I believe the rise in the freelance industry is a generational thing. The millenials, like myself, have been emailing since grade school, texting since high school and friending on facebook for years. We love technology. We get social media. But there is a dearth of available jobs, especially for those of us who shudder at the mere mention of a cubicle. The solution, for many of us, is to freelance. We design websites, create compelling graphic art displays, make clothing, write, tweet, whatever… and we do it all from the comfort of our homes or the local coffeehouse.
While the lifestyle is exactly what so many of us love… no stuffy suits, no long board meetings to decide the type of copier we need to purchase… the perception of freelance is so very misunderstood. Those who occupy jobs outside of the freelance sphere, hear freelance and think they can get something for nothing. Freelance equals free, right? Unfortunately many of them take advantage of the situation.
For example: I wrote a one-sheet for an aspiring singer in California. Her manager contacted me via LinkedIn to ask me about my experience and my freelance rates. I sent him my resume a few sample clips and my usual rates. He was enthusiastic about my fashion and entertainment experience and hired me on the spot. I wrote the one piece within a week and sent it to him. He responded a couple weeks later with tweaks he wanted to see. I made them promptly and sent the final copy back with an invoice for the job. At that point he dropped off the planet. I sent a couple reminder emails, and a PayPal invoice to get the point across. Nothing. No response, no please wait. Nothing.
This experience is not uncommon. For over three years I freelanced for a client. She paid me promptly until the last summer. At which point I stopped seeing the money. After four months like this I gave my notice and asked for the final five months I was owed. Now, a year later, I am still owed several hundred dollars. She says the money is coming.
What people often don’t realize when I tell them I am a freelance writer and blogger, is that I make my living from this. It is my profession. Just like the corner office they occupy thanks to their job, the computer screen and coffee-shop table is my workspace. I put in long hours. I work hard to research the articles I write, to follow trends, to report on current news, to listen to my readers desires. I can easily speak for my other freelancers and say they work equally hard. Most of us put in more hours freelancing than the average 9-5 business person. We work nights and weekends if there is a rush on a project. And perhaps mostly importantly, we count on that money to pay our bills. Without the money we are owed we can’t buy the most basic things that some people take for granted – health insurance, for instance.
As a fellow freelance fashion writer said to me, “We shouldn’t call it freelance. We should call it pay-me-lance.”