Open Thread: How Is Today’s Economy for Freelancing?

Can you believe it, we’re already five months into 2011?

One of the main issues characterizing the time that we live in, and in particular, this year is the poor economy. While the economy may be improving, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I feel that today’s economy is rougher than it was when I first began my freelancing business.

Of course, a rough economy isn’t always bad news for freelancers. In fact, it could be good news if companies replace the employees that they’ve let go with freelance workers. (And I believe this is often the case.)

So, what I’m wondering today is:

How has the economy affected your freelancing business?

Things have changed a bit since we first asked about the economy in 2008 and we’d like to hear what freelancers have to say about the economy today.

Have you had to make any adjustments or changes to your business due to the 2011 economy? If so, what were they?

Has your freelancing business benefitted in any way from the economy?

Share your answers in the comments.


  1. says

    One of the things that affects me and other British writers is that the work that we do for dollars is of less value because of the exchange rate. The other thing that we seem to see more of now are people that expect freelancers to work for practically nothing, when I see jobs advertised at $2 for 500 words it really makes me cross. A laborer is worthy of their hire and that kind of offer is an insult

  2. says

    How else would you find someone to do the job for $2? Do you think that they paid more than $2 to advertise?

    Who are you cross at? The advertiser or the person willing to work for the $2?

  3. says

    Hi Laura,
    Great topic. I’ve actually just had my best month since I started out on my own two years ago. Whether it’s because of the economy improving over all or it’s because of the way I’ve tried to build my business, only time will tell! I will be interested to see what other readers say.

  4. Kav says

    I had to close my freelancing shop due to

    1. Client were not paying me what I was looking for and I cant make my living with they pay Versus the time it takes to finish project / product.

    2. Not consistant flow of project / work, no long term commitments from client

    To make living / pay rent & utility I had to switch to job few months back. I am expecting it go open my bussiness again after some improvement

  5. says

    While based on what I see around me, for example based on the fact that another house was foreclosed next to my house last month, the economy is still in terrible shape, I have been very busy so far this year.

    I basically have to work 7 days a week.

    I have to work so much that I have to fight carpal tunnel syndrome now. I took two aspirins today and it does not hurt much anymore, which is lucky for me as I have 3 more pages of a long German patent to translate if I want to finish it by the deadline, which is June 9.

    2009 and 2010 were 2 lean years for me, but it looks like 2011 will be the turnaround year.

    Some of it may be luck, but it may be also that the economy is not so bad for freelancers.

    I wonder if more people have had the same experience.

  6. says

    Hi everyone!

    This is a very interesting topic. I can provide my point of view from “this side” of the problem, because I’m from Argentina and I do some freelancing projects as web designer.
    We usually work for much less than freelancers from other parts of the world. We realize that this is a though competition for this people, because of the difference between the costs of living in each country. For us, 100 dollars are quite a lot of money, so we are willing to make a relative large project for that ammount.
    The other big issue is that anyone can enter into this markets, so, a proffesional designer or developer, who invested a lot of money and time going to college, can be taken out by some teenager from a country like mine, and that’s not fair.
    The thing is that we can perform quite well, so for companies and clients from the first world, the freelancing market is a great place to outsource a lot of work for very little money, and we will take them because we need that money, so this is a truly complicated topic. As we can see in other comments in this thread, many freelancers had to switch jobs or to take extra work loads to make a living. The same happens to us, because we have to compete against people from India for example, which are excellent and much more cheap than us, so we are also in disadvantage.
    The additional problem is that we have to compete in prices, so the result is that we all end up working for a penny, making this a vicious circle.
    Until goverments step into this parallel world of freelancing, I don’t think this is going to change, In fact, I believe that this is going to be more and more frequent than ever.


  7. says

    Hey everybody,

    I am a freelancer for little while, I am just building my bussiness. What I am sure of, is that most of the clients pay a lot of ettention to what they spend and what they spend it on. I have about ten years of expertise in web development and my biggest problem is competing with less experience, doing less good work. I understand the bussiness logic point of view: the client is not interested in having a good site, he is interested in having the site that reaches the minimal functionality he is looking for. Finding the balance between the two above is the most difficult thing I ever did. Actually, this is all about selling my knowledge the best way I can, in this harsh economic context.

    Anyone else having the same problem? Any advice?

    Have good bussiness!

  8. TLC says

    As usual early spring was a bit slow. But I still did well enough to buy a new car, which was very scary. Now one of my client wants to bump up my work fro 20 hours a month to 20 hours a week! And I did three proposal last week and have another to consider. I think things are better this year, but people are still hesitant to spend money.

  9. says

    Great discussion!

    I love all the different perspectives. I realize that this question is probably partly dependent on where you live, although freelancers can (and many do) work globally through the Internet.

  10. says


    With all the talk of a bad economy – I took the opportunity to raise my prices. – It worked!.
    Now I have gotten rid of the people that had slowed me down before.

    I thought business would drop – It did a bit but I pretty much doubled my rates. – I give 25% discount to long term clients and keep new ones at the new rate.

    I have earned more while working less. Seen how high everything cost has made me realize that what we get paid – compared to what we bring to the table for a business is worth a lot more than most of charge.

    We create business – we improve business – in some cases have created lifestyles for others – Best feeling is when I have a client tell me that their new website has increased their earnings!!! –

    Raise your rates and believe in what you are worth and bring to the table!!! – Bad economy does not mean no business – Business is happening all around us!!! and prices keep going up! Dont do work for a low price! You do a de-service to the industry

  11. says

    @Frederick Pohl: I really like this post, good job. :)

    I’m building an e-commerce site for a friend and I hope to see the same thing for him.

    I’ll say that freelancing doesn’t have the ceiling of a traditional job. Freelancers have the potential to tap global markets, their choice of work, their choice of clients, and their choice of time to work.

    I think freelancers always have the edge in a bad economy. Being payed is dependent on the freelancer, if they are good at networking and selling their knowledge, they’ll prosper.

    If you work at a regular job, you get cut when you’re seen as “fluff.” Think about that. You can be seen as someone valuable to your industry or you can be seen as fluff when your company is in financial pain. I’ve got nothing against a regular job, I attend to have one while I do part-time freelancing. I’m just noting the differences as I experienced different things.

    As far as I’m concerned, the best way to get work is to talk to people you know and establish a connection. This can be at college or it can be at a forum. I have 3 clients who want me to do work for them and I met all of them on a forum. As long as you establish your knowledge, people will come to you. I guarantee it. Just as students go to a math teacher because she is clearly a master of her craft.

    Another thing is that freelancers can make fair money. The ceiling isn’t nearly as low as a regular job. This should allow freelancers enough padding to put some away for a rainy day in my opinion.

  12. says

    I have just graduated with a design degree. Although I love the idea of being my own boss, I am first taking a stab at getting a regular 9-5 job while I build my side business over the years. I am hoping to have children in the next 5-7 years, and when I am a mother, I would like to freelance so I can get my children around and take care of them. It’s great to see everyone’s opinions and experiences on this subject. Thank you for the post!

  13. says

    Hi Laura… the answer to your question will depend on a freelancer’s location and living standards. For example, it can be tough for freelancers in the U.S. to be charging almost 50% lower than what they used to do when they are employed full-time… but, those in developing countries may find a gold mine for, let’s say a $5 an hour ( or less ) job writing a 500 word article for a client. I guess, those who are benefiting in these tough times are those in the developing world and they say China will be the next America? We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. Cheers!

  14. says

    What I find most fascinating here is the idea that more writing will be outsourced to freelancers in other countries. No one I’ve ever worked with has tried this, but maybe it will be a trend to watch for.


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