Survey says …

Chicago-area freelancers like the freedom to run their own schedules, but they don’t like low pay or having trouble finding work.

“(I’m) having difficulty keeping a steady work flow. I’m concerned every month to make ends meet,” one survey respondent wrote.

This was a common theme among the responses freelancers provided in a 20-question survey asking for candid, anonymous responses explaining the realities of being a freelance/independent media professional in the Chicago area.

How would you describe the freelance market right now? Too many people are willing to work for free—59 percent of respondents said this. Freelance work is getting harder to find, work pays less now than it used to and the market is flooded with too many amateurs. These were the top responses characterizing the Chicago-area market.

Or, as one respondent commented, it’s “grim.”

The most common hurdles freelancers face are collecting payment, getting regular work, having press credentials, marketing, lack of insurance, age discrimination and business management (listed in order from most common responses to least).

Keep in mind most of these responses are coming from veteran freelancers with more than two years experience—the majority have more than a decade of experience. Two-thirds of all respondents rely on freelancing as their primary source of income. Yet only a quarter of the respondents reported being able to make ends meet on a consistent basis.

Fifty-five percent have no retirement savings and all have gaps in insurance coverage. While most have medical coverage, more than half don’t have dental, only one-third have vision and 26 percent have liability insurance.

An organization to provide insurance, assist with referrals/finding jobs and provide professional development would be beneficial, most respondents said. Assistance getting work was the No. 1 request.

With this information, Chicago Newspaper Guild went to work to try to address the concerns of freelancers to create the new Working Journalists unit. We know that professionals deserve better and collectively, we can work together to improve working conditions. If we unite, we can drive up rates and professionalism in the growing freelance industry. So far, WJ offers press credentials, assistance collecting payment, networking and professional development to its members. To take advantage of these and upcoming benefits, visit

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