Hedwig de Smaele presented the output of the research she and her colleague Rozane De Cock conducted on the topic of freelancing as a journalist in Flanders on an international conference meeting in Louvain-la-Neuve in Mai 2016.  The general theme of the research conference was  “L’ emploi par soi-même: auto-entrepreneuriat, journalisme entrepreneurial. Nouvelles pistes, nouveaux risques pour la profession.” The study of both researchers of the Brussels Center for Journalism Studies focuses on the preconditions for succesful freelancing  in Flanders according to freelancers themselves, based on a qualitative in-depth interviewing approach among 22 Flemish journalists.

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Interviews were built around three main research questions: 1) What are considered the advantages and disadvantages of working as a freelancer in Flanders? 2) How satisfied are freelancers in Flanders with their work and lives? What are the reasons for their (dis)satisfaction? And most importantly: 3) What are the preconditions to make entrepreneurial journalism ‘work’ in Flanders?

The results show that there is no such thing as a ‘fixed’ list of advantages and disadvantages as most features of freelance work (e.g. flexibility in working hours and assignments) can be considered in both ways.

Irregular working hours have the advantage that freelancers can manage their own time. They do not have to stick to the 9 to 5 rhythm but can follow an alternative daily schedule, better adapted to their personal life and the needs of, for example, their children. It can foster the combination of work and family life:

“I make it a point to pick up my children from school at half past three. So then I stop working and I start working again in the evening and at the weekends.” (Freelancer E)

“We had children, so the combination of work and family became more complicated. My wife also had a career. So I decided: ‘I will stay home and look after the children and work as a freelancer’.” (Freelancer F)

At the same time, irregular working hours can be perceived as difficult to live with and consequently a disadvantage:

“For example, news stories about the police, firemen,.. (..). It can wreck you. With three or four hours sleep at night, you are a wreck at the end of the week and this has an impact on your social life.” (Freelancer S)

“Actually, it never stops. You always work. It’s okay for family life, but for yourself, personally, you are never done. It’s very stressful. You are really never done. And if you decide not to work, you don’t earn anything.” (Freelancer C)

Curious to read more? See one of the BCJS next blog posts or go to:

De Cock, R., De Smaele, H. (2016). Freelancing in Flemish news media and entrepreneurial skills as pivotal element in job satisfaction: perspectives of masters or servants?. Journalism Practice, 10 (2), 251-265.

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