I admit it: As I write this, my mind feels scattered between everything I need to do in the coming hours and days.
Working as a freelance journalist means that in addition to all the normal duties – talking with sources, researching, writing – I have a host of other tasks beyond those of a full-time staffer. I don’t have to tell you that pitching, negotiating rates, following up on late payments, budgeting and paying taxes can feel like another job on top of writing, photography, coding or however you practice journalism.
With this list of tasks, it can be difficult to fit in the ever-important task of networking.
These realities of freelancing are why SPJ Georgia began monthly lunch meetups for freelancers to meet and talk about what’s on our minds, whether that’s how to break into a specific publication or what to do if a check is two months late. SPJ Georgia’s freelance committee landed on the idea after hearing that the Washington, D.C., chapter of SPJ does freelance lunches.
If you’re in your chapter leadership, this is a winning event because it’s low on planning, low pressure and free since attendees pay for their own lunch. If you’re a freelancer, it’s a great way to network and an excuse to get out of the house (and out of your head) for an hour.
So far, SPJ Georgia has held two lunches, with our third one this Tuesday. Attendance at the lunch is still building, but so far, gathering over sandwiches and salad has proven enlightening. The Atlanta freelance journalism community is much bigger than I realized. At each lunch, I’ve met new-to-me freelancers, even ones who aren’t SPJ members.
Side benefit: These lunches introduce non-members to the organization.
Building a freelance network across the country is important, and SPJ has a great national freelance group on Facebook, but it’s also beneficial to know local freelancers. They can tell you the details of local publications, editors and stories that a freelancer in another city or state can’t.
It’s always fun to get to know others in the same business while stepping away from work for a moment. And nothing brings people together like a shared profession and sandwiches.
Adina Solomon is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta who has written for The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic’s CityLab. She serves on SPJ Georgia’s freelance committee.