Journalism as a Freelance Industry

There’s a reason “free” is a central part of the word “freelancing” (and it isn’t because the industry doesn’t pay well).

Sam is a teenager who enjoys playing Xbox in his free time. He soon finds that he can enjoy his hobby even more by writing reviews of his favorite games, or stories with an inside scoop on the newest titles. His friends are impressed by the articles and encourage him to post them online, so Sam starts his own blog.

At the same time, Daniella is a pre-teen aspiring artist. She finds a free website that allows her to create custom designed shirts with her work on them. She begins making shirts and wearing them to school where they become a hit.

Flash forward ten years: Sam and Daniella graduate and are expected to enter the workforce, but they’re unsure what career to pursue. Then they learn that employers will pay them to do what they’ve been doing for fun all this time. They can sit at home – in their pajamas even – and bring in paychecks as professional freelancers? Now that’s an idea they can get behind.

Sam grows his blog and continues to write game reviews and stories for a host of online sources. Meanwhile, Daniella finds her hobby of designing shirts easily translates to digital photo editing and web design. Her designs are paired with Sam’s reviews, and soon they’re both making money as successful freelancers.

Neither Sam nor Daniella originally set out to be journalists, but thanks to the freelance market, they’ve both stepped into the role on their own time, from their own homes. But they aren’t the only one’s gaining appealing liberties from this relationship.

Businesses tend to work with freelancers because of their flexibility and quality of work. Due to this mutually beneficial cycle the freelance market is on the rise – drastically so – and becoming an ever greater source of employment for many millennials and their friends.

A study by Intuit found that freelancers are expected to make up 40% of the entire workforce by the year 2020.

In the modern market needs change so quickly that the ability to find temporary workers to provide specialized skills has become a must. Companies like Walt Disney, Microsoft, Cisco, and Adobe are using Elance, an online source for connecting freelancers to employers, to find talent on a project-by-project basis.

This is where freelancers like Sam and Daniella make their living.

But such a drastic rise in the freelancer industry must have some sort of side effects, no? What happens to the currently employed who work as regular employees? Say, journalists, for instance. What about them?

And what happens to these freelancers if, heaven forbid, another recession cripples the market? Won’t they be the first to go?

Unfortunately, the facts haven’t panned out just yet.

The rapid rise of freelancing has given the rest of us very little time to study it. The industry, though booming, is still a somewhat mysterious animal. It is becoming more and more evident that freelance journalists like Sam and Daniella pose a threat to traditional, regularly employed journalists, but the exact nature of that threat is not known.

Freelancing has also caused the journalism industry as a whole to reexamine previously defined standards of “credibility.” Traditional journalists have always had their credibility ensured by editors and co-workers who checked their work and conversed with them often. But most freelancers work solo. They don’t have co-workers to chat with at the water cooler, or an editor stopping by their desk for a progress report.

Although the freelance industry is growing rapidly, and the full implications of that are still relatively unknown, it seems the best way we can proceed is to adapt. It is easy to agree that traditions are great, history is rich, and good employees have earned their keep. However, in order to forge a path into the unknown territory ahead we must all recognize the usefulness of freelancing, and incorporate it into our business plans.

Working with the burgeoning freelance industry encourages the growth of new areas of journalism, more organic news, and diverse and flexible writers who bring with them a host of fresh information. It examines innovative ways to ensure both credibility in journalism and job safety for both freelancers and traditional employees alike.

In other words, it accepts that the industry evolves. After all, in this modern world, stagnation is fatal. Now is the time to gain new knowledge, to blaze new trails, to bloom with this flourishing and ever changing market, growing pains and all.

So what do you think, readers? Do you agree? Do you have an alternative approach? Let us know!


beams&bricksJournalism as a Freelance Industry

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