The devastating downturn in the writing market has gotten worse.
The need for speed has quickened the flight from quality. Writers have seen their pay reduced from $1.00 a word to a paltry 13 cents! And all in the space of the last five years. That’s one of the reasons I have left the journalism field.
And, as it turns out, writers have a lot in common with photographers. graphic designers, illustrators, architects, musicians – practically anyone involved in the creative commercial arts. The main culprit: after the Great Recession, ridiculously low-cost foreign competition via the Internet.
The Los Angeles Times published this story by James Rainey. The main thrust of the article is the observation that the Internet is indeed driving the world together, but in so doing it has obliterated the economic underpinnings that “once allowed the creative class to make a living.”
Rainey quotes Jaron Lanier, a computer programmer, UC Berkeley scholar and onetime champion of the Internet “freebie culture”:
The dominant tech culture says everyone should just give away their content and their expertise… Then they are supposed to make money later through personal appearances, or selling T-shirts or whatever. That doesn’t really help the photographer or the graphic artist who is trying to make a living right now.
Not all fields are affected the same way and talented freelancers, armed with established business networks and portfolios, are still managing to eke out a living, but I wouldn’t want to be just staring out just now – not in THIS market.
Rainey concludes that the underlying rise “good enough” within all aspects of our society may be the worst aspect of this trend.
The chief executive of one of America’s biggest newspaper chains told me a couple of years ago he feared readers would accept this “culture of good enough” as much as anything, not noticing the difference between blog slop and thoroughly vetted news and analysis.
I disagree. The cheap copywriter or designer in India will never replace a professional who can walk up to your doorstep and learn your business. I can name entrepreneurs who have taken that route and wound up replacing almost everything. Maybe “good enough” is fine for the concept business short on funding. But entrepreneurs who are serious about their success don’t cut corners on their communications.
Since 2007, I’ve seen a total collapse of traditional freelance work for writers. There are so many of us (especially writers), and with outsourcing so strong, there are so few jobs left.
I’ve rediscovered specialization. I have developed a few specialty niches for myself – the ‘one-man-show’, pre-IPO projects, funded startups, packaged services – and they’ve helped. I’m even going after the accredited public relations (APR) designation to bolster my credentials.
The way I see it, here in this free-market world, we have two choices: we can curl up and die or we can adapt. From that point of view, I really do not see how things have really changed all that much. -HP