Dell Orozco

This is not the first time that I have freelanced for The New York Times. As a teenager, I worked in an unpaid internship for a month to help build a piece of software that now powers many aspects of its Web platform. So I was a bit daunted by the request to submit my work for a non-paid, full-time contract position. But that didn’t deter me — I would need the experience to help my career. In addition to writing a news story about pharmacy brands using Amazon, I am in the process of completing an article for e-commerce company Zappos.com. That story will be in a special print section on Feb. 27 titled “Why I Can’t Wait to Get Back to Work.”

For the past month, I have reported to Deborah Page, a senior digital editor who has served as a mentor to me since my internship. Deborah is a good listener and helps me to refine my style and channel my creativity. She is also kind and gracious, no matter the subject or the question I am asked. Deborah’s presence makes me feel welcome and at ease in the workplace.

Because the Times does not pay me, and because our position is open to adults, most freelancers assume that their clients will pay them once their work is published online. That’s not necessarily the case, however. Twenty years ago, The New York Times opened its newsroom to workers hired on two-year contracts. Each day, every year, I and many other part-time workers assumed they would be returning to a career at the newspaper.

As usual, I spent the day in front of a computer, working feverishly to get these articles done for The Times. In the mornings, I have time to get some exercise and read, all while trying to suppress the urge to ask Deborah for more help.

Through much of my life, I have looked for fulfilling work, and I have given up when it has not been available. Now it is. I can finally look forward to developing my writing skills, paying my own bills and paying for my own retirement.

Dell Orozco is a freelance reporter.