A campaign to support members facing the downside

Freelance wellness...

THE FREELANCE "Sector Conference" at the NUJ's annual conference discussed what Calderdale Branch Secretary Andrew Bibby dubbed a "Freelance Wellness" campaign. As a result, London Freelance Branch invited Andrew to address the May meeting (report). These are his initial notes on why a campaign is needed.

When things go well, freelance working can be immensely satisfying and enjoyable. As a freelance, you can benefit from the opportunity for more flexible working and from the pleasure of being in charge of your own work.

However, as even long- established freelances know, there are also drawbacks in the freelance lifestyle.

  • It can be hard to achieve a successful work/life balance. Sometimes it can be difficult to feel in control of your working time and to reconcile work and home commitments.
  • These difficulties can be reinforced if your workplace is your home. Women in particular, because of traditional ideas of women's role in the home, may feel trapped in the home.
  • Working alone, away from the contact which comes from being in a workplace with colleagues, can lead to isolation, insecurity and feelings of lack of self-worth. Stress and depression may be dangers.
  • To compensate, there is a possible risk that some freelances may develop an unhealthy over-dependency on drugs (alcohol, caffeine, etc)
  • There are also issues which can affect freelances in the longer term, as they look for ways to develop their careers without the traditional career structures available to staff journalists.

If sometimes you feel the freelance way of working is getting you down or that things are going badly, take heart. These are not problems or difficulties which you have to deal with alone and they are certainly not your "fault".

There are known occupational health risks from the way freelance workers operate and from the way that our industry is structured to make use of freelancing. The NUJ is here to support you, and to work positively in partnership with you to reduce these risks. Freelance well-being is an important objective for you and for the union.

It's for this reason that the NUJ is launching its new Freelance well-being campaign.

  • The campaign will open with a questionnaire asking freelance members what they want from it and for ideas on how it can best be developed, in July.
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