People on Twitter are eviscerating an article and a tweet accompanying it that claim millennials, “the largest demographic in the American workforce,” are “increasingly deciding to freelance.”
Millennials are now the largest demographic in the American workforce, and they’re increasingly deciding to freelance:42% now freelance, up from 38% in 2014. https://t.co/l4Dlz1vppg— Fast Co. Ideas (@FastCoIdeas) December 26, 2018
The article, titled “We studied freelancing for five years: Here’s how work is changing,” was published in Fast Company in October and tweeted out Wednesday. (Many media companies recirculate older, evergreen stories during the slow traffic week between Christmas and New Year’s.) It’s written by Stephane Kasriel, the CEO of Upwork ― the “largest freelancing website, where businesses connect with talented freelancers to get more done.”
In the article, Kasriel describes a report commissioned by his organization and the Freelancers Union, titled “Freelancing in America: 2018.” The study, which “surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers,” indicates that many millennials are choosing to freelance because of flexibility, quality of life and technology. But there is one important population it avoids discussing: freelancers who don’t actually want to be freelancers.
Many writers and reporters are freelancers out of necessity after getting laid off from their jobs. They freelance to stay in their chosen field but often have a hard time cobbling together a living if they’re not well-known in the industry or lack connections.
Here’s a bigger picture of how widespread layoffs are in the media industry: Since 2017, about one-third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs, according to Pew Research. In just the last six months, we’ve seen layoffs at the New York Daily News, The Outline, Hearst, Refinery29, Vocativ, CNN Digital, Vice and BuzzFeed, while employees at publications like Mic have been entirely wiped out.
As freelance writer and author Shea Serrano tweeted: “People who don’t have to freelance love to romanticize freelancing — the actual truth is that making a living as a freelancer is harder than hard and sucks a ton of the time.”
Understandably, the piece garnered an intense reaction from many working in the media industry, including freelancers themselves:
“Deciding” to freelance. Sure buddy. https://t.co/kwM8Can9Wq— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) December 26, 2018
They are not deciding to freelance. If you’re paying a vast majority of them less than 40-50k a year with no health insurance, what else are they supposed to do? The safety net is nowhere to be found and millennials are being exploited on a daily basis. https://t.co/Ff8dG09gIX— Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins) December 26, 2018
People dying of thirst are now the largest demographic in the desert, and they’re increasingly deciding to drink their own urine. https://t.co/GZRHpWraaB— Scott Wampler™ (@ScottWamplerBMD) December 26, 2018
Ah yes one of the most luxurious and relaxing periods of my life, when I “decided” to freelance https://t.co/TOYZUdlkkn— Vinnie Mancuso (@VinnieMancuso1) December 26, 2018
“Women are increasingly deciding to be handmaids in Gilead”— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) December 26, 2018
“Deciding to freelance” is a strange was of saying “being forced into job insecurity” https://t.co/1HYsTbPejP— Jason Linkins (@dceiver) December 26, 2018
This is like saying people who are starving are deciding to go without food to lose weight. https://t.co/2cTxtG4Y60— Imran Khan (@imranzomg) December 26, 2018
this is why I am so against “personal responsibility”it’s a narrative that allows these problems that are responsibilities of the system to be offloaded onto us…no, we don’t decide to freelance, we are living in a world that is working overtime to exploit us further https://t.co/AVZgNSKyGJ— Poinsettia Coffin (any/all) (@petercoffin) December 26, 2018
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