• Jenny Stallard

Sticking together as freelancers

April 18, 2020

I have often been what you might call a lone freelance wolf. I've mentioned before in posts that I was never the best at sharing and my industry in particular can push you towards being defensive and protective of everything from contacts to prices. I would play my cards close to my chest, worried that if I shared information or tricks then I'd miss out next time, or be 'gazumped'.

Then I met other freelancers who aren't in the media and everything changed. I realised there was a huge power in sharing and collaborating. Now, more than ever, it's about freelancers sticking together. About us saying 'I can help you' or 'can you help me?'. Ed Goodman from Freelance Heroes spoke a lot about this when I chatted to him for a bonus episode recently.

I'm not saying hand over your precious contacts book and top secret plans to anyone you meet, but learning to collaborate and share has been something I've tried to embrace since I launched Freelance Feels and it's been a revelation. I think right now it's so important. I'm saying that even if doors are closing in your face, try and keep your own doors open. You never know who might want to walk in - someone who becomes a bigger contact than the one who just closed a door.... Be open to helping someone, to sharing something you know that might help. I am trying (not always succeeding) to step away from the over-comparison when someone posts they've secured work or had something published, to saying 'well done!' instead.

Freelancers and the self-employed are in a tricky spot. That's putting it mildly, I suppose. Some are living in anxious fear of going under. Others worry for family, for the roof over their head, for money to come from sources other than clients. I have worried if the contract I'm signed up for might change (I had news that, thank goodness, it won't) but we all have some level of worry right now, because we are responsible for our own incomes.

I worry about whether I'll ever get commissions again, about whether Freelance Feels has a future as a training company (I hope so! Plans are being plotted) and whether what I write is helpful, kind or useful or just my own random ramblings.

I hear of so many being furloughed and taking pay cuts and it's shocking. For freelancers, though, it's not so 'simple'. We can't take that option overnight, even though it would be a tough one to take, I'm sure. It's not a 'no worry' option to be furloughed, but I am sure there are lots of freelancers who would jump at the option. I guess our choice as freelancers is to live the feast/famine juggle, but it can have a huge impact on our mental health and never more so than now, when we can't even control a lot of the work we are getting or might get.

I speak to freelance friends right now and, in my industry in particular, there is a wave of unknown - we try to pitch but we don't know who is even in the office or at a desk, let alone commissioning. Budgets are being cut. We are all scrabbling to make connections and to find a way to keep things ticking along.

I veer between 'just get through the day' to 'MAKE BIG PLANS!' and it's hard to find a balance. I wanted to run Freelance Feels workshops in person this year so I'm planning my first online one.

I hope it' will help those who attend to find a tribe, as I have done with groups I've joined. One is a Facebook group from a course I did with Museflash media - the community on that facebook group (closed off to only include course members) is invaluable and has given me comfort, confidence and counsel over the last few weeks. I run a Facebook group for women in the media and hope it does the same.

If you are feeling lost or out there by yourself, I hope you can also find comfort in the online community. Now, more than ever, it's clear as freelancers that we need to stick together. To share ideas and information, to share solace and celebration where it's due (Ed also pointed out we must shout loud if we have a success right now - and I urge you to applaud those who do share a win.

The little wins keep us going - I had a commission this week from the lovely Freelance Corner and it was the highlight of my week. It gave me hope, that there is a future for writing if you find the right clients to work with, and it gave me reassurance that my ideas are worthy (in a sea of no replies or 'no thank yous' from editors).

I am sticking together with the magazine industry which has been my world for so long - I will subscribe to Psychologies and Good Housekeeping and already subscribe to Red. Please consider a subscription of your favourite magazine or newspaper.

I am reaching out to new sources and one replied which gave me joy - a little glimmer of hope that new relationships can be built in a time of difficulty and change.

Most of all, know that I am sticking with you, too. That I am carrying on with Freelance Feels and that I hope even the smallest of posts, of silly instagram stories, will help you realise that you are not alone.

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