We revisit 14 content sites to take the pulse of today’s freelance market
This column appeared April 27, 2001, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
By J.D. Lasica
Two short years ago we were partying away, Gatsby-like, in the Golden Age of Web Freelancing, a time when dozens of spry Internet startups with an insatiable hunger for content opened their fat wallets and showered talented young writers, editors and artists with bylines, beaucoup bucks and long overdue respect.
OJR heralded the Golden Age in a two-part series detailing freelance opportunities at seven top content sites and at seven more Web wonders — a sampling of 14 sites whose world view promised to overthrow the old order and give freelance journalists their proper due as masters of the universe.
In case any doubt lingered, the Golden Age has turned to dross.
As the Internet economy has spiraled into a bottomless free-fall, so too have the once ubiquitous freelance gigs. Even Web sites like elance and guru.com, which promised to revolutionize the workplace by raising “free agents” to demigod status, have shown us a glimpse of the real future: dozens of temps low-balling each other at rates that would make an Egyptian slave blush.
Now that the content love fest is officially over, we resurveyed all 14 content sites for a reality check. Do they still accept freelance? Have they slashed their rates? Do they still have a pulse?
The news is not all bad. A few of the sites that survived the carnage still rely on contract help — and their checks don’t bounce. But others have scaled back their ambitions considerably. Content may yet rise again, but for now, there’s no sight of Pericles leading us into a new golden age.
Here’s an update on the state of Web free-lancing:
Then: The award-winning crime news site, launched Nov. 11, 1998 in New York, featured daily news and enterprise coverage written by a staff of 17 reporters and editors and a national network of correspondents that grew to more than 130 contract writers. Rates ranged from $150 for a “quickie” assignment to $900 for an in-depth piece, but most fell in the $350 to $450 range.