Freelance Writers Are on Hard Times, TooUsually during the past decade and change, a recession was not something that freelance writers had any reason to fear. In an odd pattern, technology had made it so that many times freelance writers were doing better in recession than out of it. When full time writers at companies were let go, and internships cut, the work still needed to get done.
Why pay an employee $15 an hour for an article (if employees on pay roll were even that proficient) plus paying 1/2 of their Social Security taxes (which all companies do for employees), plus pay matching 401-k, plus pay for the vacation days and sick days being piled up, plus unemployment taxes, plus pay for any insurance or bonuses when you can pay a freelancer $13-14 an article for the same level of work or better, with none of the extra expenses? Using a freelancer also eliminates overtime.
Because of this, during minor recessions many freelance writers would actually see more work, be able to charge fair market prices for their work, and actually make a pretty solid living without the same level of effort that it took when jobs were more scarce.
But this recession, which was barely prevented from being blown out into an all depression, things are different. This is the first time I've ever seen a dip in the economy that not only affected freelance writers the same way as every other profession, but flat out leveled a lot of the consistent work that I was used to seeing out there. Many of my friends who freelance said the same thing. Some saw their incomes slashed in half or worse, and the competition for the scraps that are still around is as fierce as it's ever been.
The "what to do about it" question is hard. Some writers are re-opening Guru.com or Elance.com accounts that they had ceased needing to use. Others have had to cut back heavily on the at home expenses. I lost my full time writing position (and dream job) back in November. I freelance a lot more to make up for the lost income, but I had to put all my student loans on deferment and am working harder than I've had to for the jobs that are available. There are more quality writers willing to work for less to fill the gap. My average hourly rate has also dropped from $16-18 an hour down to $10-11. There's simply not as many willing buyers at the higher level anymore, especially since there are good writers who are dropping down to the latter level, which is causing an avalanche effect.
So if you've been a fairly successful freelance writer and are now struggling, don't take it personally and don't question yourself. Right now it's a hard time for most freelance writers. All you can do is keep at it, build some passive income sources to help over the long term, and build yourself a solid base. If you can make it in this economy, you'll absolutely thrive when it starts to bounce back. If you're a beginner, don't let this post discourage you. If you can start from scratch and make it in this economy, you'll thrive when things turn around.
I just wanted to write this post because I haven't seen a lot of writing about how the current economy is affecting freelance writers, and I think this is a fair subject. Is online freelance writing still a place where people can go to make a nice side income, or even a full time income? Absolutely. But right now it is harder than it was 12 months ago, and I think it's important that writers of every level understand what the freelancing situation is right now.
That's all I have for now. I will say don't give up. The past month work has really picked up for me, and it's decent paying - not "oh holy shit I need to make rent by Friday" gap jobs. I've also noticed that ALL of my passive income streams (Associated Content, Constant-Content referrals, Squidoo, HubPages, AdSense, Affiliate sales, eHow, etc.) have increased for the third straight month. This is why passive income and making money online with more than one source is so important. Even if I did nothing for the next month, at a worst case scenario ((and when I say worst case, I take that phrase to a ridiculously improbably level)) that combination will still net me over $300.
During a recession that's nothing to sneeze at, especially when it's all coming from work that's been done and over with for months, if not years. Read this blog, including past posts, and if there's anything you want to know, don't be afraid to contact me. I'll help if I can. I'm a firm believer in what goes around comes around, and something at least akin to karma really does work in the Universe.
Until the next post, I hope everyone reading this is doing well, and don't be afraid of freelance writing during a recession. We all have to work through this, and the pay offs will be huge if you can just stick with it.