At Fingerpost we support and deliver projects via a specialized network of freelancers operating within market access and related fields. We assess the needs for each project and compile a team of independent specialists to deliver that project to its highest potential. We understand the value that flexibility brings, and find that this allows us all to work smartly and effectively when it counts. Of course, this way of working leads to some very busy weeks but it also means that we absolutely, without quibble take that time back in lieu: have some extra hours with the children or squeeze in an extra yoga session on a quieter week.
As Fingerpost grows and we continue to evaluate and refine our offering, we have been engaging with more and more freelancers across the globe. However, the increased volume of freelancers on our database has also highlighted a number of inconsistencies and differences between individuals in market access and related fields. Some of these differences can be attributed to cultural practice (how individuals like to work, communication styles etc), whereas others relate to the practical elements of billing for work (rates, how many hours count as ‘a day’ etc). After noticing some of the differences, Cath and I both agreed it would be useful to conduct a survey that would help us identify some of the trends amongst freelancers in market access (and related fields e.g. HEOR, pricing, medical communications). The insight from the survey will hopefully help us to understand best we can support our freelance team and represent them fairly with the clients we work with.
So, in May, we developed an anonymous, 10-question survey to capture data that would address the following research questions:
• What are the minimum requirements to become a freelancer?
• What fees are people charging and what influences this?
• How are freelancers contracting within market access and related fields?
• Why do people leave permanent roles to take up a freelance position within Market Access and related fields?
• What aspect of freelancing could be improved?
A small (n=39) but representative sample completed our survey over the 7 weeks we ran it for. Participation was completely voluntary and anonymous, which relieved any burden associated with processing personal data.
We have now analysed the data and summarized the outcomes into a concise presentation report. Although the outcomes are primarily targeted at informing ourselves and other freelancers within the sector, we’re also aware that the findings may appeal to those currently, or considering, working with freelancers. Here’s a quick taster of some of the key findings from the survey:
· There are no obvious minimum requirements/expectations with respect to level of degree or number of years in a permanent role, prior to becoming a freelancer.
· The average hourly rate was slightly higher for those with a PhD (vs MSc, BSc and job experience), but there was no trend to suggest that a higher level of degree qualifies a freelancer to charge more. However, those with a BSc were less inclined to contract with Academia or Medical Communications agencies than those with a MSc or PhD.
· Higher hourly rates were associated with more years of work experience, as well as pricing, outcomes research and strategic market access/HEOR services.
· Industry and public sector appear to accept higher hourly rates than consultancies and agencies.
· More freelancers actively pursue business with new clients than those who do not, but the frequency of contact is most likely down to personal preference.
· Flexibility and quality of life were the main reasons people choose to move into a freelance position, and flexibility and variation of roles are deemed to be the most enjoyable aspects of freelancing. However, uncertainty (financial/workstream) and lack of interaction were reportedly the least enjoyable aspects.
The survey also allowed us to analyse the average hourly fee charged based on years of experience, type of contracting organization and area of expertise. There were some very interesting findings from this perspective but you’ll have to read the report to find out more!
If you would like a copy of the report, please drop me (email@example.com) or Victoria (firstname.lastname@example.org) an email. Anyone is welcome to peruse the findings; just state why you are interested in the email and we’ll pop a copy over to you.
From our perspective the results have been very interesting and, although some of the findings only confirmed what we already suspected, there have also been some other key findings that we weren’t expecting. Overall, the survey has prompted us to change some of the ways we engage with freelancers. Ultimately, we hope this will make our project operation experience better for both the client and the freelancer, resulting in greater transparency and efficiency.
On Thursday 6th June, Cath and I attended the PM Society UK Market Access event in London. The afternoon was split into 7 presentations all focussing on different topics within the vast umbrella of market access here in the UK. Additionally, two panel discussions were held by the presenters to tackle varying opinions on the subjects between themselves and provide the opportunity for questions and comment from the audience.
The first session of presentations we watched guided the audience through recent changes to the HTA process at NICE, the evolution of market access in the UK from the ABPI perspective, relationships between the Life Sciences Sector and the NHS, and barriers to access for specialised medicines. After a short break the presentations looked to the future and we learnt more about plans for implementing the NHS Long Term Plan, the influence of local guidelines and formularies on uptake, and how the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is working to break down local market access barriers. There really was something for all who attended and the round table discussions threw up some interesting questions and thoughts to ponder on…namely the impact of Brexit!
