Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category


Collaborative Freelancing

By guest blogger Hazel Becker 

During the Collaborative Journalism Summit at Montclair State (NJ) University in early May, my mind returned to questions I’ve been pondering since becoming chair of the SPJ Freelance Community this year. Who are we independent journalists? What makes us different from other journalists, or from other freelance writers? And why are we freelance journalists when we could be something else?

Hazel Becker

Hazel Becker is chair of the SPJ Freelance Community.

In my earlier contemplation, I asked members of our Facebook group to tell us why they freelance. The reasons respondents gave ranged from “it’s my career choice” to “I can’t find an entry-level job.” Although about half those responding said they freelance by choice, other responses make it clear that some of us go to great pains to make a living and still be journalists. Some of us sell stories to media outlets on a freelance basis while working full- or part-time at other pursuits. Others take on freelance corporate writing and PR work along with story assignments because the pay is higher. Some continue to tell news and feature stories while job hunting after graduation or layoffs. A few, like me, freelance in retirement to stay in the game during these exciting times.

At the New Jersey summit, I was glad to hear that independent journalists have been involved in some of the collaborative projects discussed, including the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters’ Panama Papers effort that won a Pulitzer Prize this year. If we want to increase our involvement in such projects, we need to assess and state our value proposition as professional freelance journalists.

Professional. Freelance. Journalist.

Those three words, taken together, describe the main audience for this blog as well as membership of the SPJ Freelance Community. Breaking the phrase down into three separate words reveals some things about us that will help us identify ourselves and state our value proposition. In reverse order:

Journalist, to most of us, means true storyteller. Whatever the mediums in which we work, we tell real stories — about events, environments and the people who experience them. Whether we’re writing the first draft of history, chronicling a series of events or profiling a person, place or thing, our aim is always the same: to tell a story we see to people who haven’t seen it as we have.

Freelance generally means free to purvey our craft on behalf of not just one but many sponsors — essentially, harkening back to medieval times, free to wield our lances on behalf of whatever cause we choose. As did the warriors of the 13th through 15th centuries, we choose primarily based upon what we get in return — usually payment, prestige or pleasure, the three Ps suggested by freelancer Katherine Reynolds Lewis as worthy compensation for our work. We are on our own, independent, not controlled by any government, political or corporate entity or employed by a single publication.

Professional, broadly defined when pertaining to individuals, means those who work according to a set of generally accepted standards and practices in a field. When pertaining to journalists, I define professional as those who seek truth and report it, act independently,  minimize harm and are accountable and transparent.

These four tenets of the SPJ Code of Ethics form the basis of practice standards for professional journalists, not only SPJ members and not only those who say their work is guided by our code. They also should be a stated part of our value proposition as professional freelance journalists because they set us apart from other freelance writers in the crowded, internet-driven marketplace for our work.

Selling Our Value to Collaborate

As freelancers, most of us collaborate to some extent. We work together with publishers, editors, news directors and other media operatives to tell our version of stories to their audiences. We know how to do this! To get in on the action, we just need to sell our value — whether to collaborative projects or to prospective clients.

This graphic report from the Collaborative Journalism Summit illustrates the discussion of how freelancers can be involved in collaborative projects. (Graphic by Phil Bakelaar)

Freelancers who have special skills (foreign language or technology proficiency, for example) or deep knowledge of certain subject matter have an advantage with clients or projects that need those skills. But generalists also have something to sell — their presence in and knowledge of the areas where they live or work.

Here’s one approach to collaboration: The North Carolina Newsroom Cooperative formed to support independent journalists in the Triangle area of North Carolina in 2015 during debate over that state’s H.B. 2, the “bathroom law” targeting transgender people. Early members of the cooperative wanted to tell North Carolina’s story about the legislation, not the outsiders’ versions then being circulated by what they describe as the “parachute media” who arrived in droves after the bill was enacted. In addition to its co-working space in Research Triangle Park, the nonprofit offers networking, educational opportunities, legal advice and events to help members promote their work.

The U.S. news media are in a period of introspection following their dismal performance in reporting on the sentiment of the country in the 2016 presidential campaign. There could be no better time for independent journalists to sell their local knowledge and connections to regional and national media needing to broaden their reach and increase the diversity of voices they listen to and tell about.

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Expand your freelance network – join SPJ’s freelance community!

Hello, freelance colleagues!

