I Lost My Job to ChatGPT and Was Made Obsolete. I Was Out of Work for 3 Months Before Taking a New Job Passing Out Samples at Grocery Stores. A copywriter is warning other creatives that AI isn't just for machinery.
- Emily Hanley is a freelance copywriter, writer, and comedian.
- She said she started losing work when clients decided to use ChatGPT instead of hiring a copywriter.
- Hanley says that if a robot can do your job for less, it'll end up doing that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
I always dreamed of going viral because of my brains or my undeniable beauty. I never thought it would be because I made a TikTok about losing my job to AI.
I'm a writer and stand-up comedian. Like most creatives, I've always worked a day job. For the past several years I worked as a full-time freelance copywriter; I'd work on webpages, branded blogs, online articles, social-media captions, and email-marketing campaigns. I wasn't raking in the big bucks or living fancy-free aboard a yacht in Capri, but I was comfortable. For the first time, I felt I had a sustainable career.
In the push for innovation, we've always celebrated the advancements that rendered workers useless; we marveled at the printing press with little thought for the scribe and rejoiced at the ease of an elevator button even though it swiftly replaced the lift operator.
Still, it's different when it happens to you
First, the work slowed. Instead of 10 assignments a week, I had five. Then three. Then one.
Like any good self-doubting millennial, I first thought it was me. I'd finally been discovered as a talentless hack with no business being a "professional" writer.
The majority of my freelance assignments came through a single agency working with several brands. When the assignments stopped coming, I emailed my editor/boss to ask if I'd been fired or if all the brands had just voted me off the island, "Survivor" style.
The good news was it wasn't me, but the real reason made me wish it had been.
Clients were simply unwilling to pay for copywriting any longer unless that writer could also provide email management and a funnel-building system, most likely because of the newfound popularity of ChatGPT. Most of my clients were small businesses, startups, and young brands, which are typically the first to adapt to new technology to cut costs — aka me.
Trying to find a job in an oversaturated market is like trying to talk to someone at unemployment — many of us remain on hold
For the next three months, I steadily applied for content and copywriting positions. With each passing week, I widened the scope of my search, desperation pushing me forward like a stage mom to a shy child.
Several successful yet fruitless interviews later (one of which I did in Hawaii on the day of my best friend's wedding), I remained jobless. (Side note: That beautiful trip to Hawaii sent me into a debt-stress spiral akin to nothing I've ever experienced. I now understand "Death of a Salesman" on a far deeper level.)
Then I came across a promising position through a rather pushy recruiter. The six-month contract was for a well-paying, albeit exceedingly vague, role at a global conglomerate, the name of which I cannot share because of an NDA. I entered the pre-interview interview hopeful and left wishing I'd followed my father's advice and become an electrician.
The company was looking to hire a copywriter to train its artificial intelligence source, improving its humanlike communication abilities. The contract was six months, because that's how long it'd take the AI would learn to write just like me but better, faster, and cheaper.
If you're under the assumption that I turned down the follow-up interview because the job would take away my future ability to find work, you'd be wrong, my friend. On the brink of financial collapse, making the "right choice" for future sustainability becomes a distant concept, replaced by frivolous needs for the present, such as food and shelter.
In a hilarious turn of events, even though I would've taken the job, I didn't end up getting it
Instead, I got hired as a brand ambassador, which is a fancy way of saying I offer samples of sparkling water at grocery stores. I'm still applying for jobs, but in the meantime this allows me to keep the lights on.
In January, two months after its launch, ChatGPT surpassed 100 million users, solidifying its status as the fastest-growing consumer application. The more users input instructions, the smarter ChatGPT gets, and the more writers will join me — and the elevator operator — in obsolescence.
While I and countless other out-of-work copywriters are the first wave of AI collateral, the collapse of my profession is probably just the tip of the AI iceberg. Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that artificial intelligence led to nearly 4,000 job losses in May.
I naively assumed that artists and creatives would be safe from automation technology, because how could anything replace the wonder of the human mind — and even if it could, why would we want it to? Hah! I now understand that in even the most creative industries, creativity never comes before the bottom line. If a robot can do your job for less, you better believe that's exactly what's going to happen.
Emily Hanley is a freelance copywriter and comedian.