In the internet age, there are numerous Freelancers who gain significant notoriety through social media platforms, mainly Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or their blogs. Their accounts have thousands of subscribers and followers. Paid advertising deals have come to about all of them and provide a revenue stream. However, advertising deals are not all equal and advertising rates received can be too low to substantively impact one’s financial status. Often, the achievement of notoriety earns these Freelancers little money.
Among the primary differences in earning a living in the 20th and 21st centuries is that in the former, one made money by doing a particular activity, such as law, medicine, secretarial, writing, or being a musical entertainer. In this century, there are proportionately far fewer traditionally employed full-time workers and many more of the self-employed.
A 2017 study by Intuit (maker of QuickBooks) reports that 34% of U.S. workers are self-employed, swelled by Lyft and Uber drivers who join the usual plumbers, electricians, website developers and event planners. The path to money for Freelancers is to skillfully parlay the achievement of notoriety into a series of revenue streams that create a sustainable income.
For example, Freelance writers of magazine articles were formerly paid $1.00 per word or more and many publications would regularly hire writers to produce 500 – 1500 word articles. The writing life was good. Even those who wrote for a mid-level daily newspaper and occasionally submitted a story to a middle-brow magazine could be financially comfortable.
Then the internet age arrived and turned the world on its head, in more ways than one. Online ads may sometimes be clever but they are apparently perceived as less compelling than the full-page ads that once fattened your Sunday newspaper and as a result, online ads command a lower price. Advertising revenue is tanking and has caused publishers to cut back on editors’ salaries and perks. Compensation for writers at online magazines is a mere pittance. In the literary world, advances to writers have become smaller and less frequent. Book tours are for big-name authors only. Publishers and editors-in-chief have much smaller budgets and the chauffeured town car to take them to the office is about to disappear. The Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone editors-in-chief recently announced their retirements.
Musical entertainers of every level made money from record sales, singles and albums, plus touring. But in the late 1990s that began to change when Napster brought about peer-to-peer sharing of music files. Today, music is downloaded and performers from Nicki Minaj, who is the face of MAC cosmetics, to Lady Gaga for Tiffany & Company, use their famous brands to generate millions of dollars for the corporation and themselves by appearing in ads. Touring remains relevant but music sales, for decades the very reason for being for a musical entertainer, are greatly diminished.
In the 21st century, one must learn to generate a livable and sustainable income as a result of one’s writing, or other expertise. This is an unprecedented shift in the way an economy works. The big challenge for those of us who are self-employed and following the playbook as regards developing a strong online presence, teaching at the university level, speaking at business and professional associations will not appear in an auto advertisement any time soon monetize their comparatively modest brand and perhaps superior expertise? For those who no longer find an open door to full-time, benefits paying employment, making a living only becomes more difficult as time goes on.
So what does one do? Suggestions on how to make money by building on your brand will be featured in next week’s post.
Thanks for reading,
Academy Award winning actress Joan Crawford (Best Actress 1945, Mildred Pierce), who was the Pepsi Cola brand ambassador, in Frankfurt, Germany (1963). Photograph: Tony Evanoski/Stars and Stripes (publication that has served military personnel since 1936)