Who Knows Contract Work? The Shadow Knows

Back in the day, we used to call them freelancers.

That was the day long after the buggy whips had been retired, but not so long ago that the era has been forgotten.

These were the men and women who filled in the gaps in many industries, especially journalism. Newspapers and magazines often found it cheaper to get things done using workers who they could pay by the job or by the piece.

Often times these were young workers just cutting their teeth and anxious to show their skills in hopes of getting a full-time job.

As a hiring manager, it was very helpful to have a loyal fleet of freelancers who would take on any challenge. If you needed somebody to stay up all night and babysit a situation, most freelancers would do it for meal money. You needed somebody to assist a photographer on a shoot, call a freelancer.

But these days there is a new normal. And freelancers are now called contract workers, and it’s not just workers new to the working world that are filling these roles.

Given the state of journalism in this economy, I have found myself for the past nine months in the role of a contract worker. Fortunately, I’ve had some great patrons who have passed my name around, so I don’t have many breaks or gaps in my work history.

The plus side for employers is they can get a lot of bang for very little buck. Most contract workers are experienced and need to keep their hand in the working world to keep their skills sharp. Plus, as contract workers there is little in the way of training or benefits that employers have to pay for.

We contract workers have been called a shadow workforce. We keep the unemployment rolls down, while helping struggling businesses cope with the new normal that is this economy.

And while at this stage in my career I don’t fancy staying up all night to babysit a stakeout, I have greatly enjoyed working for television station websites from Hawaii to North Carolina. The people you meet are great and the new skills you learn are fantastic.

It’s not easy living in the shadows, but for now, I’ll take it.


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