Will layoffs cause a freelance tsunami?

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Dr. Freelance, I’ve got quite a few friends in the newspaper business who’ve been laid off in recent months, and many of them are hanging up a shingle as a freelancer. Do you think this is going to lower prices and/or create more competition for freelance gigs? — Freelance Tsunami Watcher

Freelance Tsunami Watcher, I’ve seen the same thing, with tons of friends (in all types of media, not just papers) who’ve lost their jobs in the past year. It’s pretty awful. There are several factors to my answer:

  • How many of them really want to be full-time freelance, vs. those who are simply biding their time before getting another job
  • How much work is being added to the market because of the loss of full-time employees in non-media businesses
  • Newspapers may be going the way of the buggy whip, but the Big Unknown is what new areas of demand will be created once the economy starts to recover

Personally, I think pricing and the availability of work are far more at the mercy of the economy in general than they are to a glut of displaced workers. While there’s no such thing as the “state of the freelance union,” you can take a look at the Freelance Forecast to get an idea of how other independent creatives are thinking.

At the risk of sounding like a dad, my best advice is that it’s not something to be concerned about because it’s something you can’t do anything about. Unlike a real tsunami, which should send you running for higher ground, I believe the correct step for any impending freelance tsunami is to keep your mind on your own business.

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