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Businesses Using Freelancers to Fill in the Blanks

The national trend of businesses delegating via outsourcing has not skipped over Northern Arizona. When help is needed with new tools like Facebook, Survey Monkey and Google Analytics, local businesses look to freelancers who have mastered those skill sets. Many businesses continue to lean on freelance writers, graphic designers and web developers for support with traditional media.

The Avenues Company headquartered in Flagstaff is a business that relies on freelancers located in Flagstaff, France, Sweden, Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia and Camp Verde. “The number of Avenues Associates who are freelancers is close to 15. They have their own business and they work with us when our clients’ needs fit with their specialty,” said Francine Berkey, Avenues co-founder and co-owner with Jeanne Ambruster.

“One of the things that Jeanne and I recognized when we started the business is that we wanted to be able to customize our services and staff to fit the client’s needs… and then customize who worked on the project to best fit that need. To do that, we thought we were better off using contract and freelance people rather than hiring employees.

“With employees, a company pretty much has to use who they have hired for projects whether or not they are exactly right for the work. Using contractors or freelancers takes away that concern,” said Berkey, who works primarily with businesses in dental specialty fields to provide consulting services including market research, business development, product launches and technical writing services.

Claudia Doonan, a freelance writer who works with Avenues, said, “I think it works well for everyone because there is not a lot of pressure for them to micromanage me – there is no babysitting. When we get together, we get together because we have work to do.”

“You can’t do everything as a small business owner, but you can try,” said Joe Bodin of Reliable Web Designs. “Or you can do what you do best, and hire freelancers to fill in the blanks for you. I’m good with numbers, but I’d be an idiot if I didn’t hire a CPA to help with taxes, payroll and the paperwork of running a corporation.

“People can spend days and days trying to build websites, and come up with something that they’re not happy with. I’m still in business because clients hire me for my specialty,” explained the web designer, who offers social media marketing to complement pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization. “We set up social media correctly and show people how to use it. We intertwine social media accounts in ways that save clients time and money.” Boden, a freelancer himself, hires other freelancers to do specialty work like database programming.

Tom Alexander is another freelancer who hires freelancers. The commercial photographer explained, “I don’t do graphic design work, so I work with lots of designers in town [developing websites, logos, brochures and catalogues]. I just worked with the Museum of Northern Arizona to photograph 32 to 40 Mary Russell Ferrell Colton paintings and worked with [graphic designer] Julie Sullivan on the museum catalog.” Alexander has become Northern Arizona’s go-to photographer for art reproduction by artists such as Bruce Aiken.

“I might see my client several times in a week and then won’t see them for a month or two. And then I’ll be busy with them again,” Alexander explained about the nature of freelance work.


Lisa Ward worked for a video production company in Columbus, Ohio before starting freelancing in 1996. “Part of my job was hiring freelancers, so I got to see what freelancers did from the other side of the desk. I got envious and decided to become a freelancer.”

Ward confesses that the opportunity to travel and work from home were benefits that she found enticing. In Sedona, Ward formed Trailhead Video with her husband, John, and offers video production, editing and graphic work. Clients include Glen Canyon National Recreation, Verde Valley Archaeological Center and Efficient Learning Systems, Inc.

Trailhead hires freelancers when clients’ budgets allow. “If you have a larger budget then the quality can increase – we’ll hire a lighting crew, make-up person and sound person,” Ward detailed.

The Wine Loft in Flagstaff used cartoonist Lily-Elaine Hawk to promote wines and events on its Facebook page. “Freelancers bring in new perspectives and innovation,” said Hawk, who worked as a professor of philosophy at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

“The client gets a totally fresh perspective. When you’ve worked at a business so long, you don’t see it from an outside perspective. If you work with the right person – a really honest one – you’ll meet your goal.

“The pairing of writing with comics makes it a grounding point for technical information,” explained Hawk about her marketing communication style. Wine Loft comics were such a fresh concept that a marketing firm in Paris picked up Hawk’s work. Since then, Hawk has worked with wineries in Italy, Slovakia and China.

The Rendezvous at Hotel Monte Vista used freelance graphics expert Michael Russell to design their to-go coffee cups. Russell of Miker Dzign Graphic Design enjoys working directly with his clients. “There’s no middle man – we rely on each other. Whatever I work on is a collaboration of their ideas and my ideas.”

Russell is the creative services specialist at the Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That’s my day job – I work on the side as a freelancer.”

“I have worked on and off in freelance since 1987,” said Kimberly Craft of Kraftworks Communications. “When I was doing a lot of freelance I was not able to hold a full-time, conventional job with two kids and a disabled husband.” Flexible hours allowed the freelancer to stay home. Craft, who recently won an Emmy for script writing in a PBS documentary, produces video packages and CDs for broadcast and marketing.

Anne Marie Mackler at NAU University Advancement uses freelance graphic designer Joan Carstensen for promotional materials. “We can use NAU specialists or go outside to hire freelancers,” said Mackler. “Many freelancers are used within the NAU community…it’s the beauty of Flagstaff, we’re a tightly-knit community.”

Carstensen’s work encompasses visual identification, logo development, rebranding, and web development. “I do the creative design and collaborate with a web developer,” explained the designer who is experienced in book design and annual reports.

“If you’re looking for logo design, find a logo that you like. If you see something that is aligned with what you like, then ask the business owner for the designer’s name,” suggested Christensen. The Sweet Shop and Nut House logo she recently created gets many positive comments. Carstensen also designs newsletters and mailings for Grand Canyon Trust.


Darcy Allen, director of administration at the Trust said, “Given that all things are equal, overhead is less so freelancers are competitive pricing-wise. A lot have had previous experience working for firms and have garnered the expertise… In Flagstaff, we have a lot of great people that work for themselves.”

Berkey advised businesses thinking about using freelancers, “We have learned that you have to treat freelancers much like a client. You have to make sure that they are happy working with you because they can choose to do the work or not, based on whether it is interesting and whether or not you treat them well and fairly. We think of freelancers as working with us, not for us. Be prepared that it is a different model. It has been perfect for us and what we do.” FBN



The Avenues Company – HYPERLINK “”, 928-799-6232


Joan Carstensen Design – HYPERLINK “”, 928-607-2019


Claudia Doonan — HYPERLINK “”


Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka Comics – HYPERLINK “”



Kraftworks Communications – 520-850-7712


Miker Dzign Graphic Design – HYPERLINK “”, 928-226-9733


Reliable Web Designs – HYPERLINK “”, 928-526-6991


Tom Alexander Photography – HYPERLINK “”, 928-526-3355


Trailhead Video – HYPERLINK “”, 928-284-2047


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