Have you heard about SPJ’s new Freelance Community? Launched this summer, the community is a new way for SPJ members interested in freelancing to connect with each other. It’s an ideal place for freelance journalists, editors, photojournalists, broadcast journalists and other freelance-related media to network, share ideas, find work, brainstorm, trouble-shoot and more. Check out the new freelance site on SPJ.org where you’ll find dozens of resources*, including:

To learn more about the Freelance Community, email Michael Fitzgerald or, join us Sept. 4-6 at Excellence in Journalism 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. We’re organizing a “no host” freelance meet-up on Thurs., Sept. 4 at 8:30 p.m. Central Time. RSVP here.

Expand your freelance network and job opportunities – join SPJ’s Freelance Community today!

*To access some of the community’s resources, you will need to login with your member ID and password. If you don’t have one, click here. If you have a member ID but have lost your password, click here

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From committee to community

Nobody likes a committee, except maybe a camel. So when SPJ leadership asked the Freelance Committee to think about becoming a community, we threw off our chains and reveled.

Perhaps not. We are still a committee, after all. We did what committees do: discussed the pros and cons and took a vote. We decided to make the transition. That process starts in earnest at the Excellence in Journalism Conference, when the traditional one-hour freelance committee meeting will become a two-hour discussion of how to make this transition from committee to community effective, and perhaps a model for other SPJ committees that want to make a similar transition (there are other SPJ committees considering the same transition).

An SPJ community will share many things with SPJ’s chapters. Communities will:

• Elect officers.
• Have the ability to maintain bank accounts.
• Have the ability to conduct programs regionally, nationally or online.
• Have the option to charge dues.
• Generate resources that are specific to their audience, such as training
• Have communications vehicles that allow them to share information/content materials, networking opportunities, and member news with themselves and the larger SPJ/journalism audience, such as websites and electronic newsletters.

What communities won’t have are direct geographic ties. That’s already true of the Freelance Committee. Moving to a community structure should make our workings more transparent and also more able to engage with SPJ’s freelance membership. We hope it will make SPJ a more vibrant and useful organization for its freelance members.

We would like feedback on what SPJ’s freelance community might look like. If you’re in Anaheim for EIJ 2013, come to the meeting on Sunday, Aug. 25, from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. If you aren’t able to be there, post a comment, or send an email to a committee member. If you’re reading this after August 25, you can still make comments or send e-mails. We are just starting this process. The SPJ board of directors will have to approve our plan, and that won’t happen until its meeting in April 2014.

Before then, we need to do some things like attract 20 supporters from within SPJ’s membership, and set our priorities.

For priority-setting, below is the wish list the freelance committee put together for a freelance community.

• A discussion forum that will support multiple threads/topics.
• The option for email discussion groups/alerts.
• The ability to support an SPJ freelance newsletter
• Support for a jobs board.
• The ability to highlight a freelancer or freelance regions.
• The possibility of supporting a syndication service.
• Support for Google Hangouts.
• Support uploading of recent work or recent pieces (more than the three we have now).
• Ability to have an SPJ page include Twitter/etc. feeds
• Ability to stream SPJ Freelance twitter on our main community page
• SPJ freelance awards competition.

Tell us what you like, what you can live without and what’s missing.

Thanks,

Michael Fitzgerald
SPJ Freelance Committee Chair (for now)

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Staying Connected: Fostering Freelance Relationships

The corporate world has the water cooler, schools have the teachers’ lounge and kids have the playground. Everyone has a place to hang out, brainstorm, share ideas or simply to complain. What about freelancers? Where do we go to get encouragement or to vent about our latest projects or clients? Some would argue that we don’t have a place. But not me. I never feel lonely as a freelancer. I have exactly as much companionship as I want or need on any given day.

Jelly Bean Neuts

Jelly Bean Neuts

If I’m writing or editing, I’m likely alone in my home office which suits me just fine. Of course, I’m not truly alone then. Jelly Bean, my favorite eight-pound source of inspiration, is always there if I need a friendly face or just a break, and her siblings, Sammy and Ginger, are always handy with a meow or a purr to cheer me on.

When I need to feel a part of something bigger, or need human contact, I work at Starbucks or downtown at my favorite bakery. And when I really need to feel connected, I visit with friends online. I also connect with my freelance friends at local networking events. It might be at an event sponsored by SPJ or Media Bistro, or a meet-up that friends threw together to keep in touch. Regardless, I am only as lonely as I want to be.

