Discovering the FREE in Freelancing

January 4. Was it really that long ago that I last posted?

Not here to bemoan the passage of time, my absence of posting within it or to catch up. A ridiculous notion.

I am here to express, and to a certain extent unload, the dismay that blankets me now. I’m a freelancer who’s discovered the operative element in that word: free.

Doesn’t matter where I work. Okay, a small local paper. Doesn’t matter where. Okay, in a state that starts with A and btw, I love Arizona. It’s a damn fine state and plentiful red for this hardcore conservative libertarian.

Doesn’t matter the town’s name. Really doesn’t.

What’s notable is I’m a freelance reporter, features specifically, at this little paper. I was brought on board as a stringer so no illusions about it being “fulltime” or “well paid” or bountiful in production. About 8-12 stories a week (it’s a weekly) was a reasonable expectation. Thus FT-ish and I could squeak by long as I keep expenses uber low.

Well, it hasn’t gone that way in quantity (reasons unnecessary for this posting) and even if those confining conditions are “removed,” couldn’t say the figure’s reasonable.


I’m so excited! My first full paycheck in a long time AND for doing something I love and am meant to do! Work with purpose! Pay for work with purpose! A concept that I must continually roll around on my tongue like a spiced walnut or splash of (not cheap box) red wine.

I know it won’t be much. A few hundred dollars that’ll pay most but not all the rent. It’s progress from continuing to dip into the fund left by a family member and I’m in NO WAY ready or desiring to write about him and that passing on the blog or anywhere else.

I delay opening the envelope containing the check. I want to savor the anticipation of being paid for what I love to do and am meant to do. I continue the walk through the desert heat toward home.

Finally I’m ready. “$325 or so isn’t a lot but it’ll go toward the rent. I’m excited!”

I open the envelope, remove the check. My eyes widen. My breathing stops. My heartbeat’s arrested.

$159 and some change.

Wait, is that right? I scrutinize the attached record of stories and photos for the past two weeks. Repeatedly. Many times over. I practically memorize it.

It’s accurate. No articles or photos overlooked.

In a two-week period, I’ve earned $159.

That’s a few tanks of gas. Not even half the rent. I’m heartsick and stomach-sick. I feel like throwing up. The emotion is that intense. Emotion of what? Lack. Panic. Creeping return impoverishment and poverty (that I’ve already been through, endured, survived.)

Prosperity? No. Abundance. Fuck no, save for the love of writing on the spiritual plane. But spirit don’t gotta have an abode to live. Or bills to pay.

Two weeks of work. $159. It spins inside heart and mind, instigating an urge to both cry and vomit. I’ve always held my emotions in my stomach. I’m heartsick and heartbroken both.

= = =

I calculate things. I earn a penny a word. It gets worse. I roughly calculate in my mind the hours spent on each story. The time to travel, to do the interviews, to take the photos, to transcribe the recorded interview, to write the raw story, to *craft* the story, to manage the photos and write the captions.

I might make $5 an hour.

What is the minimum wage in Arizona? $7.80.

= = =

The life for this freelancer is this. That which is described above. I work as close to free as I’ve ever worked in my adult lifetime.

I work and so damn hard, with love in my heart and passion for writing.

For it — that is, two weeks of such impassioned and meticulous time and labor (of love) and work — I receive: approximately three tanks of gas.

I want to cry and die both. That is how heartsick I am.

27 July 2013


4 responses to “Discovering the FREE in Freelancing

  1. Yeah, got a friend who’s working as a “reporter” for BigMediaCo. In this case, all he does is copy news articles from other sources… He probably gets paid the same pittance you are…

    • Hey there, ol’ bud! Under BigMediaCo.’s employ, he’ll be earning *at least* minimum wage, I reckon. Plus a desk job eliminates the travel/interview time/transcribing time/subsequent story-crafting time of a reporter, upping the per-hour income. All that caculated, about 5-6 hours goes into each story for a whopping $5-6 an hour. Freelance reporting does not pay! (Not this one anyway … and it’s painful knowing that freelance writers and editors typically earn $20-30 an hour!)

    • BTW, I’m a lurker at your blog. The only one I’ve continued to read since exiting regular blogging. Just never say anything. That’s what lurkers do. 🙂 Just FYI.

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