As Fingerpost are currently involved with a couple of UK-focused payer research projects, we found the presentations on specialised commissioning from Ivor Eisenstadt, MD at publishing firm MGP (https://www.mgp.co.uk/) and the impact of formulary placement and guidelines on uptake from Karen Westaway, Chef Exec at ValueBase (http://www.thevaluebase.com/) to be particularly valuable. Their presentations, which were based on primary research and real-world data, really clarified, contextualised and confirmed some of the questions we face on a regular basis when talking to clients about UK market access and reimbursement.
I think it’s safe to say that market access methodologies and routes to access in UK are likely to continue changing and evolving over the coming years. As the NHS Long Term plan is executed and the detailing around Brexit solidifies, keeping continuously ‘in touch’ and involved with the UK healthcare landscape and working in collaboration with fellow specialists will be imperative to successful market access.
We plan to stay in touch with the ongoing changes through attending similar events, reading around and conducting our own research, and through the inevitable learnings that each client-sponsored project brings. Our global reach means that we are constantly learning about all markets but due to being British citizens ourselves and the ongoing challenges associated with Brexit, the changes ‘at home’ are of particular interest at the moment.
To see a synopsis of all the event speakers and their presentations, please click this link to the PM Society website: https://pmsociety.org.uk/article/uk-market-access-2019-event-review
In post as Director of Operations and External Resource at Fingerpost my role is quite self-explanatory; I manage our internal operations and I resource all the projects that we win with clients. In this month’s blog it’s the external resource part that I’m keen to talk more about.
I’d been in recruitment for nearly 12 years prior to joining Cath at Fingerpost – the first 6 years solely within temporary market, where hourly/daily rates and large networks of ‘freelance’ candidates were my norm and the latter 6 years predominantly centric to permanent recruitment. I loved the temporary side of recruitment but the markets I worked in didn’t win my interest - this was truly piqued when I went into Market Access and permanent resourcing. The opportunity to join Cath and take responsibility for pulling together and managing project teams for her outsourced offering presented me with a chance to take two areas of interest (and a wealth of opportunity to learn new things) and blend them into what has been a wonderful role so far!
I’m a MASSIVE advocate of freelancers. If, as a business, you are under resourced or under skilled and there is time pressure on you to deliver then why would you not invest in someone experienced who is willing to come into an unknown culture and team and leave again once the job is done? (They may even provide you with some great insights on methodology or practise whilst they’re at it!) I’m pretty sure all the hiring managers/team leads reading this now are thinking ‘cost’ as one of the barriers, but I have experienced many a situation where the simple “pay as you go” cost of the freelancer is far less than the cost of not getting the job done on time or having to pull people off other projects to deliver yours.
Asides ‘cost’ another area for concern could be 'risk’. Of course, the great thing about a freelancer is that there is no employment risk to your business but granted, this ‘risk’ element manifests itself in skill and ability to do the job well – and I will give you this one! It’s always nerve-wracking as a recruiter, indeed as a manager, when you place a contractor who may not turn out to be as good as you thought; even with marvellous references, things can go wrong. This is where the Fingerpost model works incredibly well. We build a freelance project team where we are involved and can guarantee the outcome. More often than not Cath works on content, provides quality control or strategic advice. Occasionally when we face extreme time pressures and see there may be a burden on one freelancer, we manage multiple freelancers working in unison to get the work completed quickly. We have worked with many of our freelancers before and continue to build the network on positive recommendations.
Not only am I a massive advocate of freelancers but it seems so is the general workforce. According to a 2018 report from the Office of National Statistics (UK) “The number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12.0% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) in 2017”. As we frequently get enquiries about “becoming a freelancer” in the Market Access space, we have decided to conduct a short survey on freelancer experience to understand more about the role of a freelancer; measuring how freelancers are currently operating within market access and related fields e.g. medical communications, brand strategy, healthcare market research, HEOR, etc’ (you can participate here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XK8BVXJ). These results will be analysed in June and communicated in our July newsletter, although to give you a little snippet thus far, the overriding reasons for individuals taking the leap into the world of freelance are: lack of flexibility in permanent roles and negative company culture/politics in previous work places.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone (and we have asked about the negatives in our survey too!), nor is it necessary or practical for businesses to engage with freelancers continuously. However, given the limited pool of candidates within Market Access/HEOR, we hope our survey results will prove valuable to both freelancers and employers alike – indeed, freelancers may even help us all to understand the best approach for attracting and retaining high-calibre individuals within the industry.
