The Guardian joined the ever-growing list of media companies cutting jobs, announcing it would slash 180 positions.
Job cutters range from media giants, like the BBC, to small operations, like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. And it’s not just newspapers. Magazines and marketing and ad agencies are laying off staff and downsizing too.
Freelancers and staff creatives seem like they’re in separate categories, but some of the lines are blurred and others are borderline close.
Since we all know how easily a neighbor’s drama can affect you, as freelancers, we need to pay attention to what’s happening to staff positions
Staffers Can Turn Into Competition
A lot of out-of-work staffers try to go freelance—at least for a while. And who can blame them?
Freelancing is one of those things that looks like a quick-fix. It looks like virtually anyone can use it to tide themselves over as long as they have something to offer.
Seasoned freelancers should expect, monitor and prepare for a flood of pop-up freelancers when unemployment is high.
And one of the things we need expect and prepare for is that many of them won’t know what the hell they’re doing.
Many ex-staffers don’t realize there’s more to freelancing than just waving around writing or photography skills and saying, here I am. Hire me.
They just jump into the freelance market with no real strategy and no idea what to offer and how much to charge.
A lot of times they’ll bring an employee mindset, which can change the dynamics between freelancers and freelance clients.
For example, staff writers are used to writing, responding to comments, promoting their work, attending events and meetings–all as part of the job.
For freelance writers, those additional tasks should be bringing in additional money.
Be careful to avoid getting so caught up in competing for work that you reverse course. Don’t lower your rates too easily. And don’t start giving away services unnecessarily.
Granted, there are times you have to adjust your business to suit the market, but you’ve got to keep in mind that many ex-staffers aren’t operating a business and most don’t plan to. They’re simply trying to survive until they find another job.
If you bend and bow to clients based on the moves ex-staffer are making, once they’re re-employed, we’ll be the ones left in a freelance market where we’re doing more work for less money.
We cannot let out-of-work staffers set us back.
Make the Distinction Between You & Them
If you suspect you’re competing against an out-of-work staffer OR if you know there are a lot of ex-staffers in the freelance market at any given time—double down on promoting your freelance service as a business.
Implant skepticism in clients’ minds about working with pop-up freelancers.
Most businesses don’t want to keep switching freelancers. They prefer to stick with reliable sources. So, tackle the issues of stability and selection head-on.
Sell them on the idea that working with people who are temporarily freelancing is bad for business.
Convince them that it’s in their best interest to avoid disruptions, delays, and turnover at all costs.
Make them believe that they’ll only enjoy certainty and stability if they forge reliable relationships. And they can only do that with tried-and-true freelance businesses.
If you’re communicating with prospective clients directly, the issue is easier to address. But when you’re applying to ads and cold-emailing, you can still get your message across by writing something like:
I understand the difficulties you face when hiring writers who apply to earn quick money. I understand how disruptive freelance turnover can be for your business. With so many layoffs throughout the media industry, many companies are concerned about hiring individuals who are freelancing today but may return to work tomorrow. [I or business name] operate a freelance copywriting/blogging/photography service with a 5-year track record of on-time delivery and long-term client relationships. I look forward to also developing a relationship with you and your audience.
Staff Cuts Create Freelance Openings
Another reason to monitor the media companies cutting jobs is because staff cuts can create freelance openings.
Just because a company can’t afford to keep its staff writers doesn’t mean it’ll stop investing in content.
Many companies lay off employees with the intention of hiring freelancers.
Some start out with the plan to shift the workload of the staffers leaving to those remaining, but that usually that isn’t sustainable long-term.
And regardless of whether or not working with freelancers is what a company has in mind, if you show up with the right offer at the right time, you could bag new clients.