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Friday, December 2, 2011
Freelance Toolbox

What can SPJ do for me?

By Dana Neuts

With so many journalism organizations like SPJ, the Radio Television Digital News Association, Online News Association and UNITY to join (among many others), the budget-conscious freelancer has to choose membership options carefully. She has to ask herself, “What groups should I belong to, how much does membership cost, what benefits do they offer, and what’s in it for me?”

I started my freelance career eight years ago, and SPJ was the first organization I joined, not because of all of the great benefits, but because it was the first organization I was exposed to. While I wasn’t immediately aware of the benefits of membership, I quickly learned that SPJ and its members had a lot to offer me in addition to networking and training.

Here’s just a taste of what a freelancer gets for only $75 a year for pros or $37.50 for students:

•Industry advocacy and lobbying for a federal shield law to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.

Inclusion in the Freelance Directory (my first national magazine assignment came from my listing here).

•Free resources, training and tools:

o SPJ’s Freelance Committee provides national SPJ with guidance on freelance issues, creates tools and training for freelancers and offers tips and resources on Twitter (@spjfreelance).

o eCampus — A growing library of free online video training including freelancing, acquiring records, basic video techniques and social media tools.

o Independent Journalist blog updated weekly by members of the Freelance Committee and guest bloggers on hot topics faced by freelance journalists.

o “Where to find work” resources.

o One-on-one Q&A support between freelancers and members of the Freelance Committee.

o Bi-monthly Freelance Toolbox columns in Quill with practical “how to” information for freelancers at all stages of their careers.

o Journalist’s Toolbox, links to online journalism resources by category (labor issues, mobile journalism, politics, poverty, business resources, etc.).

o The Reading Room, an online collection of Quill articles, SPJ news and blogs about freelancing.

o Access to local chapters, programs, training, spring conferences, annual conventions and more.

In addition, belonging to the Society of Professional Journalists puts freelancers and other members in contact with about 8,000 journalists and journalism educators from all walks of life. Our ranks include the editor at the 150-year-old newspaper, the enthusiastic A&E features writer at your favorite glossy, the social media editor at a nonprofit online news outlet, the uber-talented public radio reporter, the retired-sportswriter-turned-freelancer, and the freshman eager to start an SPJ chapter on his campus. Learning from and networking with these individuals is an intangible benefit to SPJ membership, but one that can expand your career and enrich your experience as a journalist.

So, freelancers, when you get that SPJ renewal notice in the mail, I urge you not to toss it aside with other bills that you’d rather not pay. Consider it an investment in your future, and use SPJ’s resources to advance your freelance career.

I renew every year, and my dues have been returned to me countless times over just in terms of freelance assignments. It is well worth the cost.

Dana Neuts is a freelance writer and online publisher near Seattle. She serves on the national board of SPJ as Region 10 director, is a member of the Membership Committee and is chairwoman of the Freelance Committee. She loves the freelance life. Reach her at dneuts@spj.org.

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