Freelancing in the Digital Age

A few weeks ago, I read the blog post of one of my colleagues at, Megan Campbell. Her post was titled, Why Twitter is Better Than Facebook for Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer.

It started off like this, “Working as a freelance writer means a lot of self-promotion. Really, working as a freelance anything means a lot of self-promotion. It is up to yourself to get your name and work out there for the world to see. You are, in a sense, a business. Fortunately, in this day, social media gives you the perfect platform for all the free self-promoting you could ask for. I can’t imagine how hard it was to begin a freelance career before the Internet existed.”

Drafting table with graphic design tools

Drafting table with graphic design tools used pre-computer design. © Alison Gilbert

I chuckled to myself not only able to imagine what it would have been like to be a freelancer before the Internet existed but also remembering what it was like. Although I was in the graphic design end of the communications industry, the characteristics of being a freelance writer are similar enough to merit my comparison.

I could not resist sharing my memories. I am slightly paraphrasing my comment about her post. ‘I think your article is excellent. In today’s economy and technology, you are right on the mark.

‘I do want to share with you and your readers what it was like in the 1980′s and early 1990′s to be a freelancer. It was easy! Social media did NOT exist and it was NOT a problem. It fact it was easier then than it is now to have to keep up on every platform where my name, username and password have taken up residence and will likely continue to do so on an almost daily basis as more new platforms pop up.

‘My first year, I had 25 clients. Most of them came to me as warm leads from a women’s group that I belonged to. Quite a few of the women worked at ad agencies. I hardly had to look for work. Granted it was a very different economy from today’s. But perhaps social media has evolved in response to these times and a much more challenging economy. Therefore given the chance for it to still be pre-digital and pre-social media, I would go back to the analog days in a heartbeat.

Designer's desktop©

‘Don’t get me wrong. I love social media. In fact, I am what we call an addict. Do I also qualify as an evangelist? I never stop talking and preaching about its many merits.

‘But on the other side of the coin is the fact that I now have to think about everything globally rather than just locally. It is a MUCH bigger job. I have met so many people in the two or three years since I joined facebook. I can hardly remember anyone’s name. It may be a part of maturing to feel that life was easier then than it is now. I think it is called reminiscing. But it WAS easier, definitely slower and simpler.

‘I easily made $15 to $20/hour, worked a 5 hour day, took an express bus to and from the client’s office, had my bag of tricks, a tool box the size of a book, not an iPad, my paste-up skills, and my lunch if I was working in an area where I did not know of places to eat. I often got paid very quickly. I could easily make $500/week and in those days that covered my rent. It was mostly a manageable life.

‘If you or anyone else are interested, I am the NY Graphic Design I wrote a series of posts about being a graphic designer before the computer age, through the transition from analog to digital and since the computer. I would love to hear what others think both about what you wrote about today and what I have indicated about how it used to be like compared to what it is like now.’


Alison Gilbert is the Digital Age Storyteller. She is a regular contributing author to DBME, writes The Marketing Byte Blog and is The New York Graphic Design Examiner. Alison is the owner of MARKETING BYTES Solutions 4 Local Biz. Located on Long Island, New York, MARKETING BYTES serves clients virtually everywhere.

Their boutique style – very personal service – hybrid company specializes in helping local/small biz generate sales leads by transitioning from traditional advertising to online marketing. Contact MARKETING BYTES at or call 516-665-9034 ET

From the NY Graphic Design Examiner




  1. Dear Joy, Craig and PhotoBotos,
    Thank you for lining my post. Do you know anyone who freelanced before the Digital Age? What was their experience like compared to networking and finding work in the Age of the Internet? I am eager to hear what it was like for other people. I think it was a simpler, easier, slower paced life. Or am I just reminising?

  2. Damien Wijerathne (
    Thank you for your liking my post. It must have come as a surprise to you. I would like to know what you think about the comparison of the two ages, analog versus digital? I look forward to viewing your photos and videos on Olendra Photography and Productions. Where do you live? I am in New York, US.
    If you enjoyed this blog post, please take a look at some of my other posts on this blog and also at

  3. I just got around to reading this, as I’ve been on vacation, but I’m happy to see my post sparked some fond memories. 🙂 Always great to travel down memory lane. As it happens, reading this post also brought some of my memories to surface as a student in Graphic Communications. Even though I completed my degree recently, we had to learn all of the “old-fashioned-before-computer” ways of drafting and designing as well. Seeing your picture of instruments reminded me of all of that! 🙂

    • Hi Megan,
      I am so glad you enjoyed the article I wrote that was inspired by your post. I think it is very important for design students to learn where things came from and how they used to be done. The way things are done now make so much more sense with that perspective. Many graphic design certification programs do not have the luxury to include the valuable lessons of history. It is great that you did. I know it makes a huge difference for me to have experienced both worlds. Thanks so much for you comment.


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