After 15 years in the corporate world, I had the opportunity to start a second career as a freelance journalist, and I’ve never looked back. That was nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in our industry since that time, but none more exciting than right now! In fact, I’d say this is a great time to be a freelancer. Take a look.
Of new SPJ members who identify their job medium, freelancers are the fastest-growing segment of SPJ. As our industry continues to evolve, this trend is likely to continue.
SPJ embraces freelancers and has created opportunities for us to maximize our potential. Here are just some of the ways freelancers can benefit from SPJ:
SPJ AS A NETWORKING TOOL
I joined SPJ in 2005 and have made hundreds of contacts across the country. By reaching out to like-minded journalists, I’ve been able to stay connected, share story ideas, meet publishers and editors and get support from fellow freelancers.
One SPJ freelancer from Minnesota and I have become writing buddies, asking each other for critiques of our work before submitting them to our editors — including this column. We also encourage each other to make time for our personal writing or finding the next big story. If you’ve worked for yourself, you know that creating a network of contacts takes time and energy, but SPJ comes with a built-in network so you can check that off your “to do” list.
As a member and former chairwoman of the Freelance Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to influence how SPJ views and supports freelancers. I’ve also been able to share my experiences and learn from others through our discussions and by reading their contributions to the Independent Journalist blog.
As our committee considers transitioning to a freelance community, there will be additional ways for us to connect with each other and to shape our freelance future. The possibilities are endless.
Freelancers are serving SPJ at local, regional and national levels. Though most of us do this to serve SPJ and to advocate for and promote our profession, we receive a lot in return: increased self-marketing exposure, leadership training, educational opportunities and access to resources we wouldn’t otherwise have. We are given tools that will serve us well wherever our freelance lives take us.
Granted, these are intangible benefits, and not everyone sees the value in them or wants to be an SPJ leader or committee member. That’s OK; SPJ has tangible benefits for those who want something meatier for their $75/year:
• Access to SPJ benefit programs (life insurance, health insurance, etc.).
• Free education through our On Demandt raining series, including a series just for freelancers.
• Access to the updated digital Freelance Resource Guide, which is chock-full of freelance wisdom from seasoned freelancers.
• Inclusion in the Freelancer Directory (my first national writing gig came from being listed and that gig paid me enough to cover my member ship for eight years!).
• Member rates and discounts for conferences, work- shops and training seminars.
As someone who has moved up within SPJ in my eight years as a member, SPJ has embraced me as a freelancer and benefited my career in countless ways. My hope is that you will look at all that SPJ has to offer freelancers and use it to grow your business and expand your horizons as well. As a freelancer, you are in control of your future and SPJ can help along the way. You are only limited by your imagination and your drive!
Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer and editor and the publisher of iLoveKent. net, an award-winning community website about Kent, Wash. She is currently serving as SPJ secretary/ treasurer and is running for president-elect in August 2013. You can learn more about her at VirtuallyYourz.com or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.