Blog Post

California Freelancers Find Work, Decent Pay Harder To Come By

While the layoff news at newspapers and magazines seems to have slowed this year — PaperCut’s tally for 2010 shows 1,823 job losses, while there were roughly 14,783 in all of ’09 — things haven’t gotten much better for freelancers. It’s hard to say whether California is a microcosm of the media freelance world, but a sampling of 116 independent writers and journalists surveyed by GuildFreelancers, a unit of California Media Workers, found 60 percent saying that jobs pay less than they used to, the California Progress Report states. Also, nearly half say that freelance work is getting harder to find.

The survey, though unscientific, probably isn’t too far off the mark, given that newspaper publishers have maintained profitability through severe cost-cutting. One of the first areas to cut is the freelance budget — and unlike mass layoffs, these cuts tend to be meted out individually or in small numbers, and therefore, it doesn’t get reported much.

Some other stats from the report:

— Three-quarters of the people who took the survey say they rely on freelancing for their livelihood.
— 60 percent are okay with working for no pay, in certain circumstances, such as for a nonprofit, or as a way to explore an area of business that they’re unfamiliar with.
— 15 percent say quality work is still rewarded with decent pay and a smaller group are finding that there are more places to pitch their work. However, some complain of “content farms” and the much lower pay.

One particularly despondent respondent summed up his situation, “A dollar a word was the gold standard for three decades (no cost-of-living raises, of course). Then online publishing came into the mix and the bottom dropped out. I

One Response to “California Freelancers Find Work, Decent Pay Harder To Come By”

  1. Were it only true that $10 an hour is the “floor.” Through a proliferation of microworker sites, writers are being paid less than a penny a word, which works out to around $3 an hour for the most proficient writer. The following “requirement” was posted on Article Slash:

    “Hi, I need a group of writers or writing teams who can deliver 20-30 articles of 300 words every day. Payout will be made everyday through paypal.. 0.75$ for every 300 word article.”

    Seventy-five cents per article! That’s .0025 per word, one quarter of a penny! If you could write 1200 words per hour (I’m a professional writer and I can’t), you could make $3 an hour doing this.