Things are getting weird. Can you feel it? If you work any kind of freelance you definitely do. It doesn't matter the industry, it's all the same story. Writers, photographers, composers, film editors. I'm sure there are even a few in there that I don't even know about, but it's happening. What's happening is that the old standard for "professional" is changing, and not everyone is thrilled.
My personal experience was in commercial music composition. For years I've been doing music for commercials and for a while there it paid really well to sit at home, get the files from an ad agency and write some music. In a way, I was already the start of the problem. The shift from the recording studio with live strings arrangements to the kid in his home studio with a computer and some keyboards. Being part of the problem, I can't say I didn't see what was coming next. More people were going to get a computer and start scoring their own commercials and I'd be able to charge less and less. They say technology doesn't matter if you don't have talent, but if you do it can help enormously.
Instead of fighting the trends with a lot of frustration, I just got into something else, which was writing. An odd choice considering that professional writers are getting slaughtered on their paychecks right now. It's beyond grim what people are getting offered compared to a few years ago, and it shows no sign of slowing down. But the sad truth is, everyone is tapping out words on their blogs and some are figuring out how to get paid. The way I figured, I'd rather be the new amateur of a different profession than the "why can't it just go back to the way it used to be" person of my own.
Another profession getting wrecked by the new professionals is photography. Like commercial music, cheaper access to less-sexy-yet-more-practical gear has led to everyone being a photographer. Or as my friend once joked "photographer is the new DJ." The thing that everyone also does, as well as whatever else they do. "Actor/Photographer" or "Director/Photographer." The new slash posse, who are fighting for all the same jobs as the established photographer because of the popularity of their party pictures. (On a side note, pictures of hipsters partying has always been a pet peeve of mine, could a photographer get any lazier than shooting their nights out?) Then you get the Terry Richardsons who skip the fancy gear all together. It's enough to make the person with the full studio, lights, gear and school degrees a little bitter when they lose the Smirnoff job to a point and shoot.
The stories go on and on. Film editing has Final Cut, independent movies have the 24p camera or the new 5d. Never before has so much semi-professional gear been available to so many people who are making it work for them. I'm sure there are parallels in history to what is going on, but nothing I can recall in my lifetime. (The closest I can come up with is when the record industry crashed, and going from A&R to yoga instructor seemed to be a popular move.) For many, it would be easy to just wallow in the frustration, and there is a lot of that going on. But at some point we all have to except the world is never going back to what it once was in so many ways. Maybe it's time to let it go and figure out how to be our own new professionals, because trying to be the old ones is dragging a lot of great people down.