Friday, 4 May 2007

Good meetings: Better By Design and Freelance 2007

Yesterday I was at two conferences almost simultaneously. There was the superb Freelance Writers Conference, which I paid to go to, and the Better By Design CEO summit, which Idealog kindly paid for me to report on.

Would've been nice if they weren't on the same day, but it was an exciting day!

My daily reports from the CEO summit (Wednesday and Thursday) were the closest I've come to liveblogging. I don't think I'd be comfortable doing real live, liveblogging. You do need some space to process and make sense of what's being said - unless maybe you have a dual processor brain? Hm.

Meanwhile the Freelance do was both inspiring and a little intimidating for some of the people I spoke with afterwards. It does take guts to be self-employed, to pitch stories, and to interview people. For someone just beginning, it looks like one hell of a mountain to climb.

But it can be done. That was the theme I was hearing from both conferences - whether the story of Bendon's slow climb back from near-death to a powerhouse brand, or Hsin-Yi Cohen's journey "from scratch to specialty in a year". I didn't get to hear Hsin-Yi, but I do remember her email on the Journz email list about a year ago asking for advice from other journos. Now she writes for publications all around the world on niche topics that are personally meaningful to her.

Two factors were a little different at this year's Freelance conference: the majority of us realise we won't be able to retain copyright on articles written for the majority of NZ publications (but maybe for some overseas ones), and it is very, very hard to get more than 40 cents per word from most NZ publications (but not the case for overseas).

One thing that was missing - and this was echoed by Bob from Wellington, whose last name I didn't catch as we walked to the Shakespeare tavern for drinks and awards - was the point that as a freelancer you are running a business, and therefore running your own show. A lot of the talk of unionisation and such is probably necessary but to me just speaks too much of an employee (read: helpless) mindset.

Easy for me to say, I guess. I've established myself in a few niches, built relationships with editors and gotten to a certain comfort level. But you really do need to start the way you mean to go on. Are you going to go on as a winner?


Christina W said...

I've come accross your blog twice now, once on "the kiwi writer's" blog and on David Silver's post. He is my professor of digital journalism at USF and I've really enjoyed exploring and creating blogs. I read some of your entries and I'd like to add your blog to my blog roll. Take care.

Simon said...

Hey thanks Christina! Lovely to hear from you.

Copy Ant said...

I was there too Simon and found it invaluable as a newer entrant to the freelancing world. Loaded with tips and tricks about how to create your niche and pitch to editors.

I did find some of the information repeated a bit (I was there all day) and would suggest that next year they break out in the afternoon into topic specific workshops. That way the old hats could be catered for as well as the new entrants.

One other thing I found was that it was very focussed on writing for the more major publications. For those of us who write mainly for community rags the ethical debate is quite different. If you don't agree to show your subjects what you're writing about them, you simply won't get interviews; and in the majority of cases you are not writing expose style articles. A number of the community based writers agreed with this point.

However, overall, well worth the small investment!