This is a “Real Job”
This chapter examines how the socially constructed expression “real job” is undergoing a
radical transformation as freelancers in today’s workforce now number one out of every
three workers according to the Freelancers Union (www.freelancersunion.org). “This is a
Real Job” explores how a “real job” is a construct that we have socially made up to imply a
9 5 job with a sense of permanency or security based on performance. The definition of
what constitutes a “real job” is rapidly expanding as an emerging unaffiliated work
population becomes more commonplace. Currently, work is no longer about clear-cut lines
of demarcation between full or part-time employment. The new normal is about individuals
balancing and blending a variety of work styles (e.g. freelance, full-time, part-time) and
often at the same time.
The dissertation participants and many other freelancers, juggling multiple gigs, are not
giving themselves the credit they deserve for creative work because somewhere in the
back of their mind they are hearing the disconcerting voices of family and friends
suggesting that this is not a “real job” and on a bad day they may even agree.
Fortunately, they recognize the “real” as they negotiate contracts, create projects, critically
evaluate and design media, determine their worth, forge new relationships, weigh their
options and decide where to focus their energy now and in the future that is a “real job.”
“This is a ‘Real Job’” explores the risks, challenges, and rewards of freelance work. The
participants were asked a simple question, “What are the challenges and rewards of doing
freelance work?” The emergent themes were reflective of challenges in the media industry
and voiced many common concerns: performance pressure and adaptation, checks flying
somewhere, changing production values, compressed wages, the precarious waiting
game, erosion of rates, working without a contract, shorter deadlines, increased
competition, and tested relationships. Even with escalated risks posed by the current
recession, the project participants demonstrate improvisational dexterity in spite of
adversity and this discomfort fuels their creativity and propels them into new ventures.
Clearly, what we discover from these freelancers is that compensation is more than
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