Freelancing now means working for free

California Freelancers Find Work, Decent Pay Harder To Come By

By David Kaplan/
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 2009 --- 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.
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've been asked to write for as little as a dime per word. Hourly rates offered for copywriting and editing services have dropped as low as $10 an hour. Most online outlets won't go over 50 cents per word. How can anyone make a living this way? I've been in the biz for 30 years and this is the worst I've ever seen it."

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