Posts tagged with: freelance writing

What are you resorting to in this down economy?

I used to scoff at freelance writers who would take crummy assignments for low pay. It seemed demeaning to me. Writers are professionals, and we should be paid like it.

Well, these scoffing days are now officially over. For the last two weeks, I’ve joined the ranks of what are known as online content writers. Think of it as working on an assembly line, only for a writer.

Basically, I’m taking on $12 assignments to write short “stories” — usually about 400 words or so — about bland topics such as pillow cushions, motorcycle goggles and windshield repair. I crank these out, get my $12 in Paypal and say goodbye to my stories. There are no bylines on these. I do imagine, though, that they are flooding the Internet right now, adding to the impossible amount of junk floating around in cyberspace.

I bring this up not so you readers will pity me. I’m fortunate, I know, that I still have a full-time writing job at publishing company. The economy has played havoc with the freelance writing I do on the side to help support my family, but my full-time employer, the one who doles out the health insurance, hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet.

I am interested, though, in knowing how you’ve lowered your own work standards during this recession. Are you now taking on jobs that you never thought you’d have to tackle? Are you working harder for more money, grateful that you have work at all?

Let me know. I have the sinking suspicion that we are becoming a nation that’s now willing to work harder than ever for less pay than we’ve ever considered fair.

And what am I doing during the downturn?

I’ve written a lot about how other folks are holding onto their careers — or not — during the economic downturn. But I’ve not shared a whole lot about how the economy is hitting me, and what I’m doing about it.

So here’s a little bit: Before the recession, I specialized in writing about residential real estate. I wrote for several newspapers and trade magazines about this topic. It was great during the housing boom. I never lacked for markets for my stories. But now that the housing industry is in the toilet? All those markets have disappeared.

So, I’m branching out. I’m doing more ghost blogging, writing for blogging networks, Web site writing and content writing. It’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t pay nearly as well, but it is keeping me afloat. It allows me to pay my bills without having to get a side job working the night shift at the local 7-11.

I won’t lie, though. I’d love a time machine. I’d love to hope back to 2004 and do things differently. If I had had more foresight, I would have already been branching out from my real estate niche back then. I mean, everyone knew that housing prices were going to fall eventually, right?

But you know what they say about hindsight …

Today I’m working harder for less money. But I do console myself with the fact that I’m working, at least.

How about you out there? How has the economy impacted your career?

The need to adapt

Work has become a drag for me. I’ve always loved the fact that I support my family, and pay a home mortgage, simply by writing.

There aren’t many people out there who love their work.

Problem is, I’m not loving the freelance-writing life quite as much these days. It’s the economy, of course, and the fact that it’s killing off my print-magazine clients at a dizzying pace.

These are terrible times for publishers. This means, of course, that it’s a terrible time to be a freelance writer, too.

Last week was a particularly tough one. My strongest print-magazine client, my highest-paying one, too, informed me that they’d be assigning me significantly fewer stories throughout the rest of the year. This was tough to take, and it was partially my fault: I committed one of the top sins of freelance writing. I became too dependant on one particular publisher.

I will survive, though. Yes, this is the toughest writing market I’ve ever faced. But I will get through it.

I’m trying to adapt. I’m writing more online stuff than I’ve ever done before. Most of it doesn’t pay well, but, I have to admit, it sure is easier to write for a blog or a content mill than it is to spend weeks researching, conducting interviews and planning site visits for a story in the Washington Post or Phoenix Magazine.

Adapting is key to today’s working world, and not just for freelance writers. We all have to adapt.

Yes, it’s awful. Yes, it’s not any fun. But … it is necessary.

Some days you’re just worn out

Maybe it’s our 16-month-old son, who’s developed a new habit of waking every morning before 5 a.m. Or maybe it’s the constant drumbeat of bad economic news. It might even be the fact that everyone in my household is suffering from some rough head colds. But for whatever reason, I’m worn down these days.

I suspect I’m not alone. We’re all working harder and, seemingly, we’re doing it with less financial rewards to show for it.

As a freelance writer, my days are up and down even during the best of times. It’s an unstable business, so you have to expect that. But in bad economic times? There are way too many downs and few too little ups.

Last night, for instance, one of my blogging clients sent an e-mail to me and everyone else who writes for his site, telling us that he’d like us to post fewer times a week. He needs to cut back on his spending. Then this morning, one of my favorite editors wrote me with the news that she’s leaving the trade magazine she’s editing.

Bad news in both cases.

But, that’s why they call it “work,” right? It’s not supposed to be a joy all the time.

I’m working through this mess of an economy. I’m doing it by trying my hand at certain content sites that I had long ago promised myself I’d never write. The pay just isn’t high enough. However, times have changed, so I broke that promise last week. We’ll see how long I keep at it.

Today, though, we all have to take risks. We all have to try things that we never though we’d do. I’m not an artist. I’m just a working freelance writer. Nothing, really, is beneath me, at least not when the economy stinks like a dead fish.

Is complaining about bad times now a badge of honor?

Yesterday I received an e-mail message from one of the highest-paying magazines for which I write. The subject line was “tough times.” Uh-Oh, I thought.

That “Uh-Oh” was right. The editor wrote that with the weak economy, and resulting loss in ad revenue, the magazine is cutting back on its freelance budget. There will be fewer stories assigned to freelance writers. And those stories that are assigned will pay less.

It’s far from the first message like this that I’ve gotten from editors and publishers lately.

But this magazine? The last issue was still pretty fat. And for years it’d been stuffed with ads. You’re telling me that one economic slump and suddenly all that revenue the magazine generated for years is gone? Yikes.

I’m beginning to think that it’s becoming a badge of honor for companies to say they’re dealing with tough times. I only hope it’s a trend, though, that doesn’t last much longer. My bank account isn’t liking it.