Monitoring the layoff rumor mill as a freelancer or contractor

March 13th, 2009

Last week I asked if anyone wanted to weigh in on my ABC News column on how layoff gossip both helps and hurts office workers. (You can read the column here; it ran yesterday.)

But employees aren’t the only ones who grapple with layoff gossip. As a freelancer and contractor, I’ve recently had to temper my monitoring of the downsizing rumor mill about several of my clients. On the one hand, you want to stay informed of budget and headcount cuts so you can plan accordingly (save your pennies, find new clients, be sensitive to editors enduring employment upheaval). On the other, you don’t want to fall so far down the rumor rabbit hole that you can’t think straight.

In other words, you don’t want to be like the freelance journalist I interviewed for my column who said this:

“I get obsessed with the gossip to the point that I become unproductive. Instead of pursuing the work I have, I’m chasing down the latest choice tidbit on whether this other business is going to close. I’m on the phone with colleagues, I’m reading all the blogs, tuning in to the TV, to Twitter, you name it. It’s probably all a waste of time, but hope springs eternal and all that.”

I can relate to this. As a reporter, I love a juicy story too, especially when it affects my own life and livelihood. I’ve certainly lost a couple afternoons in recent weeks tracking the latest newspaper body count. But I’m trying to remember that if I don’t do the work that’s already on my plate I could be next in line to get the boot.

How about you? How do you deal with the layoff rumors swirling around your star clients?

Entry Filed under: Balance,Money honey,Popular articles,This freelance life

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JCie  |  March 14th, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Well, I’ve found that when a company fires employees they usually end up using more freelance labor… sometimes even the same staff that they let go. So, keeping yourself informed about who’s laying off could also mean possible contracts in the near future.

  • 2. Thursday Bram  |  March 15th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I’ve honestly made a conscious effort to stay out of the gossip mills with some of the companies I’ve worked with. I’ve had more than one instance of another freelancer emailing me to try to get all the juicy details — or to issue warnings of a company’s forthcoming demise. I’ve never actually found those conversations all that helpful, though. Better to just move on, and focus on the things we can actually control.

  • 3. Jane Beman  |  May 2nd, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    This time around, I work for the state, and I work for the DMV, so that job is pretty secure. However, as a legal secretary, I experienced four downsize layoffs in ten years, two difference cities. The last one was four years ago. It was enough to make me decide to not be a legal secretary at a private firm again.

    I tended to ignore rumors, because it just put me off my work. Ignoring rumors is a habit of mine, unless it’s something good about someone.

    If I went online, it would be for stress relief instead of passing along the word. If it’s going to happen, it will anyway. The best way to deal with is to to the best I can, not have a hissy fit when called in to hear the news, and leave on good terms whenever possible.

    Thanks for the soap box.
    Jane Beman, aka Grace Monet
    author of “Mama’s In Heaven — But You Can Manage,” and
    “Teen Grief’s Delayed Reactions — Little Gracie’s Experience.”

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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