Freelance panel

Freelancers need to be flexible in their expectations while at the same time valuing their skills more highly when negotiating payments for their work, a panel has said.

Speaking at Launceston’s Freelance Festival yesterday Marina Pullin, the director at freelance agency Jungal, said maintaining integrity and adapting to the market were not mutually exclusive.

“Being noble is not always about integrity, there is a huge opportunity for nobility but there is still room for nobility, it just has to adapt to the market,” she said.

Pullin, who spent years in corporate representing IBM before launching Jungal, is now representing over 1,000 freelancers.

Fran Molloy, a freelance journalist of 20 years, told conference-goers she was able to contribute to a mining magazine – not exactly the most popular employer in today’s green economy – but under the condition she did not write about fossil fuels.

“You might come out of your degree being passionate about something,” Molloy explained, “but eventually you’ll see that they don’t pay the bills.”

Moderator and president at the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Karen Percy, hosted a trio of professionals who had specialised in selling themselves as products for large swathes of their careers, including Corrine Podger, introduced as “one of the most established mobile journalists in the world”.

Podger said simple maths dictated the bare minimum of work a freelancer needed to survive per year, but that figure should be doubled in terms of the value of the work they did.

She said she begins by calculating the amount of working days in the year (roughly 255), and the lowest threshold for a comfortable life – $100k. She then takes into account superannuation, bumping it up to $130,000, then dividing that by 255 to get how much you need to make each working day – as a bare minimum.

The panel discussed the risks associated with freelancing and the uncertainty about steady gigs in an insecure environment.

“A comment about financial management: If your wallet starts to go down you start to make bad decisions. Once you become a generalist your value in the market goes down. There’s a freedom in being organised that allows you to walk away from gigs,” said Pullin.

“If you’re prepared to skill up, then you can get bigger rates, or you can keep with what you were good at in 1995, but don’t be surprised when you get 1995 rates.”

The panel concluded life as a freelancer wasn’t necessarily easy, but there were ways to keep ahead of the curve: know your rate, know the material you’re covering even more, and also know how many other people are applying for the same gig as you.

Main image of the panel by Zak Wheeler.

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