Advantage: Freelancers

2 May

Freelancers’ Stock Rises on Madison Avenue, by Rupal Parekh, Agency Editor of Advertising Age, affirms a trend that I’ve been seeing as the economy improves: if you’re a good freelancer, you’re in demand. She observes, “With clients’ marketing budgets rallying after a recession that led to the layoff of thousands of full-time staffers, freelancers are shouldering much of the workload.” I have two pieces of advice for anyone freelancing right now: don’t be afraid to let your capitalist flag fly, and ride the wave while it lasts.

After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, [a colleague] told me, ‘it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.'”

Freelancers are valuable right now. Many businesses that let staff go during the recession aren’t re-hiring workers as we emerge from it. Instead, they’re using a rotating pool of temps who are almost always sent packing and replaced before they work enough hours to earn benefits and overtime pay. Sure, this gives the freelance market a nice shot in the arm, but it also gives companies a source of labor that doesn’t come with the overhead of having a full-time staff.

As the recovery builds, corporations are facing the reality that they can no longer have their cake and eat it, too, and are conceding that talent costs money. This is certainly true in my industry, publishing. During the recession, freelance rates were low because work was scarce and employers had the upper hand in terms of compensation. Salaries were slashed for the staff jobs that still existed, and independent workers were accepting rates that people turned down when I first began my career, twenty years ago. Now, with tablet publishing creating a market that needs a new set of skills, supply and demand are giving independents much more leverage. One manager at a major national consumer magazine pays good freelancers $60-$75/hour to work on the iPad and tablet editions. After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, another told me, “it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.”

Mind you, what goes up must come down, and the recent economic crisis certainly won’t be the last. So, while the going is good, smart freelancers will work on paying down debt, and stashing some cash for the next rainy day. Some options for doing this are a business savings account and a retirement plan. ING Direct, which pays higher interest rates than many other institutions, offers business and retirement products, and Freelancers Union, where I sit on the Board of Directors, has a 401k plan for qualified members.

Indy workers always have value, but the high demand for freelancers in the current economy empowers us to earn more and invest in our futures. It’s a perfect time to proudly take a seat at the table as a skilled professional, and avoid the “I’m just a freelancer” trap.

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One Response to “Advantage: Freelancers”

  1. bojodadesign May 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    A good read, and good advice!

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