Generative AI and Freelancers: a crutch, a lever or a foe?

5 Mins read

Generative Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. Nobody doubts for an instant the colossal impact it will have on our societies. Moreover, since the phenomenal explosion of tools like ChatGPT, there is no debate that the world has changed. As a freelance writer, I immediately perceived ChatGPT as a threat. Which goes without saying! After all, it is a platform that seems to be able to do the same work, in less time and cheaper. It’s hard to compete with such a platform. But, after analyzing the facts and getting a better understanding of how ChatGPT works, I think I can give a partial answer regarding the impact of Generative AI on freelancers (writers, graphic designers, transcribers, etc.).

How does Generative Artificial Intelligence work: explaining ChatGPT

Generative Artificial Intelligence - Understanding ChatGPT
Understanding ChatGPT

Already, the exploits of Generative Artificial Intelligence reach our ears. It’s capable of passing the bar exam and medical school exams; it’s capable of synthesizing information in record time and present it in a more digestible way. Worried? Yes, a little. But Generative AI is a technology like any other. And as such, understanding how it works helps to identify its strengths and weaknesses.

The best explanation I’ve come across to understand ChatGPT and Generative AIs compares them to compression algorithms. Simply put: an AI does not “understand” the information it assimilates. It simply creates correlations of concepts that are often associated with each other. For example, ChatGPT can answer that a product shortage is accompanied by a price increase. But the AI does not understand the principle of supply and demand. That’s why these AIs sometimes tell nonsense and can be wrong from time to time.

In short, it’s nothing more than a parrot who has memorized his lesson and then recites it in his own words. But it’s this ability to render information eloquently that makes ChatGPT particularly appealing. After all, humans mistakenly believe that the ability to rephrase information is an undeniable sign of intelligence.

Generative AI - an all-knowing algorithm?
Generative AI – an all-knowing algorithm?

Generative Artificial Intelligence vs. Freelancers: the unavoidable collision

It’s been just over 6 weeks since ChatGPT made the news. And already, stories of clients replacing freelancers with AIs are starting to reach me. This collision between AI and freelancers is not surprising. After all, many clients only chose to work with freelancers to save money. So a new, cheaper and more “efficient” technology seems like an obvious choice. Especially since Google does not plan to penalize AI-generated content.

It is a given that some freelance content writers, transcribers, graphic designers or developers feel threatened. Those who don’t get replaced are told that their rates should be lowered because AI can do some of the work. But, despite the widespread adoption of ChatGPT, WriteSonic, MidJourney and a thousand other Generative AIs, these cases are still rare.

And for good reason: Generative AI understands neither the customer’s expectations nor the nature of the result it produces. And most importantly, an Artificial Intelligence cannot produce original content that deviates from the data sets used to train it. In other words, if the goal is to produce standardized content “en masse”, AIs can indeed replace freelancers. But no one wants to see a even bigger flood of hastily produced websites with no added value.

The collision will happen, if it hasn’t already. And freelancers who are not very specialized or whose services do not add real value are right to feel threatened. But Generative AI and freelancers are not necessarily irreconcilable opponents.

Generative AI and Freelancers - Competition or Cooperation
Generative AI and Freelancers – Competition or Cooperation

Generative AI and Freelancers: if you can’t beat them, join them!

Generative AI for a freelancer is a bit like the invention of the light bulb. The way of working is bound to change radically. And there’s no point in stubbornly sticking to candles when more practical solutions exist.

As a freelancer, it is possible to use Generative AI to make things easier for yourself. However, one must avoid the trap of producing more work for less money, under the pretext that it’s easier. Because in fact, working with AI doesn’t always mean simpler work.

If you’ve ever used an AI to produce an article, you know that all information must be scrutinized. Even data that seems obvious needs to be checked because the AI is capable of coming up with false information. For an editor, this would be like doing background editing on every piece of text produced. This is, by no means, what I would call working less.

Instead, it should be seen as an aid or a type of leverage. The freelancer can use ChatGPT or WriteSonic to write an introduction more quickly. If he is struggling to overcome the blank page syndrome, this is ideal. Likewise, a freelance graphic designer can use it to produce an initial draft or outline. There are many ways to use it as a freelancer. Developers can use it as an assistant when coding, for example.

But, at no point in time should we think that we can already delegate 100% of the work to Generative AI. This is not yet the case. At least, not for freelancers who concerned themselves with delivering quality work.

Generative Artificial Intelligence - a lever for freelancers
Generative Artificial Intelligence – a lever for freelancers

Generative AI for Freelancers: a crutch?

The role of any technology is to lower the bar for as many people as possible. But is it conceivable that freelancers who are less skilled, use it to overcome their failings? Let’s take the example of content writing with AI. Is it acceptable that a writer who is unable to write without spelling mistakes entrusts the task of writing to ChatGPT and just proofreads the content?

Everyone will make up their own minds. For my part, I think there is no issue.

Hoping that professionals would boycott these tools is just expressing concern about this new technology.

In reality, the quality of a content writer does not equate to the sole ability of writing without mistakes. But until now, that was the hurdle that had to be overcome before being taken seriously. Generative Artificial Intelligence for a freelancer with superficial shortcomings is an effective way to raise the quality of their work.

Not to mention that there are freelancers who live with disabilities, for whom such technology are likely really helpful. Using AI to transcribe audio or video content comes to mind. It can be ideal for skilled freelancers who lack experience

That said, a new technology has never made a worker more talented. ChatGPT will not help a bad writer to write better or an illustrator to illustrate better. Increased performance has never been synonymous with improved quality. Getting 5 times more texts for 2 times less money is useless when they are still inefficient for SEO.

Generative AI, a technology like any other


Of course, I’m the first to admit that lowering the bar is not without consequences. Unethical freelancers and unscrupulous actors will always have the opportunity to do harm. But, in this case, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Generative AI can be a valuable crutch for freelancers who are just starting out, for freelancers who have superficial shortcomings, or for freelancers who live with a disability.

ChatGPT and other Generative Artificial Intelligences don’t just grow the number of competitors. These technologies also grow the size of the pie.

The illustrations on this page were provided by freepik.

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