Monday, February 23, 2009
Guest Blog: Welcome to the buyer's market—where all my buyers at?
Welcome to the buyer's market—where all my buyers at?
By Leslea M. Harmon
A publisher called me a couple of weeks to interview me for a job. It was a coveted work-from-home position, a writer/editor sort of thing, possibly with benefits. "Everything's negotiable at this point," she explained. "We really need someone to step into this role and we need it to be the right person." The implication was that while money was a factor, it wasn't the primary factor in hiring.
A sound business decision, right?
It seemed I was a strong candidate for the job—it was a trade mag for a specialized field I have years of experience and loads of viable contacts in, so it would definitely be a good fit—if the job still existed.
A week after the interview, the publisher called me frantically, and I definitely got the feeling she needed to talk about my start date, a second interview, training—something along those lines.
"We've had 200 resumes to sort through," she explained.
"We're definitely going to use a lot of freelancers, but we're not sure we want to hire someone full-time anymore."
And why should they?
Welcome to the buyer's market.
There are so many journalists and media professionals right now scrambling for jobs, it's alarming. Once in awhile, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself not to panic.
Sure, I was let down that someone called me to tell me I was great and they wanted to hire me, but that they decided to put the job search on hold altogether—that's a weird call to get, for sure, but I have a feeling this scenario is happening a lot, all around us. Every day I read that another magazine has bit the dust, or another Editor-in-Chief is out of work, being blamed for weak sales in the face of an unstable economy.
But what am I, the lowly job-seeker to take away from this? Should I panic and take whatever writing job I can get on the rebound? No way. Absolutely not. I've got a degree in accounting, a field that's always hiring, and if I'm going to sell out, I'll sell out in that direction. If I'm going to continue a writing career, I need to write the kind of stories I enjoy, myself. Period.
I've learned that it's better to establish a great relationship with an editor as the go-to freelancer than it is to rush into a permanent job with a nasty boss and bitter co-workers, driven by panic.
Committed to undesirable projects, you can't possibly do your best work—and when you take a job somewhere, you often don't have the option of saying "no". Freelancers pass on work when they're too booked up to produce on time. Cubicle slaves do not.
Cubicle slaves might have health insurance benefits, but they also have dry cleaning bills and commutes, not to mention co-workers wasting your time asking if you've watched the latest Crime Scene Emergency Room Courtroom Drama.
They also sometimes get emails that say "Clean out your desk by 2pm, our department just got cut."
The reality is, if you want to write your career your way, you've got to be flexible and not get discouraged just because others are freaking out. Maybe that means working temporary gigs, maybe it means branching out with your freelance work, or maybe, just possibly, it means jumping to Plan B and doing something else.
Take some time and think about this stuff quite seriously before you make any major career decisions. The fact is, being a self-employed writer has always been a lot of work—and just like any other field where people are losing their jobs, there will be a lot of people leaving this line of work to search for greener pastures.
As for me, I'm still looking.
I've got a manuscript I've been polishing for the past few months, and I'm dividing my time between current projects, the freelancer's never-ending quest for new projects, looking for an ongoing writing/editing job, as well as landing my dream job of being the next JK Rowling. (Okay, I'll settle for being the next Melissa Marr or Holly Black.)
Last I checked, the aforementioned publisher had decided to put hiring completely on hold for the position they were so desperate to fill a month ago. Citing circumstances beyond their control, they're not sounding so confident in today's climate. The fear virus definitely seems to be going around, but I refuse to catch it.
The writer's life has always been filled with pitches and rejections--I'm hoping the economy stabilizes and people stop freaking out, but this isn't exactly unfamiliar territory.
Who knows, maybe once publishers realize they've still got markets to sell to, they'll find themselves in a shortage for relevant content, and it'll become the writer's market, once again.
Leslea M. Harmon is a freelance journalist in the Louisville, KY area. She writes the column Guerilla Mothering and serves as a reporter/correspondent for various regional publications.
Visit her website at LMHarmon.com, or follow her tweets at twitter.com/LMHarmon.