'Industry'. Bumblebee on Rosemary. By Frances Laing. March, 2009

'Industry'. Bumblebee on Rosemary. By Frances Laing. March, 2009

More and more journalists, writers, editors, film-makers and photographers are turning freelance – out of necessity –  or because we enjoy being owner/managers. But as we know – a freelance life brings challenges too. The media ‘scene’ is changing fast and we all need our job skills and our ‘digital tool-kit’ to stay sharp.

Union learning programmes are all about the positive gain of a highly skilled and flexible work  force. Union Learning Representatives (ULR’s) have had statutory rights in conventional workplaces for quite some time – things like time off work to consult with colleagues about training needs.

But now freelancers have their own, specialised Learning Reps. A few weeks ago I joined eight members of BECTU (the media and entertainment union) and the NUJ (all hard-working colleagues who had given up their bank holiday weekend) to train up as a ‘Freelance Union Learning Representative’ at the Trade Union Learning Centre in Manchester.

What do we do? We’re a first point of contact for freelance colleagues in the North West of England – providing information about opportunities in further and higher education and training. 

Our unions want to help us meet our training needs – help us stay in work and keep thriving. So if you’re a member of the NUJ in the North West of England – and would like to update your skills – give me a buzz (by email) and/or check out the new ‘Freelance Union Learning Page’ on this site.

 If I can’t find you the training opportunity that meets your needs straight away I’ll try to locate someone in our union who can.

 If you’ve just started up as a freelance, or you’re a student – you may be able to access temporary membership of the NUJ (fees start from around £50 a year). This gives you access to subsidised training and development opportunities, together with essential briefs on freelance working, pay and conditions. If you join you’re also entitled to list yourself in the NUJ Freelance Directory. And that’s a really good way of pitching for work! Feel free to ask me what it’s like to be a member, or join up at this link.

As freelancers we’re all ‘busy bees’ and may think we can’t afford to spend time out attending training courses. But we’re investing in our own future – and one of the extra benefits of spending time with a group is the useful contacts you make.

You sometimes learn more from your fellow students than you do from the trainers! At NUJ training courses (for example the one on ‘Copyright Law’ I attended) – I’ve often found myself sitting round a table with expert editors, film makers and the odd member of the Institute of Broadcast sound.

Here’s the link to my new ‘Freelance Union Learning Page’ again. It’s a voluntary role and my contribution to the future of our union so I’ll update it as often as I can.

Finally, if you’re a learning organisation and think you can offer something that would be of benefit to NUJ members specifically, drop me a line too – I can’t promise a reply to every organisation (there are so many of them) but I do read most of my emails and I’ll certainly consider putting a link on my Union Learning Programme page so that members will see it.

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