Some freelancers (OK, me) are wondering how the economy affects our prospects as self-employed writers. Every where you look there is some kind of economic nonsense brewing, from prices at the pump to the political crisis over how to fix the massive potholes on Wall Street. Is freelancing headed for a crisis of its’ own?
Unfortunately there is no single answer to that question, but we can take a look at major players in the media and see where the trends might be going. A look at the radio industry is a good place to start. Take this quote from Radio and Records, THE industry weekly for the radio business. According Jeffery Yorke’s front-page article, August was a rotten month for radio all around. “The way CL King & Associates media analyst Jim Boyle sees it,” writes Yorke, “The news about August’s revenue decline is not that it was a whopping 11% but that ‘more than 90% of markets were down.'”
Now radio is not directly related to freelance writing, but cross-reference that with an article at AdWeek. A piece by John Consoli declares second quarter ad spending this year was the lowest since 2001. That’s across the board, but does include print. The only publications listed by genre to see gains? Sunday magazines. There’s a subtle hint there, I think, dear freelancer, but that’s an awfully small slice compared to the rest of the pie.
What does that mean for those of us hoping to get into or stay in print?
It means that if such trends continue, print publications will have to do a serious re-think of their spending habits. The good news is that we’re coming up on November, and the elections have major potential to forestall (at the very least) any further economic issues. We might get a reprieve for the elections, and if the fix is in for some of our economic problems, we could see consumer confidence–and the resulting confidence of advertisers to spend money again on their favorite magazines–increase.
If you are working to get into print, keep firing away, but get your tough times plan together NOW if you haven’t already. We could be in the clear as early as summer 2009, but just in case we have to brace for tough times, it would be good of you to have a nest egg set aside.
How to do that is another topic for another article, but just in case you were wondering what’s ahead, I’d take a hint from that goofy old Men At Work song…”Get it together, we’re in for some stormy weather.”