Tag Archives: Emily Bazelon

Freelancing in a Recession: Can you Slash Your Way Out of It?

I got an email from a friend of a friend the other day asking me for advice about how to jump-start a freelance writing career. She’d written some fiction and gotten an MFA along the way, but was now fund-raising for a non-profit and feeling…well, kinda empty.

“There’s not enough time for me to do what I love,” she complained. “I want to dedicate myself to my writing.” But she wanted to know if it was really feasible…i.e. could one really earn a living as a freelance writer? “I like being able to buy myself a new pair of shoes every once in awhile,” she confessed. “I don’t like to stress about money all the time.”

I didn’t know what to tell her. I wanted to give her my usual spiel about how great it is to freelance:  the flexibility to set your own hours, the freedom to do what you love, the ability to wear your pajamas to work.

But I’d also just finished reading Emily Bazelon’s sobering analysis in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about self-employment in today’s economy. According to Bazelon, while the number of self-employed workers increased by 27 % between 1995 and 2005,  the current recession has hit this segment of the labor market particularly hard. There is both greater supply (due to the rise in the number of unemployed people willing to compete for such jobs) and less demand (at least in freelance-friendly service sector jobs like tutoring and personal fitness). Not such a pretty picture.

Of course, if the jobless rate is, in fact, tapering off, then perhaps things will look rosier in the future for those of us in the freelance world. More likely, however, and even if things do improve, freelancers will have to find new ways of blending different careers in order to make ends meet.

I’ve written before about Marci Alboher’s concept of “slash careers” as a way of enabling people with multiple interests to realize all of their professional dreams at once (see her book One Person, Multiple Careers for the full story). But Alboher has also written about slashing by necessity – how to add in the requisite slashes to make it through lean times. For freelance writers, in particular, she advocates a mixture of writing, teaching, speaking and consulting (which is, by the way, exactly what she’s done with her own career).

I don’t know if this is the way forward. But in a sea of otherwise depressing data, it’s at least something to think about.

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In the meantime, if you’re looking for inspiration, have a look at Cards of Change, a website devoted to the business cards of the unemployed seeking re-employment.

Image: 1930 Unemployment Line aka Bread Line by SIR: Poseyal Knight of the DESPOSYNI’s photostream via Flickr under a creative commons license.

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Tips for Adulthood: Five Signs that You Feel Nostalgic for Your Childhood

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s post builds on yesterday’s post about whether or not kids are growing up too quickly. Today, in a nod to my own early years, I post about five signs that you’re feeling nostalgic for your childhood:

1. You have an inappropriate attachment to Monopoly. You know it’s bad when you hold up Monopoly as the paragon of a “real game” to your kids (unlike that “junk” they play on the computer). As a recent article in Wired magazine points out, Monopoly is actually a really stupid game because the only strategic question is “buy or not buy” and you spend the whole time trying to reduce your opponent to dust. And yet, I still find myself oddly drawn to the role of deeder (or whatever you call that person who hands out the properties). Then again, my conception of a video game doesn’t extend much beyond Pacman, so maybe that’s what I really ought to be concerned about.

2. You still buy candy necklaces. And eat them. What? Am I the only one who does this?

3. You tear up at children’s concerts. Worse, you sing along. Especially when someone plays Puff the Magic Dragon. The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be my kids who are singing. I was at a farmer’s market a few years back when this pudgy 11 year old girl from the local junior high got up and sang Tomorrow (from Annie). Before I knew it, tears began to slowly fall across my face. Someone next to me asked if the little girl was my child. “Um…no,” I was forced to reply. “I just like this song.”

4. You wish you had a mood ring. Remember those? The ones that told you what mood you were in by the color of the ring? Mine always seemed to be black, which I think meant “nervous.” Pretty much tells you all you need to know about my childhood.

5. You still find yourself attracted to Luke Skywalker. My son had a play date recently with another little boy and they started arguing over whether or not Anakin Skywalker was ugly. (Read here for a great article by Slate’s Emily Bazelon about the enduring appeal of Star Wars for little boys.) I suddenly felt compelled to jump in and defend Luke’s looks. The little boy turned to me and said: “Oh! Do you fancy Luke? He looks very smart.” At which point I had to admit begrudgingly that, yes, I do in fact fancy Luke.

*****

In case you missed it – and because it’s already making the rounds of the Mommy Blog circuit – here’s a link to Ayelet Waldman’s remarkably candid interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where she talks about her new book, Bad Mother.

Image: New Monopoly Board by Vinduhl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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