Reframing The Migrant Creative Experience From
Freelancer To Career Improviser
What My Research Is About and Why
When I initially started this project three years ago (2009), the U.S. economy was deeply
embroiled in a recession and the news from the media work front was more precarious
than I remembered before leaving freelance behind and heading into academia (2004). I
found the exponentially rapid growth in media freelance a paradoxical but intriguing
development given that the participants involved with this dissertation watched their wages
being decreased, time required for projects compressed, and the waiting period for checks
extended. These media freelancers were the early adopters of a work style that the rest of
the population is finally appropriating, thus increasing the competition and consequently
reducing the fees. When I started having conversations with the dissertation participants at
the height of the recession, I decided to frame their struggle with an appreciative eye for
what allowed them to sustain a career from 15 30+ years even though they were limping
along at the time. This of course was compared to the rest of the country that was
battered in the downturn, especially with foreclosures at an all time high.
It is apparent from the rise of the Freelancers Union to the development of many online
sites promoting project-oriented work that the freelance phenomenon was and still
continues to spread to many other disciplines. I thought it was important to check in to see
how these seasoned professionals fared with their career and what we could learn from
their experience since media is clearly leading the way in the shift to contract work.
The Migrant Creative is about seeing a new trend of entrepreneurial inventiveness added to
the freelance mix and this is reflective of where the new work is heading. These
participants find themselves combining a variety of workstyles (freelance, full-time, and
part-time) and often at the same time while also working on their own self-initiated
projects. There is no allegiance to any standalone style. These seasoned freelancers are
elevating their status from “worker bee” to being dexterous, freestyle career improvisers.
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