There’s a lot of good to be said about freelancing, but in a “work at will” world where anyone can fire you for any reason, freelancing becomes just a little more risky. You see, there’s no protection against the usual EEOC culprits when you’re a contractor. That means depositing all your working hours in one client’s basket is a bad, bad decision. A general rule of exit planning for businesses is not to have any one client responsible for more than 20 percent of your income. If you break that rule, then losing that client means you take a big financial hit.

I try to observe that rule; however, 2023 was a tough year. Work was, overall, slow and paying projects few and far between. In years like 2023 and what appears to be the new norm for 2024, I double down on looking for steady, agency-related work. I was fortunate to secure a steady gig with a marketing company editing blogs, Facebook posts, and the like. Overall I find it interesting because of the diversity clients ranging from manufacturers of compostable, single-use eating utensils to blockchain software companies. What’s interesting is when marketing companies hire other marketing companies. Hmm …

That said, my biggest client will no longer be a client within a few weeks due to several reasons, the main one being the client has decided to discontinue to pay for editing. That’s a financial hit that really hurts. I’ve been diligent in submitting proposals and contacting potential clients for work, but the competition is stiff.

The COVID-19 pandemic started the downward spiral. Tech company layoffs and other industry slowdowns created a plethora of freelance writers and editors who jumped on the gig worker bandwagon in the misbelief that writing and editing are easy and either is a good way to make a quick buck. While editing software has been whittling down editing work for human editors, ChatGPT has decimated the availability of good writing gigs.

Freelance writers now often find themselves being recruited to train AI with their writing, thereby earning an income now while working themselves out of future work. It’s a dismal endgame these companies are playing. I don’t apply for those gigs. There are ethical boundaries I refuse to cross, and that’s one of them.

There do still remain companies that value human writers over AI-generation of content. They realize the value and creativity humans bring to the table that AI cannot replicate. The same goes for human editors. AI-powered editing has yet to effectively replace human editors.

With the deluge of new freelance writers and editors plus the double-whammy of AI, many writers and editors are seeing budgets for writing and editing driven downward, except for those coveted clients who remember the value of people and human skill. More often than not, I see writing projects with budgets of less than a penny per word and specifying unlimited revisions.

That’s just unreasonable. I won’t bid on projects like that.

The allure of AI is undeniable: there’s always someone who wants something for nothing or almost nothing. This brings to mind the old adage that everyone wants fast, good, and cheap, but realistically, you can only get two.

Fast + Good ≠ Cheap

Good + Cheap ≠ Fast

Cheap + Fast ≠ Good

AI promises all three, but can only realistically deliver two: Fast + Cheap. It is not good. It’s usually banal and may be incorrect. (AI has been known to life.) However, it may be adequate—and sometimes that’s all a client wants.

For those folks who prioritize quality, a human writer and human editor will always be necessary. That doesn’t mean any human will do. Quality requires experience and skill which one only acquires through instruction and a lot of practice.

Where do your priorities lie?