A recent “People@Work” article on AOL’s daily finance section focused on the 42 million U.S. freelancers. The article highlights a survey from the Freelancers Union about the lack of a safety net for freelancers, including unemployment insurance and a healthcare pool. It’s an important issue, and one I’ll be following. There should certainly be some kind of a safety net, particularly when you are too sick or injured to freelance. There should at least be a form of unemployment insurance to help freelancers during leaner times. I am hopeful for the exchanges that are provided for by the recent healthcare reform.
I also think freelancers need to keep things in perspective.
When I was a salaried worker slogging through the worst economic downturn of my generation, I went through two massive pay cuts, taking on the work of three people, and the loss of healthcare, on top of a two-hour daily commute. I didn’t complain a lot (except to my wife or family) because I knew other folks (as well as people throughout the world) had it worse than me. It’s part of the buy-in when you are a salaried worker in a mixed economy.
With freelancing (whether you’re a freelance writer, editor, designer, programmer, and so forth) you take on a degree of uncertainty in exchange for the freedom. You wear the hat of salesperson, AR, HR, producer, accountant, and CEO simultaneously. You have to hustle and chase every lead that comes across your computer screen or networking lunch. It’s not meant to be easy, and, to my mind, every freelancer should have a Plan B for the lean times. That could be a savings account, a CD, playing the market, or stuffing dollar bills in a box under your bed.
The freedom to write our own check (literally) in a mixed economy comes with certain risks, and we should prepare for them.