For me, this ability to stay connected is crucial to my success, but also to my sanity. While I don’t miss cubicle life, I do miss seeing friends every day and being able to blow off steam when I need to. I make sure I maintain that camaraderie for myself but also to support my freelance friends. These relationships offer an intangible source of comfort and advice, as well as potential project leads. Even more importantly though, we are here to encourage each other.

Just last week, I talked to Anna Pratt, a fellow freelancer and member of SPJ’s freelance committee, to catch up. I asked her what her dream project is and how it was coming along. We both discovered that, while we have ideas, projects or stories we might want to work on “some day,” we need someone else to check in with us, to see how it’s going and to push us when we get stuck. We also like having someone to talk to about issues like collecting late payments, finding more work or firing clients.

  • Stay connected offline through networking
  • Stay connected online – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, etc.
  • Support and encourage each other

So even though we may work in a solitary environment at times, we are never truly alone. We have ways to connect with each other, virtually and face-to-face, and we should foster freelance relationships to support each other. It makes the freelance life so much more fun.

How do you support your freelance friends? I’d love to hear how you stay connected.

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Dana NeutsBased in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts of Virtually Yourz has been a freelance journalist for 10 years, specializing in business, feature and community writing. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, which won a 2nd place award in the 2012 NW Excellence in Journalism contest for “Best Online Community Engagement.” Dana is currently serving as the national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer and will run for President-Elect in August 2013. Follow her on Twitter @VirtuallyYourz and @SPJDana.

 

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Fellow Freelancers: Friends or Foes?

Connect with your freelance friends for advice, suggestions and contacts.Last night I attended a Media Bistro event in Seattle. There are usually two or three of these every year, and I’m lucky to make it to one. Not because I don’t want to go, but because I can make a zillion excuses of things I should do instead. I asked a non-freelancing friend to go with me this time to ensure I’d go…because my introverted side (yes, I *do* have one) was taking over, and I wouldn’t have attended otherwise. Last night’s crowd was more on the freelance writer/journalist side, and I had the opportunity to connect with about half a dozen fellow freelancers — all of whom I had met via SPJ at one point or another.

I am so glad I did. The crowd is usually a mix of editors, journalists, PR and marketing folks, and the conversations were lively and informative. We shared ideas, contacts, success stories, pitching tips and a few assignments-gone-wrong tales of woe. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed mixing it up with my peers.

From the outside looking in, my non-freelance friend didn’t understand how this was possible. “Aren’t you competing for the same work,” he asked me afterward. My friend was particularly surprised to hear me offer concrete suggestions to a marketing copywriter in attendance who wanted my advice on growing his client base. Why did I do it? Because that’s what the freelance community is like, at least in my experience.

Whether I’m in Seattle or D.C., I have found the freelance community to be one that is warm and welcoming. People are willing to share ideas, connections and advice freely. Why? Because there are so many clients, media organizations, publications, nonprofits and government organizations out there that need our talent, that we rarely compete directly with each other for assignments or clients. We have each developed our own niche. My specialties are business and community stories, Annika Hipple is focused on travel and hospitality, Crai S. Bower specializes in travel, adventure and humor. Even when our specialties do cross over, there are so many stories to be told that the prospect of two of us pitching the same story with the same angle to the same outlet at the same time are virtually nil.

Here’s an example. I’ve been wanting to write for Northwest Travel magazine. David Volk and Crai Bower both write for that magazine. The geographic area is limited, so there is some potential for cross over. When I told Crai that I’d pitched the editor a few stories last month, Crai offered to introduce me to the editor. I didn’t ask. He offered, and I’ll take him up on it because the “in” will improve my chances of my pitches getting read. Crai doesn’t expect anything in return, but if I can ever repay the favor, I’ll be happy to do it.

This is how the freelance world works. Fellow freelancers are not foes. Far from it. They can be our biggest fans and our greatest allies.

The takeaway:  seek out your fellow freelancers in and around your community, through organizations like Media Bistro and SPJ, and online on your favorite social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. You never know where your next great idea or introduction will come from.

 

Dana Neuts, Freelance JournalistFreelancer Dana Neuts share tips to keep writers motivated.
National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer
2013 Candidate for President-Elect

Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, an award-winning hyperlocal blog highlighting news, events and more in the Kent, Washington community. Most recently, her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine, Grow Northwest and Seattle Woman magazine. For more information, or to contact Dana, visit her website, VirtuallyYourz.com.

 

 

 

 

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