What is this ‘life’ you speak of?

WHEN THE NUJ talks about tackling individual problems collectively, it's normally thinking about money and, for freelances, related issues such as how to retain copyright ownership when large corporations don't want us too.

But Andrew Bibby, a freelance for 15 years, told LFB's May meeting that it's time we brought our collective capability to bear on wider aspects of our work - the mental and emotional ups and downs.

Enlarging on the subject he first raised, to lively response, at the freelance sector conference in Liverpool, Bibby, a Calder Valley branch member, said, "Trade unions are now far more aware of stress as an occupational health issue for employed workers. But this union is very interested in recruiting and retaining self-employed people too.

"The freelance problems I'm talking about relate to work/life balance and the isolation, the loneliness, which can become desperation. I'm talking about consequent over-dependency on things like caffeine or alcohol or other drugs to get you through the day. I'm talking about how your work can affect our relationships with partners and children.

"We're supposed to maintain a very upbeat image all the time. Everything's great and fun. Well, I do find freelancing satisfying, but everyone who's done it knows there are times when you don't have enough work or you're not getting the response to your work that you might get in an office. You wonder, Am I no good at my job? You doubt your ability to operate professionally."

He urged all freelances to respond to the union-wide survey of freelances on these issues included with this Freelance.

Again Bibby's argument sparked many speakers from the floor. Most agreed that freelance e{mail networks and local socials whether for an evening drink or a lunch would be good. One said, "You say to people who aren't freelance, Oh, work's a bit slow at the moment, and they just don't understand what that means to you." Others urged that the union's approach to supporting freelances shouldn't be seen as entirely separate from its recent acknowledgment of stress as a substantial issue for staffers.

Bibby agreed that, as the objective certainly wasn't to make us all deeply miserable, questions along the lines "What do you like about being a freelance?" should be included in the survey.

He concluded: "I don't see wellbeing as separate from traditional trade union concerns. For instance, a shockingly large number of our members, freelance and staff, get by on very low incomes and that is stressful in itself.

"Having raised this idea, I have been asked, What's the cure? I think, as a small union, we have no deus ex machina available to come down and solve our problems for us. But what we are used to doing is working together to tackle these issues ourselves."

  • To promote discussion of this issue the Freelance is launching a regular column, possibly headed "Wellbeing (or indeed unwellbeing): stories about feeling great and feeling crap as a freelance". The thing is, you have to write them. Send your contributions, not more than 400 words a time, please, as plain text: email editor@londonfreelance.org.
[Site map] Last modified: 2 June 2004 - © 2004 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editor of the time
Send comments to the editor: editor@londonfreelance.org