hot emerging position?
eBooks are just going to get bigger, so expect more positions associated with that area. But going beyond that—in the future we’re going to see more and more mobile positions. Imagine websites that talk back to you from your phone because you’re otherwise preoccupied. Or a phone that projects its screen for you. Or mobile devices that have a virtual keyboard for users.
It’s a pretty exciting time to be a freelancer in interactive!
Technical skills are important to have, but it's the soft skills that can set you apart from the pack.