Numbers Are Fun When They’re About You: 2012 Freelancer Industry Survey

A few months ago I participated in an online survey of freelancers and their business, and they just released their results! They surveyed nearly 1,500 freelancers across 50 industries and multiple countries.

Here’s a cool little infographic summing up the data:

 2012 Freelancer Survey Infographic

Here are a few other stats that I found cool.

  • 18% of the freelancers surveyed are writers. We’re the second most common type of freelancer out there! And if you combine us with copywriters (10%), we’d be first!
  • 20% of freelancers say finding clients is their biggest challenge. On the other hand, most freelancers spend only 5 hours a month or less looking. What does that tell you? We complain a lot, that’s what!
  • Referrals are the number one method of finding clients, followed by word of mouth. Yes, students: networking is important.
  • Videographers/video editors have the most trouble getting paid on time. Really! And I thought I had it bad!
  • Photographers have the toughest time managing time and staying productive. Can any photographers out there chime in and verify this?

All in all, very interesting stuff. I would’ve liked to see more non-North American freelancers represented (that really would’ve screwed with the average income numbers, come to think of it), but the report is still pretty good overall.

So what’s my take-away from all this? Well, I probably need to review my rates. And call up a few old clients.

You can download the full report here:

After The Dream

It’s the modern-day dream. Being able to work for yourself without being tied down to an office, a boss, or a company. No dream comes free though, and all freelancers have to take the good with the bad. But who are you to complain. You’re living the dream, right?

Right.  

That’s what I always thought until I spoke to Hollis Bartlett, a freelance web developer and designer I met a few days ago. He’s been building websites since 1996 and loves what he does. He’s built a very successful business for himself, and even hired an assistant developer to help him with the workload.

Unfortunately, the nature of the business just became too much for him, and he decided to hang up his mouse and keyboard and (partially) retire. Here’s an excerpt of his email to me:

I’ve grown to dislike the business. It’s a shame, because I still love creating designs in Photoshop, and oddly enough I love love love creating web design using css & html. I love putting together CMS templates with all of these components, and my favourite part is still helping people get their business online properly. The business part afterwards, however, sucks the big one. Waiting for invoices to get paid (usually late). People not paying attention to what you tell them, and constantly bugging you for shit you already told them 10 times. People don’t read emails. They assume they can call you at any time of the day, on any day of the week including Sundays.  I had one show up at my house unannounced on a Sunday afternoon.

You can read the rest of it here.

The reason I find this so poignant is that many people (myself included) dream of being able to support ourselves and our families by doing the thing we love. We work hard and put ourselves through hell to make it happen and, through luck and blood and sweat, some of us do. Hollis did.

What Hollis’ experience taught me is that there’s always an after. Always. Life doesn’t stop once you reach that dream. You don’t watch the sunset through your home office window and cue the credits to roll. Things still happen. Projects fail. Clients complain. Bills come in. Your motivation dies. The dream fades to gray.

By that same token, you don’t have to stay there. Things can turn sour, but there’s always a way to make it better. Hollis took the leap by retiring and moving to a new city. I’m sure other freelancers who got sick of the job adapted in their own way as well, whether by retiring or evolving into different services.

Will I ever be able to support my family with my freelancing? Am I ever going to be a published author? It might happen. Once I do, will I eventually get sick of it? It’s possible. What am I going to do when it actually happens? I have no idea.

Do you?

Fool Me Once, Shame On Me

I had mentioned in a previous blog post that I had a certain delinquent payment that I was trying to resolve. I wouldn’t say I was chasing the editor down. Rather, I was just emailing every single person on the magazine’s contact page until I found one that would respond. Very reasonable, right? No cuss words or stalker-ish phone calls or anything. And it just so happened that the person who responded was their publisher!

Perfect! Attention from the top!

This person was very polite, even after I sent her the delinquent invoice of $80, and said the payment would be taken care of in short order. Sure enough, after an hour, I received a payment in Paypal. But it was only for $25. Huh?

I was by turns confused, concerned, insulted, confused again, and finally curious. There had to be a mistake somewhere.

And there was. Just not where I was expecting.

I mentioned (in very polite terms) the agreement that the editor and I had at the start of the project. I referenced the amount in the job ad they’d posted, which was the same amount the editor and I discussed over the phone. $80. The publisher politely but firmly instructed me that there must’ve been some confusion, and to consult the contract I’d signed at the start of the project.

Uh oh.

Did you read?

I checked. And there it was, in black and white. $25.

Now, I could’ve gone ballistic and yelled my head off about not getting the agreed upon amount. I could’ve sent a nasty email about the bait and switch that these people were pulling on contributors who work in good faith. But really, all I could muster was a resigned thought: They got me.

