The self-employed media professionals who work from home or use cafes and fast-food restaurants as their base are almost always overlooked when it comes to training.

My friends who freelance say there is a substantial opportunity cost when they attend classes to learn new skills. The time they spend in class, they say, may have been more profitably spent working to put food on the table.

So many will just continue to try their best - in programming, 3-D drawing, writing or website design - without going for training. Any new skill they pick up is incidental.

Industry insiders estimate that there are about 19,000 freelancers, such as scriptwriters, programmers, writers, lighting specialists and TV crew, in the media industry. This group of people provide ancillary support to the 66,000 who have full-time jobs in the industry.

But freelancers cannot survive - never mind thrive - by just continuing to try their best.

Times have changed. The Internet has opened the door to freelancers in developing countries, who cost less to hire.

Technology is also evolving rapidly. What current freelancers learnt in school or university is out of date. Animation has incorporated 3-D and books have gone digital.

Some freelancers do hone their skills from observing more experienced or creative fellow professionals but, generally, formally picking up new skills is rare.

Until now, there had been no incentive for these people to upgrade. They are not paid any better once they have acquired, for instance, a new certificate in 3-D drawing.

So it is welcome news that these neglected professionals will now be eligible for training, under new grant schemes announced last week by the Media Development Authority.

With immediate effect, they are also eligible for talent assistance. They can apply for courses run by the Workforce Development Agency or any training organisation.

They can claim for course fees but not their time. The grants cover up to 70 per cent of course fees, capped at $15,000. To apply, they must prove they have been working in the industry and show how the course will assist them in future projects.

MDA's chief executive, Mr Aubeck Kam, believes that this move will ensure that media professionals, including freelancers, can do bigger jobs. If, he said, the training helps a TV cameraman to move up to the level of a supervisor and he gets credited in the movie, it will give the cameraman 'a leg up in his future jobs'.

Freelancers are no longer forgotten. The ball is now in their court and they should start looking to roll it to their advantage.