Hello everyone, its Vic here! What is to follow is my first Blog entry for Fingerpost – I could fill the piece with how I’m getting on after what has now been nearly three months in my new job but that has been done before (in short, I’m having a fab time!).
Instead, I thought I’d share a snapshot as to the last couple of weeks at Fingerpost and what Cath affectionately refers to as our “quieter time” (!!)
Many in Market Access Consulting will know that there are ‘project cycles’ and my first 10 weeks in this job was a real baptism of fire as we rode a huge crest of project deliverables. In short, the wider team here planned, recruited for, conducted, analysed and reported on nearly 50 EU and US Payer Interviews. In addition, we compiled desk research, proposals and analogue studies as well as designing and conducting three workshops – oh, and Cath did some Strategic Advice work both in the UK and France. It’s been a busy whirlwind!
We closed off a lot of this work in mid-March and proceeded to sit down, breathe (with tea and cake), tie up administration, work on some of our own company strategy/materials and think ahead to the pipeline of projects we have kicking off in the next few weeks…
…well, we have had the opportunity to have some shorter, more relaxed days in lieu, (and a good volume of cake!) however, these weeks have been far from ‘quiet’ as more consultancies, including some new businesses, engaged with us for support including;
With all this activity going on in our 'quieter time', I have returned to what I know best and have started scouring the landscape with the intention of growing our internal team as well as continuing to expand our freelance network. We have added a ‘Join Us’ tab to the website and will continue to update this space with live vacancies. Freelancers can also register their interest to work with us on this page.
As a business our internal recruitment aim is to provide permanent staff with the flexibility of a freelancer alongside the safety cushion of employment – it’s a busy market and our quieter times aren’t strictly ‘quiet’ but we do value this time to recharge, take back some time, re-focus and mix things up with immersing ourselves in the tasks and learnings that come naturally in a small business.
I’d love to keep in touch with anyone in Market Access who might be interested in a permanent role that offers a bit more flexibility or even those who are thinking of going down the freelance route and would like some friendly support and advice!
This is my 4th year working independently under my own company, Fingerpost Consulting, and my 12th year as a ‘Market Access’ Consultant (as broad and vague as that term is!). Throughout that time, January has always been a quiet month. With this in mind, I tend to save this time for business planning for the year ahead, visiting clients to discuss potential opportunities and finishing off the few remaining strands of work resulting from December deadlines. Of course, as a freelancer, I’ve had ongoing contracts that required supporting, but nothing too strenuous.
I think you can see where I’m going with this, but this year has been the exception. I already knew that the month was going to be busy as by December we had committed to support an ongoing contract and three new outsourced payer research projects in Q1. However, the real surprise has come from the weekly, sometimes daily, requests and quotes to support other projects and contracts. And these have not just been requests for support from me, but for specific members of the Fingerpost team, including experts that we might be able to recommend, or for certain freelancers that we’ve worked with in the past. Most excitingly we’ve been approached to partner with other small agencies, helping them to expand their remit. The sudden demand has certainly taken me by surprise, particularly as given the time of year!
It’s left me wondering whether the Fingerpost team are creating this situation or just reacting to demand which extends beyond our control. I’m happy with either, but I would love to know whether this is going to blow over and be one of those ‘remember when we were crazy busy…?’ times, or whether this is here to stay and we need to think about ramping up our recruitment plan! I put it to the Fingerpost team in our weekly catch up, and here were some of our thoughts:
On the other hand, we have been doing a lot behind the scenes to grow the business:
Most likely it is a combination of all factors, or it could be a complete coincidence, but once an analyst, always an analyst…. 😉
If you’ve had a similar month, I would love to hear your thoughts on why that might be (you can comment below). Or, you may be in the position of expanding your business and are wondering how we could support you. We don’t just offer support and take on outsourced projects; we can help upskill your team too. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
+44 (0)7584 067407