1st rule of freelancing is to always check your contract. Always. Golden rule. So this situation is really my own fault. The magazine may have been sneaky and underhanded, but they did nothing illegal. I signed a contract that I didn’t read. Lesson learned, watch out next time.

And honestly? I’m just glad I got paid at all.

Coming Up For Air

Coming up for air

Sup?

Things have been pretty busy for me the past couple of weeks. I didn’t want to let this blog sit for too long without an update, but neither do I have time to do multiple updates, so I’m putting it all into one blog post. Warning, it may be long-ish.

Freelance Stuff

Good news: Quite a few projects going on. One that I’m really enjoying right now is doing mod reviews for a little game called Minecraft. I think I must be the only freelancer online being paid for this kind of thing. Most of my other projects are small but consistent, and that’s just what I need right now. Especially considering…

Bad news: … that a feature magazine article I wrote back in March has not yet been paid. The editor is ignoring my emails, even the ones with a copy of the contract that SHE gave me. Considering my options. More on this as it develops.

Baby Stuff

I think Avi is going to grow up to be a performer or something. She loves dance videos and imitates nearly every move she sees on-screen. In fact, she already predicts her favorite videos and beats the performers to the punch!

Creative Writing Stuff

I’ve been doing a lot of work on my first novel. I’ve written others before, but I’m hoping this will be the first one I actually COMPLETE. Things are looking good so far. I’ve set a fairly aggressive daily writing quota (for me anyway), and if I can hit that 3 times out of 5 I’ll still be in good shape. And before you ask, yes. I did hit today’s quota, and then some. Which is why I have time to blog.

Flash Fiction Online Stuff

Still slogging through the slush pile. There are days when I dread logging into Submishmash, but being able to find that one gem in all the muck is a rewarding experience.

Day Job Stuff

Have I ever done a post about my new job? I don’t believe so. Well, let me just say that In-house Marketing is a far cry from Agency Marketing. A far, far, FAR cry. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at this many spreadsheets before in my life. It’s all important though, and I do think I’m getting the hang of it.

Okay, I think that’s everything. I’ll try to work on a more topical post as my schedule warrants.

Job Postings from Hell: The Fantasist

As a freelancer, I’ve come across my fair share of horribly written job ads. Wrong grammar, unrealistic terms, and horrendously low pay. But I recently stumbled across one that takes the cake, if only because it involves something close to my heart: fantasy fiction.

Here are some of the choicer bits:

I’m not going to lie my book does need some serious work.
How bad is it?
I don’t know I’m not an editor. but the previous editor told me it took her 45min to an hour per page.

45 minutes per page? Writing something from scratch would be faster! I’ve often had to struggle with horrible writing, but come on!

the book is about 70 pages.
the Word count is 30,500

A 30,000 word fantasy novel? That’s shorter than a single chapter from Game of Thrones.

the book is an action adventure book with mythical creatures, magic and sword fighting, hilarious moments, and hints of romance.

This better not be going in your query letter, buddy, because you just described nearly every fantasy novel in existence.

Condensation to be discussed, and agreed upon during the project.

I think I’d rather discuss my pay, and not my house’s moisture level.

I’ve got a news flash for you, pal.

Ouch.

Trust me on this.

Slush Surfing: Crying Hard

Crying baby

Yes, you CAN overdo it.

As authors, we’re always trying to make an emotional connection to our readers. You could argue that emotion is the real driving force of any story. Plot may get your characters from A to B, but emotion is what makes us care.

But you can’t be too heavy-handed. People are smart. They know when someone is trying to play on their emotions.

Most of the stories I voted down had that kind of problem. One story was about a husband dealing with his wife’s death. The father’s grief was written in such grueling, meticulous, painstaking detail that after the third paragraph I was rolling my eyes and skimming the page (This may seem hard-hearted, but remember these are fictional characters we’re talking about).

You can direct emotions the wrong way, too, which ruins a story just as much. One “motherhood” story had the main character actually treating each of her child’s milestones as if they were funerals! She even used the words “death” and “die” at several points, to emphasize the loss of her child-that-was. I would never think of Avi’s milestones that way, and it offended me that the author would even say something like that! I didn’t even need to think about rejecting that one.

Approach the reader’s heart properly, and you can tell him anything. Case in point: one submission’s plot revolved around a middle school girl coming home every day with multiple stab wounds. Brutal and graphic, I know. But the emotion was handled so artfully that it won over most of the staff.

Even though I read a lot of stories that didn’t make it off the runway of emotional connection (and some that took a dive straight into the ocean), I’m not condemning their efforts. I’m trying to find that same balance in my own writing, and I know exactly how hard that is.

The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to dial it back.