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‘More volatile than ever’: Freelancers brace for a rough job market

Digiday 26 Mar 2020 04:01

This week, Patrick West was laid off from his full time gig at a financial services brand where he was the director of communications.

Now, he plans to take his talents freelance, one of the many former full-time workers who are being laid off from their jobs and going freelance due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry.

“It’s always scary when you find yourself back on the freelance path because you have to adjust your expectations — it’s not paycheck income,” said West, adding that he’s freelanced on and off throughout his career. “My biggest concern as a freelancer is that we’ll be paid even less, as it’s more competitive. Offering $5 bucks an hour [for copywriting] isn’t worth it. I can go to Whataburger and get a better job.”

West’s issue illustrates the problems coming to the advertising freelance market. With advertising projects either canceled or postponed, agencies and brands are looking to cut costs. That means less work to go around for freelancers to begin with. For freelancers, both new and veteran, incomes are in freefall — with some losing thousands, others losing tens of thousands worth of projects — in just a matter of weeks. And even if freelance talent is brought on to replace full-time talent, rates are being depressed. One freelancer shared that a client requested a 25% rate reduction to help manage the crisis. Beyond that, freelancers say the job market is much more competitive for the work that does exist and that, overall, prospects are slim to none. And this may get worse if more layoffs happen, and more people flood the market.

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Ira Oksman KantsurovaMeg McCarleyElle SchniderLara KellishWest
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