I Sucked at Freelancing, but You Don’t Have To

By Sam Slaughter May 22nd, 2014

When reflecting on my mediocre freelance career, I tend to go back to a specific summer afternoon in 2007. I was sitting in a La-Z-Boy recliner in a weird random apartment on a weird random corner of northeast Philadelphia, staring at a swinging pocket watch. I’d spent the past six weeks tracking down the owner of the apartment, a “professional” hypnotist of questionable training and even more questionable morality, and in the service of journalism, I let him put me under. A week later, I finished the story (which, thank Crom, no longer exists on the Internet), and six week later, my check arrived from the alt-weekly that published the story—for 115 dollars—which worked out to about 15 cents an hour.

A few years after that gig, I moved to New York to help build Contently, which led me, in a very roundabout way, to starting this blog.

So what is The Freelancer about?

Well, inside Contently, we’ve always had two audiences: the brands and publishers who pay for our software, and the freelancers who actually write stories for them. Unsurprisingly, it’s the software fees from big companies that pay our salaries. But it’s an article of faith around here that no one would be interested in the software if it weren’t for the content creators who make it useful. Even though we don’t make money off freelancers, we’ve always felt like they were the most important part of our business.

From the beginning, we’ve tried to build the kind of features that we would have wanted when we were grinding in the gig economy—things like easy-to-use portfolios, pay-on-submission pricing, and invoicing software. Our commitment to the freelance community is also why we’ve consistently advocated for fair rates and transparent pricing, and pushed our clients to commission bigger and more interesting projects. And by and large, the freelancers who’ve done work for us have been happy.

But one thing we haven’t done well enough is communicate with our freelancer audience. We have a robust online magazine for our brand clients, complete with a quarterly print edition. But we’ve been half-assed with our attempts to create great content for freelancers, and we want this blog to change that.

It’s an oft-cited stat (at least in our line of work) that by 2020 there will be about 60 million professional freelancers—40 percent of the economy—in the U.S. And yet, there aren’t many decent publications out there covering the gig economy. That seems stupid.

So about this blog.

The content will be a mix of tips, news, information, interviews, and essays, and it will be written (and filmed and photographed) exclusively by freelancers. We’ll be skeptical without being cynical, funny without being mean, and entertaining while being informative.

Most importantly, we want this to be a collaborative effort. We want your input on how to make it better. We want tips and stories and missed connections. We want to know what you like, what you hate, and what you want to change.

The original freelancers were medieval knights (citation needed), who, owing allegiance to no specific lord, roamed around the countryside performing heroic deeds and acts of gallantry for pay. I think what we’re aspiring to with this blog is to make today’s freelancers feel a little more heroic. And of course, we want to do what we can to help you make a decent living. Even in the 14th century, I bet they were still clocking more than 15 cents an hour.


Image credit: Python (Monty) Pictures

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