Wellbeing ‘cause for concern’
OVER 300 freelances responded to the Wellbeing Survey distributed in July. The report summarising these responses found "cause for concern" in them. Very many freelances do find satisfaction in their work. Most of the respondents had deliberately chosen this way of working, valuing the independence it offers.
The survey discovered "a highly professional group of journalists who care deeply about the quality of the work they produce, and who plan to remain freelance for the foreseeable future". Few are considering staff jobs. Significantly, pride in the quality of work created gives us as much satisfaction as being paid. However, the situation may be different for younger members, the under-30s, who may have begun freelancing to try to establish themselves in the industry.
Poor rates and unnecessary delays in payment remain highly significant and a noted cause of poor health and dissatisfaction for many respondents. And lack of respect from editors is "clearly a major problem". Women most often mentioned not having calls or emails returned at all as a problem and a blow to self-esteem. Startlingly, half the respondents said they had been prescribed anti-depressants at some time in their lives.
Many complained of a lack of support from the NUJ. Notably, "younger members have a tendency to see the NUJ as being both better staffed and more pro-active than it can be, providing services rather than being the collective, self-help organisation it necessarily is." The Freelance Activists Conference seems particularly timely in this light.