By Niki Moore
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to severe economic consequences across the globe, and freelance professionals are falling somewhat behind when it comes to government relief efforts. As such, a large number of freelancers are experiencing a major loss of income as their regular opportunities quickly evaporate with the economic downturn.
The Southern African Freelancers’ Association (SAFREA) has stepped up to heed the call of desperate freelancers, by creating innovative ways to help its members. SAFREA is a professionally managed freelancers association, for media and communications professionals in the published written, visual, information technology, broadcast and creative media spheres. SAFREA’s mission is, and has always been, to promote the interests of freelance media professionals in Southern Africa. It has now taken this mission a step further by exploring new, inspired ways to help freelancers who are in dire need.
Survey confirms loss of income
According to Lynne Smit, SAFREA Chair, “We surveyed our members at the beginning of lockdown and discovered that about 60% of our members had lost 90-100% of their income overnight. We realised that there was a big problem and we needed to do something about it, so we looked internally and externally for solutions.”
“We know that the skills that our more than 500 members have are particularly useful during these times,” she says. “We have been inspired by the companies that have been letting us know of their needs for highly skilled translators, blog writers, journalists, copy editors, photographers, videographers, graphic designers etc so that we can pass these opportunities on to our members.”
“We also started working more closely with sister organisations in the media and arts sectors – particularly the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) and members of the Language and Media Practitioners alliance (LAMP).”
Creating internal projects and hiring freelancers
SAFREA started off by creating its own internal projects and hiring freelancers within the network to undertake them. It then set out to provide food vouchers, paid for by donations from members, to fellow members who are desperately in need. SAFREA didn’t stop there and decided to widen its scope to address the greater need in the country. It approached NGOs and NPOs, which have also been badly affected by the economic downturn, to establish their needs and then find freelance members to complete these tasks. In so doing, SAFREA has become a lifeline for many within its network, as well as a trail blazer for inspired solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems for freelance professionals around South Africa
Beneficiaries speak out
“From the relief measures that SAFREA put in place, I got a gig to do a translation for a South African based organisation. The proceeds from the job helped to sustain my business operations, at a time of financial hopelessness for most businesses,” said Siphe Zenani, a language practitioner and SAFREA member.
It’s safe to say that SAFREA has been at the forefront of helping freelancers around South Africa survive the Coronavirus-induced economic downturn. SAFREA has certainly solidified itself as a home for freelancers, where they can find a helpful community and a network of support and assistance, particularly during these uncertain times.