Freelance journalism can be solitary work. I work from an extra bedroom of my home, my dog snoring at my feet. Some of my friends and family wonder whether I really have a job. My editors are scattered nationwide. Few have met me in person. For all they know, I might have blue hair and obscene tattoos covering my forearms. (I don’t.)
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists are your co-workers. By joining SPJ, you have joined a nationwide network of about 9,000 journalists, all of whom are here to share in your triumphs and problems, questions and discoveries.
I am chairwoman of SPJ’s freelance committee, a group of journalists spanning the age and experience spectrum. Some of us have freelanced for years. Some are recent college graduates. Some are starting anew after careers elsewhere in journalism. All are welcome here. SPJ membership involves no minimum experience requirement.
It is hard to write any news story or column today without some mention of the economy. Perhaps you have been laid off. Or perhaps you are like me, anxiously watching everyone around you either lose their jobs or worry that they’re going to. Whatever you may face, I wanted to share some ways our committee can help you. Ours always has been a tough business. Remember, we need to stick together.
It is perhaps SPJ’s biggest benefit. We all know the best way to garner jobs and assignments is through word-of-mouth. SPJ members include reporters, editors, photographers, educators and more. Be aggressive in taking advantage of this. I quite literally have gone home from SPJ conventions with new clients.
Early in my freelance career I became active in my local chapter in Nashville, Tenn. The experience gave me access to local editors and kept me up-to-date on what was happening in my industry. If you live in an area without a local chapter, take advantage of the Internet. It is how our business works. In a newsroom, co-workers share their camaraderie over the low walls of cubicles. For us, it is shared over the Web.
I exchange e-mails with freelancers about questions and problems. Our committee is so diverse, chances are there is someone who can answer almost any question. I seek out freelancers for help on how to break into publications or take my career in a new direction. I make friends through SPJ and social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. I correspond with freelancers worldwide. The Web is amazing for the contacts it generates.
SPJ offers a Freelancer Directory for members on its Web site (www.spj.org/fdb.asp). For free you can post a profile and links to your work. Editors worldwide can search the directory by state, specialty or both. To generate awareness, SPJ distributes regular announcements to more than 5,000 editors. I have landed assignments this way.
SPJ also offers a blog for freelancers at www.spj.org/blog/blogs/freelance. It is our committee’s primary gathering place, an online venue where we share what works and what doesn’t. I post committee news, questions and discussion topics. Sometimes I post job announcements, and sometimes guest bloggers weigh in.
Ideally, I’d like to see more voices here. We freelancers are so diverse, and I am only one person with my own unique set of experiences. I realize this isn’t necessarily helpful to everyone
I want to hear from you. Is there something new you’ve discovered that you want to share? Some terrible lesson you’ve learned that you want no one to repeat? Have you recently confronted some ethical or moral dilemma you’d like to discuss? If you can write 500 words on something that would help other freelancers, please let me know. I’ll post it on the blog and include a brief bio that will give you some exposure.
Check out www.spj.org for more information on the benefits of SPJ membership, which include discounts on auto rentals and insurance.