Sorry Freelance Writers, the Odds Are Never in Your Favor

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Four out of 10 Americans get less sleep than doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle, and we’re betting that 40% includes plenty of freelancer writers. Although some people might imagine freelancing or telecommuting as a stress-free, stay at home on the couch type of gig, the reality is a bit messier. Not only do freelancers have to constantly hustle for new opportunities, sometimes they have to chase down payments they were promised. If the check does come on-time, payments for investigative stories often amount to less than minimum wage.
And even though editorial employees at Gawker Media, ViceSalon, and more digital newsrooms are organizing unionization efforts to improve work conditions and benefits, freelancers are being left out in the cold. And that’s despite the fact that more than two-thirds of working writers in the U.S. are currently freelancing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Digital media is growing up and it’s time our digital reporters received the same benefits and protections as their print media colleagues,” says Bernard Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild-CWA.
Even though content is supposedly king in 2015, Forbes reports that editorial staffers are often some of the lowest-paid employees at major websites like Buzzfeed and Vice. And freelance writers are often much more vulnerable than full-time writers.
In a statement to ForbesGawker writer Hamilton Nolan said, “There is definitely interest in addressing issues facing contract employees in the contract.”
Forbes notes that freelance reporters are getting a particularly raw deal in 2015, with payments that rarely-to-never cover the time it takes to research, report, write, and edit an in-depth story. For perspective, elite publications like The New Yorker pay just $250 for long investigative stories.
Ultimately, the calculus of traffic and banner advertising is simply a losing proposition for most writers. Although some writers might hold out hope that fledgling unionization efforts will have trickle down benefits for freelancers, barring major chances in the economics of digital publishing, that could very well be wishful thinking.

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