Thanks to an indecent proposal by an Atlantic editor recently, the media world has turned its Sauron eye on the freelance writing industry and then flared it in distaste. I can vouch for much of the field’s unpleasantness: The pay is erratic, rejection is inevitable (and frequent!) and sometimes you forget what it’s like to see human beings on a daily basis. Haha, totally kidding about that last one, kind of.
But today I was reminded that my fellow writerly friends — of the full-time variety — face their own kinds of obstacles. I might have a regular client tell me their budget has tightened, leaving me scrambling to fill that void with other work; but a full-time writer can have their entire job slipped out from underneath them with no safety net within reach. That’s what happened to my friend today, and it sucks.
If there is such a thing as a solution to these pitfalls, it is to be constantly planning new routes ahead. Or put another way, you should always be knitting your own safety net. (Do you knit safety nets? I dunno, I’m not much of a textile person.)
My friend will be fine because she is a talented, hard-working writer who has built up many areas of expertise. Either she’ll find work in one of them or her track record will persuade someone to hire her to develop another.
I’ve developed my photography skills so I can take photo jobs and offer clients a more complete package in addition to my reporting. Video is where I’m working next. If one leg falls, I’ll have at least two others to keep me upright. If you’re a writer, or even if you’re not, I’d suggest you do the same. It’s time to get knitting (or whatever) on that safety net.