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A guest contributor has offered up an interesting summary of last week’s MEAA freelance conference in Sydney which Crikey dropped into for a session after the ABC EGM.

The MEAA’s annual freelance convention held over the weekend amongst the ancient dead at the Australian Museum wasn’t quite as interesting as the Prostitute’s Ball, but it did have a few things going for it. Like..

Well, if you want to make money from journalism, get a real job.

While not the goal of the convention, anecdotal evidence from visiting experts supported the notion that being happy doing what you enjoy isn’t always as straightforward as, well, ballroom dancing.

Interestingly, it was found that many freelancers take pleasure in a bit of flakking on the side themselves. Ironic really, considering the hissing Young Flakkers endured when their profession was raised.

Hugh Riminton, Dr Robyn (God) Williams and Kerry O’Brien told delegates to be tough, vigilant, versatile, flexible, desperate and, er, rich. Yup, maybe the only way to make money freelancing is to inherit it.

The Aussie freelancer’s reputation – not to mention remuneration – was lamented with many panellists agreeing they were, in reality, perceived as the B-team.

Still, if rejected by ingrates at home you can look overseas. This will give you increased hope (um, greener grass) and the significant promise (um, hope) of receiving a cheque written for something more negotiable than Pacific Pesos.

Best conversation starter of the convention? Crikey.com t-shirts worn by Young Flakkers. Market research reveals freelancers aren’t Crikey conscious, perhaps they can’t afford the subscription.

Best yarn of the convention was David Leser’s tale he told of his first encounter with Pauline (Paula McSweatshirt) Hanson. In an attempt to get the nervous red-haired one in a more amenable mood Leser suggested they do the interview over a meal. As instructed he dutifully waited outside the local pub for his escort to show. A car roars into town, stops out front of the pub for a few seconds and then roars off again. Taking this as his cue to follow the journo drops the clutch and their off and racing. While trying to follow the speeding Hanson-mobile to the Ipswich cult headquarters the young reporter became lost. Eventually he made it back to town where, after a short wait, a car skids to a halt and a “voice that could kill wildlife” screeches “where the fuck have you been?” That’s our Pauline – all class.

All’s well that ends well as they say and after the obligatory chops and Bundy Rum were consumed the reporter filed the story and a legend was born (and no Leser we’re not talking about you).

There was a more serious side of the ledger, as they say in Banking Gazette, but Young Flakkers will not bore you with substance. A grading system for freelancers was broached and we’re sure Rupert and Fred, upon learning of the notion, will – in a spirit of true philanthropy – outdo each other in digging deep to come up with something more than the current bread and dripping.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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