Archive for September, 2018


How to make your chapter more freelancer-friendly

Guest blogger: Adina Solomon

When I started thinking about journalism as a high school student, I pictured a staff job. Who didn’t? Maybe I could write bold features for a magazine or report for a metro newspaper.

Based on my conversations with non-journalists, that’s still the picture a lot of people have when they think of a journalist. But we know the truth: More and more of us freelance, untethered from a publication (and company-provided health care).

So if your SPJ chapter doesn’t have programming with freelancers in mind, you’re missing out on a large segment of the journalist population.

I held editor positions at several trade magazines, but after those, I ended up in a corporate content job for the stable hours and pay. But journalism had seeped into my soul. While I worked at the corporate job, I started freelancing part-time, making the leap to full-time freelancing in March 2017. I now lead SPJ Georgia’s freelance committee, where we focus on creating value for (who else?) freelancers.

Besides helping your freelance members, having this type of targeted programming can help invigorate your chapter. Freelancers often don’t have coworkers to commiserate with, so they are more apt than staffers to attend social events. Freelancers also don’t have an employer or coworkers helping with continued learning, so they are interested in opportunities to gain new skills.

Here are some events that we’ve had at SPJ Georgia this year:

  • Freelance job fair: Inspired by a similar event from SPJ Florida, this is our biggest event of the year. Freelancers sit down one on one with Atlanta editors in 10-minute increments to meet each other, then talk and pitch, if they’d like. Simultaneously, we have learning sessions. This year, we invited experts to talk about freelance taxes, social media and business planning, which freelancers could attend while they waited for their editor appointments. We held our second annual job fair in August.
  • Best Case/Worst Case photography: Freelance photojournalist Kevin D. Liles spoke to an audience of mostly writers about two different cases that freelancers often face when it comes to photos for a story. One is the best-case scenario: A freelancer writes a story and the publication provides a photojournalist. How do you have a productive conversation with them in order to get the best possible visuals? Liles also talked about the worst-case scenario: A freelancer writes a story and must take photos themselves. Liles went over tips on how to take a basic portrait of someone. We held this event in January, and it turned out to be a thoughtful discussion. (By popular demand, Liles even repeated the event a few more times.)
  • Monthly lunches: Based on a similar event from the SPJ D.C. chapter, we have casual lunches for freelancers in a different Atlanta restaurant every month. There’s no programming or RSVPs. We just pick a day, time, and place and announce the event. It’s open to anyone who wants to attend, member or not, and people pay their own way for lunch. This is a casual setting to talk with fellow freelancers. It can get lonely out there, so these lunches give us a chance to socialize.

These events and gatherings have worked for our chapter. If you want to copy any of them, we’re happy to answer questions. I also encourage you to design your own programming. Talk with freelancers in your area to find out their needs and how you can address them.

Remember that not every freelancer is full-time. Many people who work a staff journalism job – or a job outside of journalism – freelance on the side. This opens another segment of SPJ members who can benefit from freelance-specific programming.

Many freelancers don’t have coworkers, so we must seek out opportunities to network, socialize, or just find someone who can read over a pitch email. We have a vested interest in making connections. So don’t overlook freelancers. Not only are their numbers growing, but they could be some of your most engaged membership.

Atlanta-based freelance journalist Adina Solomon is chair of the SPJ Georgia Freelance Committee. Her work has been published in outlets including The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic‘s CityLab, and The Bitter Southerner. You can see her work at adinasolomon.com.

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