Since being launched in March of this year, it’s fair to say that the Society of Freelance Journalists (SFJ) has exceeded all our expectations. Initially created as an informal support group, aimed at helping freelance journalists through the pandemic, we now have over 700 members in some 30 countries. In short, the organisation has grown into a valuable resource — and source of support — for this rapidly growing sector of our industry.
Now, in the latest chapter in our story, we are delighted to announce that we have teamed up with the European Journalism Centre (EJC) to form an exciting new partnership. An international non-profit organisation, the EJC has been building a sustainable, ethical and innovative future for journalism, through grants, events and training, for almost 20 years. So, needless to say, we are thrilled to be collaborating with them as part of their newly-launched Freelance Journalism Assembly — a programme designed to empower and connect freelance journalists across Europe.
Online networking events
As well as working together to offer additional resources in our dedicated Slack channel (more news on that soon), we are also teaming up to host a series of online events. Far from your average podcast or webinar, however, these Freelance Coffee-Breaks are informal networking sessions where participants can enjoy relaxed conversations on topics led by them. The aim is also to help members build connections, expand their professional networks and, not least, make new friends.
“The idea is to create a flexible space where freelance journalists can share ideas, exchange knowledge and learn from each other,” says Ana Maria Salinas, project manager at the European Journalism Centre. “In our Freelance Coffee-Breaks, there are no speakers or prepared talks. The attendees create the agenda and lead discussions around themes of common interest. The goal of these spontaneous gatherings is to promote brainstorming, develop initial plans or projects and build an empowered community.”
Connecting and collaborating
Based on the feedback from our inaugural event, which saw freelancers tune in from all over Europe, the session certainly achieved those goals. A little apprehensive at first, everyone soon warmed up with a range of burning issues they wanted to put forward — from building a successful brand as a journalist and best practice for pitching to protecting one’s own mental health. Participants then convened into smaller break-out rooms to discuss each issue in more detail and share insights with each other.
Finally, everyone enjoyed some all-important social time afterwards. In this safe space, participants felt able to speak frankly about the challenges they face — something that is perhaps extra-important for freelancers as so many of us work in isolation. Without the support of a team, or those friendly chats over the water-cooler, connecting with other journalists really can make all the difference.
A supportive community
“From the outside, you might think the freelance part of the journalism industry would be ruthlessly competitive,” says Laura Oliver, one of the founding members of the SFJ and herself a trainer with the Freelance Journalism Assembly. “Instead, it’s a sector full of diverse people, experiences and skills willing to share and support one another. Finding ways to come together as freelancers, especially at this time, feels important.
“The relaxed format of this event felt truly interactive and gave everyone the chance to contribute, which is rarely possible at traditional conferences. What made it work so well was the community’s honesty and openness.”
Join our next event
With the next Freelance Coffee-Break due to take place on Wednesday August 5, places are already getting snapped up fast. It’s certain to be another informative and inspiring session, so be sure to sign up here. Also, if you haven’t already done so, do come and join us at the SFJ. We’d be delighted to welcome you.