Willa, a two-year-old financial platform to help freelancers get paid, is using the majority of its ad dollars on social platforms, particularly Instagram and TikTok, where creative freelancers and social media influencers spend their time.
“There are [tens of millions] of people in the U.S. who do freelance work,” said Willa CMO Aron Levin. “We can’t target that, it’s too broad. So we’re going for social media creators, influencers, freelancers — specifically creative skilled freelancers.”
To target creative types as well as social media influencers and creators the company is spending most of its ad budget — roughly 70-80%, per Levin — on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram where that audience is spending their time. Aside from social platforms, Willa is also working with influencers and is advertising on Hulu and YouTube with digital video spots. The spots were made by its in-house studio, which has grown to have 10 employees over the last year.
It’s unclear how much exactly Willa is spending on advertising as Levin declined to share ad budget figures. Kantar also did not have spending data for Willa available. (Kantar doesn’t track social media spending and the majority of Willa’s spending is on social media.) Pathmatics did not have ad spend data available for the company either. Levin did note that Willa just started to use paid advertising over the last year.
Willa currently has over 10,000 freelancers with open accounts, according to Levin, who added that as freelancing becomes more common — during the pandemic many people began freelancing and continue to do so — that makes the company’s offering have broader appeal.
“Freelance work is estimated to overtake traditional employment,” said Levin. “It’s estimated that by 2027 it’ll be more common to be a freelancer than a traditional employee. In the market, we’re seeing an acceleration toward that trajectory of the future of work. More people are leaving their jobs to become freelancers so there’s a stronger demand for our service.”
Even so, the company isn’t looking to take a broad approach to its advertising now.
Instead, the company is focusing on its “niche audience” of creators and creative freelancers and using its ad dollars to have its ads show up with a “high frequency” for that audience. Willa is doing so to “create some familiarity and trust, reinforce [who we are] to that audience.”
That approach makes sense to Craig Stout, executive creative director, senior partner at growth strategy consulting firm Prophet. “You have to meet people where they’re at,” said Stout of Willa’s focus on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok. “That’s where creators are spending their time. You have to get your message out there where people are hanging out.”
Stout also noted that as a former freelancer he can see the appeal in a platform like Willa as there’s an “unmet need as a vertical for creators getting paid in the freelance market” and that creatives often don’t think in terms of billing. That said, Stout noted that creatives have a “very high bar for the use of humor and design” and that Willa’s current creative effort may not meet that bar.