And people don’t really care if you’re doing something that should really take a week
or month. I’m all for people doing projects quickly – but these expectations are
ridiculous. They’re squeezing everything they can out of us. They’ll burn you out
and you’ll be working through the night many times – and for what – 500 dollars a
day? Plus they take six months to pay. People used to pay within 30-days. Now
the soonest you’ll get paid is 60-days and it’s more like 6-months.”
Even with the decreased wages, when I ask Sheryl if it’s sustainable she quickly responds,
“Totally sustainable. I’ve been sustaining it for years.” Sheryl mentions that she’s ready to
retire from the business, “I don’t like the way it’s going and I always felt that I couldn’t
transition because I’ve been really bad with money. So I have to work until I’m dead. A lot
of people feel that way.”
With two residences, Sheryl recently moved out of her Manhattan location and is now living
in Woodstock as a way to save $60,000 a year and states, “I wouldn’t mind getting out of
this business. You do burn out.” When I ask Sheryl if she sees the industry going the
independent route she responds:
That changes from day to day. Some days they want more freelancers and at two
points every year there’s a freeze on freelancers – and then all the agencies follow.
It’s usually at budget times. In my world people want specialists – people who do
cars or healthcare. I refused to specialize in any one thing. Because I wanted to be a
general writer. I wanted to be able to walk in somewhere and pick up and go. It hurt
me for a few years – but after a while everyone wanted a generalist. The business is
like a chameleon – it changes everyday.
She mentions that a lot of the agencies are going out of business, “people are leaving the
big agencies. Instead of looking for another job – they start a little agency of their own.
There’s a lot of that going on.” I assumed the big are going out of business and she
quickly replies, “No, the big are buying up a lot of other agencies.” There are a lot of
changes in the industry and Sheryl has seen it all. I asked if she every wanted to go back
to a full-time job? “I like not being beholden to anybody but myself – because I think my
values are stronger than theirs.” I wonder if it’s a conscious decision? Sheryl says,
“Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. It’s economically driven and I got laid off. I’ve
been in and out of freelance for a long time. “ Sheryl is not quite ready to retire but is
contemplating a change and moving out of New York City was a first step.