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Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Freelance Toolbox

Join in: SPJ now has a community for freelancers

By Michael Fitzgerald

SPJ's Freelance Committee is putting a twist on the three R’s. We want to be more representative of the freelance members in SPJ, be more responsive to their needs and offer more resources for freelancers.

To make this new grade, we are reorganizing the more formal, official committee into a community. This structure should work well for freelancers, who are not tied to a geography in the way that SPJ regions and chapters are. The community will be more than a committee, but rather a place for freelancers to share resources, communicate and commiserate.

We hope the community structure will lead to freelancers being able to find subcommunities of interest. Working in television or radio? Now you’ll easily be able to find others like you. Freelance as a copy editor? You can be part of a subcommunity of like-minded freelancers in our organization. We think plenty of birds-of-a-feather groups will emerge, with their own informal leaders. Right away, we’ll be more representative. We think having people engaged in these groups will guarantee that we can be more responsive to freelance members. And let’s be honest: There are a lot of freelancers now, both in SPJ and in the wider journalism industry — whether by choice or unexpected layoff. In any case, they all benefit from a structure that helps them work with and learn from their peers.

Despite the reorganization of the Freelance Committee, there will still be a formal office structure to help keep things in order. We’ll have a chairman and a vice chairman. In fact, we have a vice chairwoman of communications, Anna Pratt, and a vice chairman of training and skills development, David Sheets. Carol Cole-Frowe is membership and outreach coordinator. We want your suggestions for other leadership roles (and don’t be shy about suggesting yourself to fill them). We need someone to spearhead partnerships for the Freelance Community, someone to handle social media, maybe even someone to do in-reach, boosting freelance relationships within SPJ.

We also need feedback on whether we should adopt a “ladder” structure, where officers shift into new positions yearly, or term limits to ensure fresh ideas.

WHAT’S UP NEXT?

We plan to bring the formal proposal for our community to the SPJ board in time for its April 2014 meeting.

In the meantime, we need to define how to bring the community to life on the SPJ website. We are beginning to talk about site design, the features we’ll want and how to make it happen. These conversations will be going on for the next several months.

Part of the feature set for the Freelance Community site will be to offer resources or make it easier to find the ones we already have, like the Freelancer Directory feature for editors. We are looking at turning the directory into an iPhone app, perhaps even selling it to support activities of the community.

HOW CAN YOU BE INVOLVED?

You can ask to serve, or you can volunteer your opinions on any number of things. Some of the questions we’re considering:

- What’s the most useful design of a community site for freelancers?

- How do we best make the site mobile friendly?

- How can we ensure a space for private conversations?

- Should we charge dues, and for what purpose?

- Would it make sense for us to develop an awards program?

- Are there things we can do with freelance-only groups that would benefit all freelancers?

We don’t know yet how this will shake out. By the time you read this, we’ll still be in the design stage. There’s plenty of time to help shape the foundation of the freelance future for SPJ.

In short, you can respond to this column by being a resource, making sure your ideas are represented in our finished project. Email me at michael AT mffitzgerald [DOT] com or Cole-Frowe at carol[dot]colefrowe AT gmail [DOT] com if you have questions or input.

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