A Freelance Lifeboat In The Perfect Storm
LFB's conference, New Ways To Make Journalism Pay II - see here for details - is subtitled "A Freelance Lifeboat In The Perfect Storm" for reasons we all understand.
Recession plus internet crisis = aaaargh!
We don't plan to tap-dance round reality, but then again freelances never made a crust by letting doom and gloom subsume them.
So the conference is all about new-ways ideas and stories: of how real freelances are working through this bad time and creating a freelance future - new ways, new media, sometimes from the ground up, sometimes definitely based on old ways and old media. But whatever delivers a decent fee is the pragmatic freelance theme.
'Is that even a job?'
For instance, one of our newly confirmed speakers, Birmingham-based digital content editor/brand journalist Fiona Cullinan (see fionacullinan.com, in 2009 decided to go "100 per cent digital" in her work after 20 years freelancing in print of one sort or another. She explains: "I hated the fact that, with the credit crunch and the collapse of advertising budgets, I was suddenly competing with friends for shifts. It was cut-throat and upsetting. Online was where all the action was - and budgets were shifting. So I set up two blogs: one on holiday packing guides and one on sub-editing and taught myself the new digital ropes."
For her, down the road, the outcome has been that, using her honed subbing/editorial skills she's got a steady flow of work and moved her fees up from £130 a day on magazines to "£220 minimum - more if the work involves strategy or consultancy or senior editorial input". At New Ways, in the "maximising Social Media And More" session, she'll discuss the "how tos". But it was no finger-snapping magic trick. It involved a lot of research and putting herself about in all the new digi-shopwindows - including one lucrative piece of web work that come out of a real-time Twitter check-in and a chat in the wine aisle of her local supermarket.
Often, like many modern journalists, she finds herself having to invent new names for what she does: "A memory: covering an FT conference for a client, I got chatting with a senior manager at BT Group who asked what I did. I replied that I was there to interview attendees for a video blog post - a video blogger. I'll always remember his reaction was: 'Is that even a job?' I'm happy to say that it is."
That's the essence of New Ways To Make Journalism Pay, that is.
They don't know they're looking for you
Likewise Max Glaskin, freelance writer on cycling, airships, walnuts, brain surgery and more: see homepage.ntlworld.com/max.glaskin/ and the Freelance Directory. His conference topic is "Finding The Client Who Didn't Know They Were Looking For You" because he's been doing just that for 25 years.
On the one hand, he pitched to obvious domestic clients and got published often enough in New Scientist, Reader's Digest, Sunday Times etc and his specialist array of B2B outlets. On the other, he wanted to "broaden his client base" as his corporate editors would say or reach out around the world as Max Glaskin, the journo who wants to cover "what interests me" would put it. Back in the '90s that took "many hours going through international directories of publishing and then racking up a huge fax bill pitching to about 60 editors".
These days, as he'll tell the conference, lobs that bread on the waters by different means, but the potential clients who didn't know they were looking for him are still out there around the world and in cyberspace, wherever that is, just needing a nudge to discover the truth.
A dizzying array of models
In his introduction to the new NUJ/ALCS book Help Yourself: New Ways To Make Copyright Pay, the union's freelance organiser John Toner sums up the state of play: "Increasing numbers of authors are exploring other ways of reaching readers... the digital revolution is bringing creators of content... closer than ever before to readers. It is also providing a dizzying array of new revenue models that, in some cases, are funding a blossoming of quality reporting, at precisely the time pundits are reading journalism's last rites... Not all of these models are providing incomes comparable with those journalists working in the national media once enjoyed. Some are experimental, and most are evolving. But all of them are affording journalists and writers greater control over their working lives and the work they create...
"This can only be a good thing at a time when the media, particularly newspapers, is under great pressure from a struggling business model and a serious crisis of morals. But this crisis is creating an opportunity for journalists and writers to build sustainable futures for themselves and to demonstrate, once and for all, that the roots of the media's financial and ethical malaise are not to be found at the coalface."
The updated list of confirmed speakers includes:
- Peter Kirwan (Guardian, Press Gazette, Wired media writer);
- Arjum Wajid (broadcaster, trainer);
- Guy Smallman (international photographer) on the value of freelances, to the media and society;
- Christian Payne (photographer/videographer/blogger, aka Documentally);
- Fiona Cullinan (freelance online digital content editor/brand journalist) on maximising social media and developing digi-media clients;
- Imran Jina (BBC Panorama and c4 Dispatches);
- Huma Yusuf (freelance writer/editor, new global markets);
- Max Glaskin (international b2b writer) on selling your work in the recession;
- Mark Watts (editor Exaro online investigative agency: see here);
- Una Murphy (freelance and co-founder and publisher of the Belfast community "paper" VIEWdigital) and Dave Boyle (co-ops expert, author of a recent pamphlet on media) on start-ups, small, big and/or co-operative;
- Alex Klaushofer (co-editor Newmodeljournalism.com, co-author of Help Yourself: New Ways To Make Copyright Pay) on the freelance future;
- NUJ freelance organiser John Toner and
- NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
For more info and booking go to www.londonfreelance.org/NewWays - and follow the Twitter tag #NUJ_LFBConf2012